11,100 km cycled! India, Nepal, and thoughts on riding solo
I’ve been very busy the past month. Not only cycling, but also hanging out with my dad who came to see me in India for a while! Traveling around India by foot was amazing. It’s an extremely busy place, with so much going on it gets hard to grasp it all. It’s also a pretty exhausting place though. My favorite place in India was the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Places like the Taj Mahal are very impressive, but are quite purely tourist sites by now. The Golden Temple on the other side is very actively used by the Sikh people who visit the temple as pilgrims, since it is the holiest site in Sikhism (which to my surprise is the 5th largest religion in the world!). Another especially cool experience was the Wagah border, where the Indian and Pakistani guards put on a massice whow every day right before sunset. The atmosphere was insane, and the ceremony would be right at home among Monthy Python sketches. Very entertaining!
My route cycling through India was not quite as enjoyable though, as I basically set off on the most direct route for Nepal. Nepal has long been a favorite destination of mine, so I wanted to make sure I had loads of time to enjoy the place. Anyway, I ended up cycling mostly on main highways with only a few really interesting sites on the way. The amount of attention got to me in the end as well, as I would constantly be stopped to pose for selfies. It’s just hard to keep your rhythm. Eventually I made it to Nepal, and what a relief. Suddenly everything got a lot more chilled out, and the constant posing for selfies died out. As I went cycling through the dense jungle, I eventually stopped by Bardia National Park, known for being one of the best places in the world to spot wild tigers. I had to give it a shot, so I went in for a day to try my luck. I didn’t get to see any tigers, but a few rhinos, otters, deer, and load of monkeys! Very enjoyable, and highly recommended. At this point I was still cycling the very south of Nepal, which is comfortably flat. As I closed in on Lumbini (the birthplace of Buddha), it started getting a lot more hilly though, and when I set course north it got straight up mountainous. Very beautiful, but it was probably some of the most hilly roads I’ve cycled so far. Now in Pokhara, I’ve prepared to start trekking up towards Annapurna Base Camp before Christmas. Hopefully me knees are up for the challenge, as previous experience tells me the trails of the Annapurna region can be quite tough on the joints.
Now for something different.
I meet tons of new people every single day. Usually, they’re the ones to approach me. The conversations we have are always more or less the same. It’ll most often be these exact phrases:
Random local dude: Where are you from?
Random local dude: Can I have a selfie with you?
Random local dude: Are you alone?
Most of the time, the random local dude would then proceed to shake my hand and be off. But every once in a while, the conversation continues. People often seem quite shocked that I’m cycling on my own. The next question would then be something along the lines of “Where’s your girlfriend?” or, “Do you enjoy being alone?”. Well, I don’t have a girlfriend so that’s pretty easy, but do I enjoy being alone? That’s a tough one to answer. Everyone needs a bit of space occasionally, but I don’t think anyone really enjoys being alone all the time. At least I don’t. That being said, there are very few people in the world I could imagine cycling with for an entire year. I have loads of great friends whom I couldn’t be any happier with, but that doesn’t mean we would be able to enjoy each other’s company 24/7 for a year. And especially not during the often-frustrating times of long-distance cycling. Also, most people don’t have the time or desire to go cycling halfway around the world anyway, so in the end there was really not much choice for me. If I wanted to do this it would have to be solo, and I’ve now embraced that part of the challenge.
So, do I enjoy being alone? Occasionally yes, but in general no. Am I good at coping with being alone? Yes. I would not be able to do this if I wasn’t. I would’ve also not been able to do this if it wasn’t for the amazing community that goes along with long-distance cycling. It’s an awesome group of people, and they are the only ones who truly understand you. But I want to talk more about being alone, because you can practice it, and that will make it more enjoyable. When I tell people I’m riding solo, they’ll often classify me as a bit of a “lone-wolf” type of guy. While that might be true, I don’t believe you have to be born a certain way to end up being this “lone-wolf” character. Especially young people seem to be almost afraid of doing anything enjoyable by themselves. Publicly, that is. Most people wouldn’t mind lying in bed all day by themselves watching Netflix but going to the cinema alone would be completely unthinkable. For some reason, it’s just not “cool” among young people to do anything by yourself. I’ve been to the cinema alone, I’ve been to countless concerts by myself as well, and I enjoy visiting museums in my own company. I realized this at a festival in 2012. I was there with just a couple of friends, and one of my favorite acts was going on stage at 3’o clock in the morning. My friends were all asleep, but I didn’t want to miss the concert. So, slightly intimidated, I went there by myself. And though it felt weird, I enjoyed it. Eventually I was reunited with my friends and we could then enjoy each other’s company once again. But I ended up attending several concerts by myself at that festival, and for each one, I felt more and more at ease. I’ve been doing it every year ever since. By now I sometimes even prefer being alone at these sorts of events, since I’m then free to do whatever I want. It’s intimidating at first, but you’ll end up enjoying it in no time. When there is no one but yourself to make fun of you, you can loosen up a bit as well, and that will likely make it even more enjoyable.
So, what does this have to do with solo cycling? If I hadn’t practiced being alone, I would not be able to pull this off. Obviously, I am pushing the limits of what I am capable of doing by myself here, but that is sort of the point. I encourage you to go do something by yourself that you normally wouldn’t have. It might not feel quite right (that’s your comfort zone protesting), in which case you should probably do it again. But you might just end up enjoying it, and if that’s the case, you can now reap the benefits of being a “lone-wolf”. And if you keep pushing it, you’ll end up with more and more opportunities. Like I mentioned earlier, I don’t enjoy being alone all the time. You have to mix it up for it to be enjoyable. But remember, being alone is only enjoyable when it’s done by choice. No one enjoys being lonely. But that is a whole different topic. I do, however, believe that practicing being alone will make you better at coping with loneliness, and in turn, you could end up cycling halfway around the world on your own, and enjoy it at the same time.
No more wise(ish) words from me this time.
Please do consider spreading the word or donating to the cause I’m cycling for if you haven’t already! I’m cycling for the Association for Greenlandic Children. They are doing great and working hard. They just received the social prize for their efforts in Denmark, awarded by the Crown Prince and Princess of Denmark. I’ve received some very generous donations since last time, so we are now very close to the second fundraising milestone of 25,000 DKK! THANK YOU!