“Am I here?” I couldn’t quite figure it out.
My mother always told me I was a literal person. If things weren’t concrete, spelled-out, nor perfectly fit to form, I always had trouble wrapping my head. So, after four and a half months and 7,600km of cycling, with my destination as Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, I needed some hard evidence of arrival before the celebration could begin.
Several kilometers before, I took a rest in a gas station café. The sign had said 5km to Bishkek. I was tired, and needed sugar. I wanted it to be perfect, you know? I wanted the wherewithal to dance on my bike. I didn’t want to sloth my way into the city, the city I’d had my heart on since first pedaling out of Istanbul. I wanted the moment to be epic – I wanted to be able to tell the story. After four and a half months of riding my bicycle, I wanted both myself and the city to know I’d really made it.
I ate my M&M’s – a kind, rare bag of the yellow peanut ones – put back two average samsas to fill hunger’s void, and got back on my bicycle. Here we go. This is what I’ve worked for. This is what I dreamed. This idea began in Guinea, a whole world away, and the finish line was in my sight. I haven’t done shit, though. This is what I always told myself. Five more kilometers to go.
As the road wore on, the city became clearer. Buses became more frequent, and young students with books in hand began to pass. The sub-urban riff-raff of third world capitals began to fade, and I knew I was getting close. I saw a monument, with Bishkek unceremoniously plastered atop. “Is that it? Did I do it? Do I throw my hands up high?” I still couldn’t figure it out.
I made a turn down a tree-lined street. The city was there. I pulled out my iPhone to search an address. I asked for directions, and got on my way. I saw buses, sidewalks, cyber-cafes, and the density of urban life. I did it – there was no question anymore. I had made it. However, my hands still weren’t in the air. I still wasn’t screaming. The celebration was less than visible.
I dreamt countlessly about what Bishkek would look like. I imagined the moment I’d arrive, and what song would be playing. I envisioned pointing at the gaping passerby, screaming alternative rock lyrics at the top of my lungs, unclipping my shoes from my bike, and dancing like a f*cking madman. I thought it would be one for the ages. I thought it would come from a movie. Was the moment imperfect, therefore? Why was it so different than I thought it would be?
As we know, travel teaches life. Cycle touring, in my opinion, teaches it more. One of the most salient lessons from bike is the stressing of simplicity. Cycle touring makes you realize what’s truly important in life, and what is extra. I wake up, and eat a healthy breakfast, because I need energy for the day. I check my bicycle, because I don’t want it to break later on. I clip in my helmet because safety is above all else. I make sure I have food, because the body needs fuel. I drink enough water, get enough sleep, and satisfy my basic human needs. There is little superfluity. Cycle touring shows you how paramount the basic stuff really is.
There were plenty of ways to reason that the moment wasn’t perfect. I reached my destination, and to the pedestrian, it was not obvious. However, as the bike taught me so very well: simplicity is pure. There was no reason to think too hard. There was no reason to look past the basics.
I set out to cycle from Istanbul, Turkey, to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. On September 19th, 2013, I arrived at my destination. Who f*cking cares if I wasn’t dancing, shouting, nor fist-pumping until my arm was sore? I made it, and that’s all that matters. And in that way, the moment was as perfect as it ever could have been.
Following the heart,