Embracing Uncertainty on a Long Bike Tour

A post by Adam (for a change)

There is nothing certain, but the uncertain

One of the main things I’ve learnt over the last 6 months is that a long bike tour is less about the physical process of getting on a bike and riding it every day. That’s the easy bit. A bike tour is more about becoming at one with uncertainty. Each morning when the sun decides to shine its light upon us with its glorious rays, the outcome of the day ahead is almost always uncertain. This can be both exciting and stressful. What we eat, the people we meet, the weather, the traffic, where will we sleep, how we will feel? All of this (and much, much more) is uncertain.

In my previous life as a Military Officer, I was used to having a large degree of control over my day to life so becoming comfortable with this level of uncertainty has taken some adjusting. How we feel and react to these events is almost always dependant on our attitude. If we are positive – all outcomes almost always follow suit.

Here are some recent examples of “unpredicted and uncertain” events, both good and bad:

  • I recently lost a hard drive full of footage and photographs from our time in Laos and Vietnam. Luckily I had already edited it all and uploaded the videos to YouTube but it is still extremely frustrating. The decent photographs are backed up on the cloud but as I’ve been filming in 4K, I have too much raw footage to back it up online. It’s my fault for not backing up the footage but it is still a massive pain. Lesson: Back everything up at least once. I’m going to have to ensure I do this religiously from now on and treat my footage as if I would if I was being paid to film it.
  • Lucia decided to travel back to the UK to spend 3 weeks with family. From idea to flying, only about a week had passed. This is a brilliant example of how far we have come since we started this journey. We left our jobs to travel the world by bike so we could have the freedom to do as we wish with no restrictions. Lucia had the money and time available to go home so she decided that would be the best thing for her to do. I decided I didn’t need to go home yet and would rather spend that time cycling solo. I’m really pleased that Lucia decided to go to the UK. It sets a healthy precedent that we can go home whenever we want. I’m thoroughly looking forward to cycling alone to Bangkok but I’m also really looking forward to Lucia coming back out. Lesson: Home is only a days flight away (and £350 worth of flights and trains). It sounds simple (because it is) but knowing that we can return at any time makes us feel less disconnected and separated from our loved ones. 
  • My drone now belongs to a Cambodian jungle. In short, I pushed its limits and messed up big time. Losing an expensive piece of equipment is gut-wrenching. That drone wasn’t cheap. A replacement will cost in the region of £600-£800 which is far too much for my budget. I can either decided to go without for the duration of the journey or spend that money which could easily sustain me for 3 months on the road. I think I’ll take three months on the road. I’ll only end up losing or breaking the replacement drone as well which would be even more devastating. Lesson: All kit and equipment can break or be lost. Be ready for it to happen. Things will break at the worst possible time. Having less expensive equipment will mean that you have less risk but when you are film making, expensive equipment is hard to escape.

These are just three recent examples of many uncertain moments that have led into beautiful or dark moments. There have been times on this journey where I’ve been too focused on thinking about the future. Be it the next month, the next country or what I’ll eventually do when all of this is over. Whenever I do this, it takes me out of the moment. I forget how fortunate and grateful I am to be in this position that I’ve put myself in. This forward planning comes naturally to me (as I imagine it does to many other people). For a bike trip to be a real adventure, there needs to be a degree of uncertainty. Otherwise, it is a planned tour with an itinerary and a tick-box. That’s all well and good but it’s not what I’m looking for. I want a real adventure.

Whenever I do zero research into a place and just turn up with little expectations, I am always more amazed that I would be if I watched a load of YouTube videos, obsessed over maps and read everything in a guidebook beforehand about a destination.

I am intent on making a real effort to not worry too much about the future. Having a rough plan is great in theory but as we have already found out, these plans often turn to rubbish.

My new aim is to have no aim.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to be wandering the world aimlessly, far from. I just want to be flexible with what comes and be able to change plans as I feel and see fit. 

“Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don’t let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity.”

R. I. Fitzhenry
LAOS - Part II

Leave a Reply