8 Lessons from #BMXForNepal
Since completing the journey I've had some time to reflect on everything that happened. I still feel that there is a lot to reflect on but for now this is what I've taken from the trip. Most of these are well known sayings, but to experience them first hand is different to just hearing it from someone else.
One step at a time
I remember the mornings of waking up knowing that I had to face a 2000m climb. It often felt overwhelming to think of what I had to face. We broke the climb up into sections, taking it 300m of altitude gain at a time. Taking short breaks between and then taking on the next 300m. One step at at time.
Rest brings perspective
Some nights when we reached our accommodation, I felt like I didn't want to carry on any longer. Not that I felt I couldn't, but I felt that I didn't want to. Why was I doing this? What am I trying to prove? This is ridiculous! All these types of questions came into my head. But it really wasn't the time to make any trip changing decisions. After some food, and a nights rest, it’s amazing how my perspective had changed. In the morning, I’d still be in the same situation as I was before, but I felt differently about it all.
Remember the reason you started.
During the trip, I received notifications on my phone when people made donations to aid the people of Nepal after the earthquake devastation. It’s amazing how often I happened to get those notifications at the exact moments when I was feeling tired or down. They really helped to remind me why I was doing this in the first place. Yes, I was doing it because I enjoy a challenge and the adventure of what we were doing, but It also helped to remember all the people I would be helping in the process.
Support of your family
Support of your family, your wife, your partner is incredibly important. The latter I would say is the most important.
My wife wrote me this letter when I left and I read it every day.
"There are days that are going to be tough, there are going to be days when you can't remember why you started this journey in the first place and today might even be one of those days but you know the mantra for days like those - never give up. Never, ever give up! I am so incredibly proud of you and am behind you ever step (or pedal) of the way."
I can honestly say without the constant support from Megan this trip would have been exponentially harder. There was so much thinking time, especially on long days, and if I had extra worries about her weighing down on my shoulders during the trip it would have made things near impossible to get through.
The people make the journey.
Cycling across countries and seeing beautiful places is great, but it was the people we met and their kindness that blew me away. In Bhutan we had cars stopping and giving us water, friends joining us for a half a day cycle and even lowering their seats on their bike so that they could feel a bit of what I was going through! We were taken in by the principal of a school because we had nowhere to stay that night. He provided us with food and brought us hot tea before we went to bed.
In India, we had so many chats with people cycling along side us on their way to the places they were riding to. We got asked by Indian army men to add them on Facebook so we could let them know if we had any problems and they would sort them out. People paid for our dinner and had a beer with us.
In Nepal, the immigration guards were incredibly friendly and helpful. People all along the route constantly let us know how far the next town was, whether or not there are hotels there etc. People seemed to love hearing we were from South Africa as that brought up the current cricket matches taking place with India.
Keep it simple.
The very nature of the trip was to keep it simple. A BMX is an extremely simple bicycle: single speed so no gears and only one break and a rear calliper break that didn't do much but slow me down - to stop in any hurry meant I'd have to put my foot on my front tire! We had to carry all of our gear as well as winter and summer clothes. I only took 2 sets of clothes, and washed the one set every day. I really wanted to film the trip so that meant taking my camera gear with too. I decided to keep things simple and just take one lens. The simple routine of waking up, packing, cycling, eating, washing clothes, and sleeping was so basic but refreshing. Keeping our gear as light and simple as possible allowed us not to be held down, and allowed us to have more energy to focus on enjoying the journey.
It also didn't cost us an arm and a leg to do this. We often bought bread and bananas and carried that for lunch. We slept at local accommodation or peoples houses and avoided fancy hotels at all costs!
Not everything has been done before.
There have been countless people who have said ‘Oh, but everything has been done these days!’ . ‘You can find out anything in Google and nothing is left to be discovered.’ This may be a view of some people out there but it’s totally untrue. There are still things out there that have not been done, or have zero information about. I couldn't find any information about anything to do with long distance bmx riding. I didn't know how it would affect my body. Whether or not I would actually be injuring myself by doing this on a daily bases. If it would actually be possible for me to do the long kilometres per day to get to Kathmandu before my dads flight. If the bike would actually last. How hectic the weather would be. The safety concerns entering Nepal during their political unrest. There were so many unknowns for this trip. There were unknowns on a personal level too. Other than shorter one day cycles, I had only every cycled for two continuous days previously. How would I manage doing 23 days? How would I personally cope with the daily challenge of what I had to do?
Even if something has been done by someone else, the fact that it has not been done by you, means its putting you into the unknown. The same unknown that people faced when climbing Everest for the first time, sailing across oceans etc. How ever small your challenge is, the fact that you have not done it before means its never been done by you and that that makes it unique.
If you can dream, you can do it.
This really comes down to deciding to do something, taking action and putting the plans into place to make it happen. When I've seen people doing cool things, I've often imagined how they must have been “those kind of people” and how it possibly just came naturally to them and things worked out for them quite easily. When in fact, it’s just about making a choice. When thinking about this BMX trip, it became a reality when I decided to do it. I set a date. Once I had committed to the date, then it was a matter of starting to plan things. What do I need to do this? A BMX - okay ,where can I get a BMX from? How much will it cost? Step by step things were checked off a long list of things that needed to be done before we started. And the next thing I knew, we were heading out to start the journey.
Just do it
Its important to have a plan (very important) and the better you prepare the better your chances are of success, but it may be impossible to have everything checked off the list before you start and you will just need to do it without everything being done.
Getting a BMX was the only real essential gear item for this trip to happen - I can't do BMXforNepal without a BMX now can I? Living in Bhutan may also be one of the most isolated places to get a BMX delivered to is also what I found out!
Firstly, the guys at Haro BMX in the USA agreed to sponsor a BMX for my for the ride, but getting it to Bhutan in time turned out to be impossible. I tried every way I could imagine from asking people to bring it with their luggage, to considering to pay more than what the bike costs in courier fees! It was like hitting a wall.
My next option was sourcing a BMX in India, which to anyone who has ever tried to order something online in India before would know what an incredible challenge it is. There were emails after emails with no response, and one which said it would be impossible to send it over the Bhutan border. Things were really starting to look down. Some more digging later, I eventually found a bike shop near the Bhutan border who could order a BMX for me. My dad would collect it on his way in to Bhutan. The bike looked great online, but I would not have any chance to use it until two days before we had to leave!
When I finally got the bike, there were clearly things that were not going to be ideal. It only had one break, not something you want when descending 3000m passes. The saddle was fused to the seat post which meant I could not adjust the angle of the saddle. Then, to my horror, when I tried to raise the seat, it came completely out with no more stem left! Even my last BMX had a seat post stem twice the length of this one! It would literally be impossible for me to sit down at all, except for the few descents. I literally decided to just do it, even though the bike was not 100% what I imagined or what I thought I would need, I had to just do it.
When planning an adventure or really just in life, there are things that will probably not be exactly as you planned, but that is all part of the challenge. It doesn't mean you can't do it.
For me adventure means going into the unknown. This is not something just available for adventurers crossing oceans and climbing 8000m peaks or cycling a BMX across Bhutan. It’s out there for everyone to take on.
Just think about what going into the unknown means to you - is that taking on a new job? Moving to a new town? Deciding to start a family? Asking that girl/guy out? Working abroad?
The incredible thing about going into the unknown is it opens countless doors in your life. Doors to new experiences and opportunities. The opportunity to learn, live and love. Be an adventurer! Don't let your dreams stay dreams. Chase them - no matter how ridiculous they might be!
A BMX is really not designed for long distance riding and is extremely uncomfortable for doing this kind of cycle!