August 2014, London.
My name is Dosh. It’s not my real name but it’s what most people know me as. This blog exists to record my travels and whatever thoughts I feel like writing down during them. It’s mainly intended for my friends and family and perhaps for myself to look back on in later years.
I am setting off from the UK (my home country) by bicycle and hoping to reach the southernmost point of India that way. There’s nothing particularly special about that place for me, it simply seems like a satisfying point on the map to head for.
I have travelled much of the world in my 42 years on the planet but I have never done anything remotely like this before. As I write this in the comfort of my London flat, having hitherto led a fairly sedentary lifestyle, it seems more than a little presumptuous to say that I am cycling to India. What I can say is that I’m setting off by bicycle and I hope to instigate some kind of transformative miracle by which I will arrive, hopefully still pedalling my bike, in India.
It’s not simple to provide an answer to the question of why I am doing this. I recently read an excellently articulated blog post (here) written by Tom Allen that I feel captures it in a nutshell. To add a personal note to what Tom says, I believe we only have one short life and the only meaning it has is the one we choose to ascribe to it. I would like mine to make a good story. If the business of daily life makes that too ambitious a goal then at the very least to have a few chapters containing adventure and surprise.
I don’t have much interest in talking about myself, but for anyone reading this who doesn’t already know me I’ll say a little more. I am lucky to have been born in the privileged Western world and to have been furnished with a good education. I pay for the roof over my head and my bread and wine by working as a software engineer. It’s the only thing I know how to do that anyone would pay me for. Although it has afforded me a comfortable lifestyle and allowed me to save for this trip, it provides me with no sustenance at a more profound level. A comfortable lifestyle even when lubricated with the best wines, nourished with culinary delights, punctuated with wonderful holidays and accompanied by a rich set of friends, is simply not enough. There’s more to be had out of life than getting to the end of it in the most comfort one has the resources to muster.
I have known for a long time that although I derived much pleasure from my hedonistic ways there is no lasting happiness to be found there. However, it has taken me until now to put them aside and strive for something more. I have for too long allowed myself to succumb to that tragically common vicious circle to be found throughout capitalist societies. We grind away our precious lives on the treadmill of work and in order to make it seem worthwhile or simply bearable, we reward ourselves with trinkets and pleasant but meaningless diversions that distract us from the shitty deal just long enough to put in another shift at the machine. By insidious attrition we chip away at whatever vitality and hope for a more authentic life we may have left. The danger is that either we die this way on the job, or at some stage when it’s too late we wonder where it all went and why we didn’t change things if we were lucky enough to have had the opportunity to do so.
This trip represents a moment’s respite from that vicious circle; pausing it just long enough to allow me to step off and perhaps set out in a different direction for the rest of my life. The accelerating encroachment of age has imbued me with a sense of urgency towards fulfilment and peace with myself. It is this feeling that now drives me into the unknown.
One could rightly object that a lengthy bike trip is not necessary or even sufficient to affect the kind of change I have been talking about. I certainly don’t have any such expectations from it. Eventually, I will have to come back to the same world I left and all the while there is no riding away from oneself. No one can tell you how best to spend your life. There are as many answers to that as there are people. We can draw on the wisdom of others to save ourselves some blunders but in the end, we just have to try stuff and see what sticks. This little trip is one such trial for me. If I come back with nothing more than a renewed vigour and appreciation for the life I left behind, so be it, that will also qualify as a success and I’ll have gained a good story to boot.
I feel there is value into stripping life back to its essentials: Where will I get my next ration of food and water from? Where will I sleep? Which direction will I take? These will be my primary concerns during my travels. Hopefully that will leave a lot of free time for productive introspection and an openness to the external world and its inhabitants that I feel has been mostly lacking in my life so far.
Lastly, I will mention I have a motto for this trip that I have had printed on the frame of my bike. It’s to keep me going when the going inevitably gets tough. The motto is “Impossible is nothing”. It is a quote from Mohammed Ali which I stumbled across in a book called Thunder & Sunshine by Alastair Humphreys, an account of his own (far more ambitious) cycle journey. Here is the full quote:
“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”