Five reasons why I decided to quit my job and cycle half way around the world
So first off, a quick introduction about this blog.
It is intended to be a way of documenting my journey primarily for my family, friends, students, and anyone else who may want to follow and see what misadventures I’m going to get myself into on my 10,000 mile cycle back home to Glasgow from Shanghai. It will also be nice to have everything documented so I can look back over it in the coming years. I have never done anything like this before, both in terms of the actual journey and writing a blog, so I’m sure we’re going to learn a lot along the way together. Please forgive me if this is not as polished as other blogs out there.
Anyway, I thought it would be good to start with an initial post about why I have actually decided to do what I am doing, so in no particular order, here we go…
To See the World
One of the primary reasons I decided to set out on a journey like this is to travel and experience a part of the world that few other tourists have had the opportunity to explore. I have always loved to travel and experience different cultures and take in sights of natural beauty. The route that I am proposing to cycle is bursting with vibrant culture and some of the most breathtaking sights in nature. So much of this is missed when you choose to fly across the world and that seemed like a shame to me to miss out on experiencing it all.
The ancient cities of the silk road in particular fascinated me, so after five years in China, an overland adventure to return home seemed like a great way to combine travel in this area with the more practical goal of actually getting home.
2. To Ride My Bike
So seeing the sights that the world has to offer between Shanghai and Scotland is important to me, but why bicycle? Why not take a train or car or a combination of other overland travel that could get me home in a fraction of the time that riding a bike could?
Well, I have always found cycling to be like a meditative process. I love the time alone on the bike where you can clear your mind and not think about anything other than turning the pedals. After two busy and stressful years at my job in Britannica, the thought of having one thing on my to-do list (PEDAL!) was very appealing to me.
I also considered a motorbike or a van, but you don’t really get to enjoy the scenery when you're moving that fast or concentrating on driving. I feel like traveling by bike is the perfect speed to truly take in your surroundings.
On top of that, I travelled from the north to the south of Vietnam on a motorbike and it broke down every 50 miles. I doubt there are the same number of mechanics at the side of the road in rural Kazakhstan!
The final big draw for completing the trip on a bicycle and that brings me onto my next reason for deciding to attempt this trip in the first place.
3. To See How Far I can Push Myself
I really believe that in order to improve and better yourself as a person, you need to constantly be pushed outside of your comfort zone. Life as an expat in Shanghai is cushty. I’m not knocking it. I have loved my years here, but I have also become very comfortable. Sometimes I feel we lose track of the things that are truly important — the basic needs.
Maslow said, it is only once all those basic needs are met that an individual can start focusing on higher order thinking and self-improvement. I believe that occasionally, you need to strip those needs right back to get a sense of what is genuinely important. When I am on the road, my main concerns will be finding food, water, and shelter. Getting back to that kind of simplicity appeals to our very nature as human beings. Not only that, I feel like the problem solving and lateral thinking skills I will need to develop on the road (to get myself out of whatever tricky situations I get into) will help in all areas of my life after the journey’s over.
4. To Make a Difference for the Community Back Home
I had the idea to cycle back to Scotland long before I had the idea to support this charity. However, finding out about Achieve More! Scotland and the good work that they do convinced me to make this pipe dream a reality. I first heard about Achieve More! Scotland on the BBC Scottish Football Podcast where there were talking about the work that they do — taking kids off the streets and getting them involved in football. The charity struck me as doing more than just a diversionary activities; they were feeding and clothing some of the poorest kids in Glasgow as well actually developing their skills as football players.
It’s not fair that some kids, who may have been born with the attributes that could make a world class footballer, will never get the chance to develop their skills because they can’t afford a couple pound a week to join a team or rent a field.
I hope by undertaking this challenge, you and others who read this, will hear about the work that the Achieve More! team are doing and be encouraged to support us in whatever possible.
5. To Inspire My Students
I love my job as a teacher, and by far and away the best thing about it is the students. I love being able to inspire them to get active or join a team or learn a new sport. This is what I have been doing day-in and day-out for the past five years and it has been rewarding. Now that the time has come to leave Shanghai, I wanted to continue to inspire my students, and undertaking a challenge such as this could be the perfect way to do that. They will be able to follow my journey and learn that they can achieve anything they want if they aim high and work hard towards their goals.
General Concerns and Apprehensions
There are many inherent risks in undertaking a journey such as this one and I would be lying if I were to say that I’m not worried about certain problems that I may run into while on the road.
The big one right now is riding through certain sensitive areas such as Xinjiang in Western China. Another issue that concerns me is obtaining visas for certain countries, Turkmenistan being the main one at the moment. The plan is to ride through on a five-day transit visa (since tourist visas are rarely given), but I don’t know if I will even be granted one, which could mean a big headache later on.
Overall, I am sure that the positives of such a trip are going to outweigh the negatives. For now, I just need to finish my preparations before I roll out in just over a week’s time.
Look out for more story updates in the coming days.