I finally booked my flights to Anchorage the other night, so now, after two years of planning and dreaming (and rethinking and deferring), I am officially on my way to Alaska. It hardly seems real, but I assure myself it is. Strange, when something has inhabited the inside of your head for so long, to pull it out and try it on for size, and realise that it still fits – and that in fact you’ve filled out and grown into it.
I wasn’t ready for this ride two years ago, and now I am. Not that I feel it. I’m getting used to the way this works – the perpetual sense of impending embarrassment and looming failure; of having bitten off more than I can chew. And somehow, alongside it, the calm objective knowledge that I probably will do it, because I’ve always felt like this, and yet I’ve achieved more than I ever believed I would. If I managed to pull off riding across Asia, there’s every chance I’ll be just as successful in riding from Anchorage to Seattle in winter, not so much because I am capable of it now, as because I will become capable in the process of doing it. There were several points during my Asia ride where I found myself thinking “it’s too much, I can’t go any further”, and sincerely believed that I’d have to give up – and then somehow it would always be OK in the end, in ways I hadn’t been able to foresee. Someone would give me food or a place to stay, or I’d find a bit of spare energy, or I’d ride through the despair and find optimism on the other side. Sometimes it was just a matter of it being easier to keep going than to stop.
During my three months on the road this winter, I expect I’ll spend a lot of time thinking “it’s too much, I can’t go any further”. But this time I know I’ll succeed, although I don’t yet know how. You don’t, until it happens. It’s this great unknown that we find so frightening.