I am back in England now and it feels like I never left. Nothing seems to have changed, although my family has got a new puppy! Very sweet. As always, it is hard to put into words the entire 54 days I endured. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses as my Instagram pictures might have suggested.
The concept of cycling to Asia from the UK with no money was an idea I had to show the kindness and generosity of strangers I met along the way. I thought that by having no money I would be put me in a situation where I had to be open up to strangers to survive. However, it strangely had completely the opposite effect and I began isolating myself from people.The place where generally you meet people whilst travelling is cafes, restaurants or hostels involving money. I don’t know whether it was a language barrier but the only time I had someone invite me to their home, I was so determined to make it to my next destination by the time I agreed with an arranged host I ignored their request. I realized quite early on that the concept wasn’t working.
It was a challenge, but it was a challenge that didn’t bring me a lot of joy. Cycling day after day, burning 6000+ calories with nothing but breakfast and dinner, and sometimes not very much in between. The Huel shakes I took proved invaluable. However, I needed a balance between the amount I was carrying and eating for the trip. To cover the calories I was burning, I needed to be drinking a shake nearly every hour.
When the concept came to an end on day 23, I had gone around 55 hours cycling up and down the Italian Alps with not a whole meal. I was almost entirely dependent on the Huel shakes, and they gave me the energy to get up and down the mountains. But did they make me feel full? Not really with the amount I was drinking. They are great with a bit of food on a day to day cycling trip. But if you are not cycling and burning ridiculous amounts of calories than you can probably live off it.
In the final days before the end of the concept, I started stealing fruit off the trees. I knew what I was doing was wrong but when you are so hungry, your morals start to fall by the wayside, at least mine did! I reflected on what it means to be hungry and desperate.
Further, here I was doing a charity bike ride and I was stealing the whole concept. The experience didn’t sit well with me. I like giving things to people and not to be able to do that was hard. To just to receive. I felt like a sponge and it was probably the most difficult time of the journey. Having no money for cycling and travelling is not fun by any means.
When I was forced to quit the concept on Day 23 due to a broken wheel, spontaneous things started to happen and made the journey far more exciting. When I went to a bike shop to fix my broken wheel, I got chatting to the staff finding out their stories.Whilst I was there a woman walked in and asks me to join her for lunch. My first meal in 55 hours! This would not have happened if my wheel didn’t break and I would have had a Huel shake for lunch and cycled on. Acts of incredible kindness happen every day, and we shouldn’t be surprised by it. But we shouldn’t just expect it either, and that is what happened at the start of the trip. This trip has taken so much out of me, including my weight! But it has also given me so much, new friends, new experiences but above all a new perspective! When I was in Albania, an American guy asked me whether my perception of homelessness and poverty had changed since I had made this trip without money. I didn’t know to answer at the time but since I have had a bit of time to reflect, the answer is an emphatic yes. While I wasn’t homeless in the usual sense as I could have backed out at any time and spend money. But what I felt at the time was that poverty and homelessness entail fear and stress, and sometimes depression. I saw some of the very best in humanity, the kindness of complete strangers but I also saw how low one could go when deprived of the essentials. Cycling touring is an amazing way to see the world, and I would recommend it to everyone because anyone of you can do it but going alone without money is not a fun way to go.
As I said earlier, this journey was an idea whereby rather than you give money to my charity page, only I could. The amount I gave was based on the acts of generosity I receive. Whilst I was planning this trip, a friend from school took his own life. This was the second person and friend in my year to do so and we have not even reached the age of thirty. While the stigma is still there about seeking help, over the last decade there has been a raising of awareness of mental health issues.
I am certainly learning more and more about this illness and while on my trip; I certainly fell victim to it. I am certainly no expert in this field, and I don’t pretend to be, but the people at Mind charity are working day to day on finding out more. Recently a friend completed a half marathon in aid of Mind. I have put the link in below. While I lost count of the number of acts of generosity I am donating £10 for every day, I went without money. If you would like to donate, I am sure he would be grateful. Thank you for following this story.