Do we always need a route to cycle? This question often comes up in my head and I think quite obviously the answer is no. However is it better planning a route or just going where the wind takes you? This I am not so sure about.
After reading Tom’s book, Janapar, I have found myself rediscovering the idea of going on an unplanned cycle-tour. I like the idea, originality, and simplistic nature of the idea, yet I still maintain unsure about whether I could still cope. I am a very organised person and always like to be on time to places, having a good idea of when and where I will be in the future. I like the regiment it gives me as it allows me to set myself goals and gives me targets to achieve. However my understanding is that with a more open-ended tour I will lose these short time goals, this makes me unsure with how I will cope and whether this type of touring will suit me?
When I cycled around Europe last summer we had a route pre-planned and loaded on to a GPS. This made navigation a breeze as it made us able to just focus on the cycling and what was around us, rather than on our route and possibly getting lost. However the downside of this was that because we didn’t get lost I guess we spoke to fewer locals and as a result probably met fewer people. We did experience the culture however not to an extent that we were going back to people’s houses for parties and taking major diversions to stay in people’s houses etc. We had mileage to do every day and couldn’t take that much time out to stop when we wanted; we stopped once the mileage for the day was done. This had pros and cons. It meant we were able to do a lot of mileage and experience a lot of different countries and cultures with in a strict timescale of just 3-4 weeks. However it made it harder to take detours that weren’t pre-planned and to stop earlier than 100 miles if we just weren’t feeling it that day was impossible. You win some you lose some. I did feel the structure of how we had organised it limited us sometimes. However we had strict time constraints so it helped us keep to them and keep to a regime. In no way do I regret our decision because I feel the route was fantastic and that it was the best ‘holiday’ I have ever been on. Although part of me does think how different it would have been if we hadn’t organised a rigid route or taken any maps.
This curiosity has grown into a desire and I now look forward to going on my first ‘open ended’ cycle tour. It will be less of where I go or how far I do each day, those figures belong on other cycle-tours. It will be more about the journey, what I do and who I meet along the way. I think it will be interesting to see where I end up and at which point I decide to stop, get a train or turn around home. Unplanned journeys offer greater scope for self discovery and I am interested to see how this affects the cycling. I do enjoy the cycling and see it much more than a vehicle to get me from A to B, so I think taking it on a journey which has no destination will be perfect. I will fulfil my desire to travel, meet new people and ride my bike. However there is a small niggling thought at the back of my mind, whether this method of travel will really work. Especially in this day and age when everyone has fixed ideas of what they want, where they want to go, and how long they have to do it. I think an unplanned journey goes against all of this; it will be a surreal experience not knowing what lies around the corner and where I might end up… Despite the uncertainties I am thoroughly anticipating this adventure and can’t wait to start cycling!