In October 2013 Frouke and I were in the Mexican city of San Cristobal de las Casas. San Cristobal, or Saint Christopher, is the patron saint of travelers, so it is fitting that it was here that we met a couple of travelers who I often think about, especially on this trip.
We were walking along one of the cobbled streets of this popular Mexican town when I stopped to look at two slick looking bicycles propped up against the side of an old church. They looked like typical road bikes and were completely black but this does not describe what caught my attention. Latched onto the sides of each wheel were a pair of black, presumably waterproof bags. So each bike had 4 bags in total. Although I’d never seen a bike like this I knew that those bags meant that whoever owned these bikes was traveling around by bicycle. While we were using planes, trains and automobiles to get around they were just cycling. While we were carrying our luggage around on our backs, like bipedal tortoises, they were hanging all their luggage on the sides of their bikes and using pedal power to carry it all. It fascinated me. I guess I must have been stood there for a while staring at the bikes because at some point I got a tap on the shoulder followed by a “Hello”. I was greeted by a long haired, smiling Argentinian whose name I unfortunately cannot remember. He was with his girlfriend and the bikes belonged to them. They were indeed travelling everywhere by bicycle and they started their trip in Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost tip of South America, nicknamed the “End of the World”. They had already cycled along the coast of both South America and North America all the way to Alaska. Once they got to Alaska they turned their bikes around and started cycling back toward home. When we met them they had been away from home for 7 years. I was astounded, gobsmacked and flabbergasted all at the same time.
We had a really nice chat with them and even met them a few times after that for some food and drinks but at the time I really couldn’t get my head around what they were doing. I found it absolutely incredible and really wished I could do it, but for me, I decided, it was impossible. Impossible for me to physically cycle all that way, especially over mountains. Impossible for me to not only cycle all that way but carry all the luggage too. Impossible to even know where you would cycle, which roads to take or where to stay. Impossible to fix the bike if there were any problems especially in the middle of nowhere. Impossible to get the time to do this kind of journey and who was going to pay for this?? Impossible. I came away thinking that what they were doing was amazing. For me impossible, but I was glad that there were some people who, somehow, were able to do this kind of thing. Not me though, that would be impossible.
Five and a half years later I find myself in the Himalaya in Nepal, having cycled here from Vietnam. We recently learnt that the correct name of these mountains is the Himalaya. Five and a half years ago I thought they were called the Himalayas and I would never cycle in them, due to it being impossible.
It’s funny to be doing a trip like this and think back to the time when I thought it was not possible. I really thought I would never do something like this but now, when I meet people, I tell them anyone can do it. I mean it too. The trip itself has not been so hard. It comes with its difficulties of course but not the ones I thought would be a problem. Working out how to survive the trip without me and Frouke killing each other is the most tricky part… just kidding… kind of. It’s also not the case that I used to think it was impossible and then one day I woke up and it was possible. Over the last five years the way I think about things has changed. Slowly, the limitations I used to put in front of myself are no longer there or seem less scary. I’ve found that while I may still think things are impossible to do, that certainly doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to do them. Usually, even when I fail, I’ll learn something from it or something funny or unexpected will happen which makes it all worth it.
These days there are still things that I think are impossible or at least extremely hard to do. For example at the beginning of April Frouke got a phone call asking us to raise an additional €2000 so that 26 Burmese refugee children can have a place to stay, food and schooling for the coming year. Without the €2000 the 26 children would not be going to school. Going to school would give these kids a chance of a better life in the future. Without €2000 that would be impossible. We were already having a hard time thinking about how we would raise €1200 and now we were being asked to raise an additional €2000. Not only that but the money needed to be raised by August 2019, so in just a few months. It seemed impossible. Frouke, had huge doubts about our ability to raise this money in the limited time but she said yes anyway. It’s no coincidence that the changes in the way I think about things have changed since I met Frouke.
Raising the extra money will not be impossible. It will be hard for sure, but not impossible.
Help us to prove some things are hard but not impossible. Donate what you can.
Read more about the 26 children we are trying to help