By Beth Puliti. Photos by Beth Puliti and Justin Kline
Pinpointing our fears—and taking steps to address them—will help us overcome them and move in the direction of taking that first pedal stroke. Worried about getting robbed on the road? Invest in a bag set-up that will keep your valuables securely out of sight. Afraid of wild dogs taking a chunk out of your haunches? Get a preventive rabies shot before your trip and attach a small horn to your bike. Anxious about camping in a place foreign to you? Do a bit of research to find alternative, affordable accommodations.
If you can’t point to one specific fear, you just might be afraid of everything, like I was. This is more appropriately referred to as “fear of the unknown.” It’s when our mind won’t let us move forward until we know what lies ahead. This, my fellow wanderlusters, is where planning comes into play.
Editor’s note: This column originally appeared in Issue #32 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a bike review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.
While you certainly won’t ever know exactly what awaits around the next curve in the road, you can take steps before you depart on your tour to familiarize yourself with the area you wish to explore. Pour over online journals of cyclists who have ventured where you dream to. Make notes in the pages of a detailed guidebook. Order a local road map and highlight intriguing attractions and accommodations. Other practical things to consider are:
Time of year: Unless you are product testing swanky rain gear, chances are you don’t want to be cycling through Asia during monsoon season. Obviously, you can’t predict an unusually stormy summer (like we’ve been experiencing this year in Europe), but a bit of research beforehand will ensure you are pedaling in the most ideal weather possible.
Cost: If you plan on doing a fair amount of eating out and sleeping in hotels, you might consider spending time in parts of the world that are known for their affordable accommodations and tasty, inexpensive cuisine like Southeast Asia.
Culture: Each region of the world has its own beliefs and ways of life. Seeing these firsthand is part of what makes travel so fulfilling. Traveling to Albania? It might benefit you to know that cuisine is meat-oriented and society is patriarchal. Having a foundation of knowledge before you enter a country may help to ease any anxiety you may have surrounding the customs of a particular area—or steer you in a different direction completely.
Time: Don’t try to fit too much in a short amount of time. You’re not going to be able to see the world in a month, or even a year for that matter. So, it doesn’t make sense to pedal yourself silly trying. Terrain, climate, visa logistics and sightseeing are all things you should consider when planning how long it will take to get from point A to point B.
Route: Is it important to know if roads are busy with traffic? Yes. Or if they actually exist, like our recent experience in Macedonia? Of course. But don’t be set on sticking to an exact route before you roll across the border. Chances are you’ll meet locals who will suggest a quieter, flatter or more scenic road.
The very best way to begin the planning process is to set a date. Nothing will motivate you more than a looming departure date to start your dream bike tour. You’ll be pedaling before you know it!
One final thought: While planning can help get the ball rolling—or wheels turning, in this case—figuring out every last detail in advance can be restricting. Find a balance and be open to veering from the plan in the name of adventure. You may be pleasantly surprised at just how much you enjoy those “scary” unplanned parts of your journey.
Beth Puliti is a freelance writer traveling on an open-ended bike tour with her husband, working wherever there’s Wi-Fi and sleeping wherever her legs give out for the day. Visit www.bethpuliti.com.