Here I go again

And once again, as I did many moons ago, I find myself surrounded by half-packed bags and slightly too much kit, contemplating my imminent departure with the same mixture of nervousness and excitement, even though I should really have grown out of this by now.

[Thanks to Genesis for the bike and Alpkit for the lovely  bags.]

The only difference is that both are suffused with an incongruous sense of calm. I’m right to be nervous – it’s a while since I was on the road, Iceland is new to me, and no matter how much you read and research, you can never be sure of what challenges a road holds until you’re on it – things can all too often get blown out of perspective by rumour, scaremongering, and straightforward differences in perspective (i.e. one person’s mountain is a another person’s molehill). I’m under-prepared, and most of my kit is brand new, untried and untested. But I’ve set off into the unknown a few times now, and not only do I know that things almost always turn out to be less frightening than I expect – I’ve also got used to looking after myself, keeping my head, fixing things when they break, and finding solutions when things go wrong. When people warn me of Iceland’s frozen roads and gale-force winds, I worry momentarily, then remind myself that I’m no longer as wet behind the ears as I was back in September 2011. I’ve climbed icy mountain roads and ridden through blizzards in northern Japan; I’ve camped at -25C and struggled through strong winds in eastern Turkey. That’s not to say I won’t still be defeated by Iceland, of course, but at the very least, my experience will make me a better judge of the weather, the road, and my own abilities – I’ll know when it’s safe to press on, and sensible to turn back.

And unexpectedly, but also unsurprisingly, there’s a deep, quiet sense of joy. I feel as if I’m going home: back to life in the saddle (if only for three weeks); back to early winter nights in my tent; back to hardship and discomfort; back to not  knowing what’s round the next bend in the road, or where I’ll be sleeping that evening, but being sure that whatever happens, it will all be OK, because it always has been.

Hopefully there will be dispatches from the road. But in the meantime, I’d like to invite you to a very exciting event I’m organizing for when I get back. Have you heard of the Nights Of Adventure, invented by Alastair Humphreys, to raise money for Home & Homes for Children? I was invited to speak at one last March, I think mainly because they were desperate to get a few more X chromosomes up there, because when I arrived, I realized that I was one of only two women (the other being the fabulous Arita Baaijens), and the rest of the speakers were an intimidating phalanx of dashing (male) explorer types. I had been specifically asked to speak about the challenges of being a woman on the road, something I’m always ambivalent about, because on the one hand I very strongly believe in doing everything I can to encourage women to ride bikes and go on adventures, but on the other hand, I often get fed up with being told how ‘plucky’, ‘intrepid’ and ‘feisty’ I am (along with other adjectives rarely applied to men), and having my achievements ignored or diminished because people are so keen on focus on my gender.

I was mulling this over as we all took our seats and, glancing along the ranks of chiselled jawlines in the front row, I caught the eye of Alastair Humphreys, the organizer.

“Pssst – Al!” I whispered. “Why don’t you make the next event all-female?”

Al was busy composing himself for his opening address, and would probably rather not have been interrupted.

“That’s a great idea,” he replied. “Why don’t you organize it?”

And so here I am.

And here, on the 26th March, will also be ten other adventurers, explorers, daredevils and travellers (perhaps more), among them pioneers, record-breakers, and a good number of my personal heroes. It will be an all-female line-up, but I’m determined not to make it too much about ‘being a girl’. After all, if we all have this one thing in common, then hopefully we can stop talking about it altogether, and concentrate on the fun stuff.

And with that, I’m off to the airport. See you on the other side.

____________________________________________________________________

You can buy tickets for  the Night Of  Adventure here. They’re already selling pretty fast!

Leave a Comment

16 Comments

  1. Posted February 22, 2014 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Hey, good luck with your trip.
    I will be interested to hear if the frame bag style set-up works, I have been considering it myself and hesitate that it will act like a sail in any crosswinds.

    Looking forward to reading about your endeavours, Stay safe( and warm).
    Mule

    • Posted February 23, 2014 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      Plenty of crosswinds in Iceland! Will report back in due course.

  2. David
    Posted February 24, 2014 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    What is your new kit-list?

    • Posted February 24, 2014 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      Aha – yes, it had occurred to me that page will need updating. Will try and put something up when I get home.

  3. Posted February 25, 2014 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    Best of luck on your Iceland trek! Great looking kit you have there. Tailwinds forever!

  4. Moseman
    Posted February 25, 2014 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Wish you safe travels and warm nights.

  5. judy carne
    Posted February 25, 2014 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Hi Emily,

    So glad to see you are off on your travels again, looking forward to reading your blogs as and when.
    Very best wishes to you and your beautiful new bike, those tyres should do the trick!! Stay safe and most of all have fun.
    Maybe see you in Yorkshire end of April.
    All us lot send many bags of love
    Judy
    xxxx

  6. Posted February 25, 2014 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Good luck!
    Cycling Iceland has crossed my mind many times, but in winter…. No way! I got enough of the rain, snow and cold winds in Turkey. I’m impressed that you didn’t.

    • Posted February 28, 2014 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      Turkey only whetted my appetite. Also considering a trip to Sweden Novemberish this year – will you be around?

      • Linus
        Posted March 28, 2014 at 10:50 am | Permalink

        I’m might be in france in November or possibly back in Africa, hard to say. Or in Sweden. Keep me updated if you arrive in Sweden, I live in the very south. Tomas and Christian might be home.

        Great pictures from Iceland, great trip.

        Take care

  7. Posted February 26, 2014 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    Hey Emily!
    So glad to hear you’re back on the road!!! You go girl!
    Also, great initiative with the all-female event!!! Ahgr, too bad I’m away on vacation then: I would have come all the way from Paris for that otherwise.
    Next year then?
    Cheers,
    Karolina

  8. Posted March 2, 2014 at 3:01 am | Permalink

    Hi there, been checking your blog since I met your brother in a bike shop in Stokey. I am currently touring, in Ecuador at the moment. Your new trip sounds epic, and sad I am missing the event at the end of March.

  9. Posted March 2, 2014 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Wishing you the best of luck and I have to say I am both envious and covetous of your new Caribou and the voyage you’re about to undertake.
    Funnily enough I was looking at ‘Alpkit’ some days ago and would be very interested to hear what you think about the frame bags etc when you get back. Makes me wish I was going on a long ride.
    You’re an inspiring person.
    From an ‘old’ Yeti ARC riding ex courier who has ridden all over Australia and worked as a courier for Messenger in Berlin when they began and more London companies than I care to remember. Happy trails. Carlos

  10. Sara
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Really enjoying reading your blog. Love your honesty about how other people ‘classify’ you as a female cyclist. My friends generally just say I’m mad! Enjoy Iceland a place I am keen to go one day. I like the look of the bike and kit, hope it performs well.

  11. Posted March 15, 2014 at 1:48 am | Permalink

    Iceland is spectacular in winter! Excellent idea I’d say.

  12. Posted March 31, 2014 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Good on you, Emily! Wish I was around to attend. It’s a shame really that it is still necessary to have all woman events to counter an otherwise intolerable male bias… being simply human still isn’t enough, sadly. But so long as it is necessary, I’m glad you’re out there doing it.