Why am I doing this?

In two months I will push my bicycle out of my front door, wave goodbye to my parents, and cycle east. My older sister left to travel in India one week ago. We hugged goodbye in the knowledge that we likely wouldn't see each other again for at least a year and a half.

If all goes well, I will reach Auckland, New Zealand, within the year. Every day I will rise with the sun, cycle with the day and sleep with the sunset. I will ride in aid of Parkinson's UK, a charity which is very close to my family's hearts. My home will be my tent, my food will be whatever is available, my company will be my own thoughts.

This expedition emerged from two motivations. One was simply the desire to travel. When I reached university at eighteen most of my new friends were returning from gap years in South America or south-east Asia. My parents and extended family are seasoned, but decidedly unorthodox, travelers. Mum left home at twenty-five for a year and a half to travel by herself through Russia, China, Nepal and India. Dad made a living out of travel writing. His maddest expeditions include the first ascent of Kilimanjaro by bicycle, trekking with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, and walking the continuous rib of mountain ranges that span Europe from Spain to Turkey. 

The second motivation was to continue to raise money and awareness for Parkinson's UK, who fund treatment research for Parkinson's disease and provide support for people with Parkinson's disease. It is a disease which is very close to our family and I have fundraised for Parkinson's UK twice before. For more information about Parkinson's disease and the work of Parkinson's UK, please visit the 'Parkinson's UK' page. For more information about my own previous fundraising, please visit the 'Fundraising adventures' page. 

My own travelling experiences have been limited to Europe. My childhood was spent mountain climbing in the UK, France and Spain. More recent holidays are generally week-long visits to various European cities, and have generally followed the same format - a short flight and a disorientating kerplunck into cultural and tourist hotspots. While these trips are efficient, they reveal only a snapshot of something much richer; like only reading one chapter of a book. 

This journey will be different. I’ll visit the same places and eat the same food as anyone else who travels, but I will cycle between places rather than taking a plane or a bus. On a bike you are vulnerable which makes you approachable. You rely on your hosts' hospitality, which brings you closer to its people. Cycling also defines your knowledge of place - every inch of movement occurs under your own steam; a cyclist pays their way in sweat and punctures. 

So I will cycle, but where? The destination has changed repeatedly since I decided to travel by bike. Originally I had planned to ride across America, from Boston to L.A, via Yellowstone and the Rockies. I even got as far as applying for a tourist visa. Unfortunately, bureaucracy brought an end to that plan; the immigration official was convinced I would disappear into the shady world of cash in hand work and never leave.

Fine, have it your way, America. I’ll cycle as far as I can in the other direction. New Zealand seems as good a destination as any.


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