Tuesday 15 May 2012

One Calendar Month

One calendar month is all that stands between me and the start of my journey to India. One month plus one bike, more on the bike later (it's a minor detail). It's really odd to think that I'm going to pedal myself to India, as in, I'm going to experience everything that there is between here and India. Cool. I remember last year, when I backpacked around India, being excited about being there and experiencing a society that was new to me. It feels funny then, to think that I flew there. I remember how excited I was for that; what an adventure that seemed to be. Thus, for this new adventure, my expectations are extremely high.

I was watching the film 'The Beach' again at the weekend. The scenes where Richard (DiCaprio) and the french couple find the island and realise they're in paradise always made me feel slightly uncomfortable. It's the same feeling I get looking at a beautiful photo of some far-off Himalayan landscape, or photos of The Dolphin Bay Cafe that I visited in Gokarna last year. It's a feeling, induced by what I perceive to be the greatest things in life or the most beautiful or remote places on Earth, that I'm somehow not living my life to the absolute full. It makes me question myself and think "Aah, why am I still in Bournemouth (no dis Botown, me love you long time), I've been around here for 19 years now"! Anyway, I'm hoping that somehow doing this trip will satisfy that feeling, as there is no better way to experience what the world has to offer than to cycle through it.

Over the last few weeks I've thought of a few other ways of expressing why I'm doing this trip, although they probably all boil down to the same thing:
1) Because it's awesome
2) Because there's nothing better to do (if I didn't do it, what would I do that's greater?)
3) I just spent ages looking for a quote about bicycle touring but I couldn't find it, this one's not bad though:

"Bicycle touring is heightened awareness. It’s the difference between microwaving and cooking a meal from scratch. It’s the difference between standing awe-struck in front of a painting and clicking past it on the internet. Now imagine this feeling every day, all day. Something as simple as THE GROUND becomes very important. Is it level? Soft? Wet? You really begin to SEE the ground. You see people. And landscapes. And food. You might even see yourself."

One of the first things I did when I decided that I wanted to do this trip back in January was to buy the Adventure Cycle Touring Handbook. It recommends planning your trip over a year in advance and that you should have your bike at your side no less than 6 months before you intend to leave. This has been one of the biggest challenges for me. This trip only really got serious in late February and since then things have come a long, long way in every department except that of the bike. I don't want to whine about it, but boring story short, I had a small company offer me a bike but a few months later they couldn't fulfill due to financial reasons.

To try and solve this problem and also to raise funds for St. Margaret's Hospice, I recently got my 'story' into the Somerset Gazette who actually support the charity already. The only problem is that they forgot to mention my website (the only way people can donate) or the fact that I'm still looking for a bike, so that wasn't too helpful! Having been put in a foul mood by this I did, however, learn a useful lesson. Whenever something negative happens that is out of your control, counteract it with a positive action that is in your control. I only realised this when, having had no new donations from an article in a newspaper read by 25,000 people, I asked my friends on Facebook to donate on and share my website one more time. The response was brilliant and lifted me out of my gloom! Also, it turns out that the grandfather of a close friend of mine was also looked after by St. Margaret's Hospice which was a lovely coincidence.

A couple of weeks ago I went to see the hospice in Taunton (there is also one in Yeovil) for the first time and all I can say is that I was blown away! I knew, obviously, that St. Margaret's was a good cause but now I am just incredibly excited to be raising money for them. They make the last days of the terminally ill an experience worth living for. Having had a tour around the hospice I had a meeting with the director of fundraising and the head of sponsored events. Amongst many fruitful ideas we decided that it would be a good idea for me to start my trip in Yeovil (at the other Hospice) as it would help drum up local support and get the press interested etc., instead of starting in unrelated London. So that's added a couple of days to my trip already!

Let's talk business. Since I last wrote, I've worked hard on getting serious sponsorship. One of the companies I spoke to was P & O Ferries. I spoke to someone in their marketing department and after briefly telling them about my expedition and the great marketing opportunities in it for them, they have generously sponsored me!

Another company which I'm really happy to be sponsored by is SteriPEN. For those of you who don't know, SteriPEN make portable UV water purifiers. They're pretty revolutionary (I'm not shamelessly plugging here, I find this stuff interesting); although UV light is used to treat the water that comes out of our taps, all previous portable water purifiers have been filtration systems using pumps. Instead of having to pump water through a mechanical system which could break in many ways, all I'll have to do is swill around their UV lamp in my water bottle for a minute or so and then BAM! It's drinkable; hurrah! SteriPEN told me that apart from wanting to help out with my charity ride, they'd also like to feature my blogs on their social networks to show their product being used in many different environments! On that note, I recently bought a tiny little laptop with super battery life to do all my blogging and video editing on while I'm away!

By next week I should be able to announce my largest sponsorship yet for camping equipment. I don't want to say who just yet but let's just that if you Google "camping equipment" they're well up there! There are also a few other sponsorship deals being finalised in different areas. Details will be provided once confirmed.

Regarding the all important bicycle, if I am still vehicle-less in a week or so then I have no problem in assembling one myself, I just think it'd be a shame as it's such a great opportunity for a bike company to show the durability of their bike (shameless plea).

On a separate note, I have realised that for the vast majority of Ramadan I will be in Iran! This won't be too problematic, it just means I have to be wise about buying enough food to last me through the sunshine hours and not eating it anywhere too public! The silver lining is that Ramadan ends on the day of my birthday so there will be feasts aplenty! Anyone want to come party in Tehran for one night only (not joking)?!

On one of my last few days fundraising in London (I am now back in Bournemouth at my parents' house) I met a man from one of the Asian countries I'm traveling through. I don't know why I don't want to reveal which one but it has something to do with the invitation he extended to me. This man's cousin is a colonel in the air force of said mysterious country and I have now been invited to be this colonel's guest for a few days while he shows me the "hidden" side of this Islamic country, the details of which include a helicopter ride through their mountain ranges! Very excited about this.

In terms of training I have adopted a very blas√© attitude, having done only one 56 miles ride and one 76 miles ride both of which went rather swimmingly. I loved the fact that the 76 miles ride used up 3,000 calories, a perfect excuse to have two lunches! I am not too worried about not being fit enough as I intend to ease into the first couple of weeks as slowly as I wish  (although I do have to do 50 miles a day to Dover) and relish the challenge of pushing myself more than ever!

I think this is all for now, I apologise for any outrageous grammatical or spelling errors, it's now nearing 4am on a weekday. Of course, if you've enjoyed reading this, please consider donating to St. Margaret's Hospice which is, after all, the whole reason I'm doing this, by clicking here.

If you've already done that:, thank you for being awesome, and please share my website with your friends! www.EnglandToIndia.com.

Until next time,