Random musings from Mito (Honshu)

I’m sitting in a hotel room eating breakfast listening to some music and generally relaxing before I head out to explore Mito courtesy of the Geocaching game. I feel relaxed after yesterday’s rest day though my lower back is still a bit sore when I make sudden movements. I guess that’s the price I pay for cycling steep mountains for a month after almost six months off the bike. Was it worth it? Oh yeah!

I have spent a little time browsing other cycle tourers’ blogs and can’t help but feel like I am not as hardcore as any of them. The round the worlders all talk about wild camping and living on $5-10 a day. They speak of Warm Showers and other random hosts putting them up in their homes. Discussion around food is focused on noodles with tinned tuna or jam sandwiches. There is a silence around hotels, restaurants and sight seeing. No one has a route and everyone travels overland almost the whole way. As for traveling home in between countries: it’s just doesn’t seem to be done.

I read the blogs not to compare myself but to look for inspiration on places to visit and ways to do it. For example, after speaking with the Hungarian backpackers at Kawaguchiko I jumped online and found inspiration to book flights to Hungary. Or while speaking with my mum I searched the web for places to take her on her first cycle tour and came up with Turkey (probably September/October). And I really want to cycle Lapland in January/February after reading Bike Life in Swedish Lapland. There’s so much inspiration to be drawn from all these random places. Some blogs are high profile like Cycling Dutch Girl, Tom’s Bike Trip and Tim Moss’ Next Challenge. Others have country-specific tips in easy-to-digest format like Travelling Two and Pedal Portugal. These are actually two of my favourite go to places for touring information (well, in the case of the latter it makes me want to go to Portugal). I have bloggers who I love to follow on a regular basis like Cycling Cindy, Pushbike Girl, Little Blue Bike and Arctic Cycler. And then there is Crazy Guy on a Bike that I just can’t work out how to use (I am told it is full of loads of information but the style or presentation baffles me so I have given up on it). There are countless more sites that you will find if you Google “cycle touring blogs”.

The fact that Crazy Guy on a Bike baffles me and that I haven’t yet used Warm Showers despite signing up a year ago seem strange to cycle tourers who I meet. Everyone seems to swear by these two resources. All the high profile blogs refer to them many times. So I am left feeling like I am not in the same league as any of these adventurers. And then I wonder whether there are others out here who also feel this way. People who are traveling or cycling the world who can’t live up to the extremes of others. People who occasionally admit to eating McDonalds or sleeping in hotels rather than in the woods or hostel dorms. People who spend more than $10 a day and who aren’t diligently traveling overland on one continuous journey(though a part of me would love that because I am a nervous flyer).

And as I ponder these things, I realise that what my travels are teaching me is that I need to have to be true to myself. If I live this new lifestyle in the shadow of others’ real or perceived expectations then I might as well go back to living the 9-5 office life that I believed was expected of me. It’s no different is it? I mean, if being a proper cycle tourer means doing a continuous 10,000km trip sleeping under bridges and going without a shower for weeks at a time then I guess I’ll never be that. Because that doesn’t seem like fun to me. I find it stressful not knowing where I am going to sleep at night. Yes, I can do it for a few days at a time. I have hobo camped in parks and am quite comfortable sleeping at roadside rest areas. I can sleep in dorms and other peoples’ snoring doesn’t usually wake me. But I also like the privacy, comfort and convenience of the odd hotel room to relax and recover before the next adventure. Sometimes I spend too much and end the month with nothing left in the bank. My biggest costs are the airfares I pay to get to and from the various places I travel. But it’s worth it to have contact with family, friends and my partner. In country I live relatively cheaply but certainly not on $10 a day. I cut corners on the food budget and try to sleep as cheaply as possible. But I won’t pay for a hostel or hotel with bad reviews: I rather pay extra for something that has a good Booking.com or Trip Advisor rating.

Mostly, I just love being free to explore the world with few rules requiring me to do it in a certain way. I don’t even cycle tour in every country I visit. I will ride a motorbike or hire a car sometimes. It’s all about enjoying what you are doing in the way you want to enjoy it.

So if you want to travel the world but aren’t really keen on the hardships, then know you are not alone. There are always some hardships. You can’t have a comfortable bed or great campsite every night. You will have times when you are too tired or home sick to negotiate local foods so you either eat rubbish or go hungry. And you will sometimes be too hot or cold for comfort. But all in all, find a way to travel that makes you happy. Don’t compare your style to that of others. You are you and I am me. We all do it our own ways. And that’s wonderful.

And where does this leave me with other blogs … they are great resources for information or inspiration from which to create my own path. And on that note, Mito awaits.

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13 thoughts on “Random musings from Mito (Honshu)

  1. Outstoundingly well said. In everything in life we are on a continuum with more and less extremes at either end. In a society more attentive to what is regarded as extreme we can’t ignore the individual significance of seemingly smaller actions. For some achieving their first 5 k run is momentous and there is no need for comparisons.
    Let’s move to a society less competitive, less judgemental and more openly accepting/celebrating of differences.

      • Hi Andrew, just introduced a trail running friend to the Rogue 24 hr Adventuregaine. Fantastic experience! Love introducing new people to it. Next one for me will be with my 11 year old son in August.
        Cheers Scott

      • Oh it sounds like you and my sister are on a similar path. I think she did Rogue 24 hour and she also entered a race with her 10yo son. So awesome that you are getting others and your family involved. 🙂 . I might go to NZ later in the year to do a rogaine with my sister. Would be fun to do a race again (not that what my sister and I do can be called racing). Been a while and it is such a fun sport.

      • I saw Suwati at Rogue but didn’t get the chance to say hello. I did introduced myself to her at an introductory adventure race at Bayview last year. I assume it was your nephew with Suawati there careering down the fire trail on his bike with his feet off the peddles legs sticking out and the biggest smile.
        Yes we didn’t race at Rogue, just there for the fun and challenge, choosing the checkpoints we thought we would enjoy the journey to and bypassing some of the simple close ones. Agree it’s a great fun sport.
        NZ is a sensational country. An international Rogaine or AR with a family member, you will have so much fun.

  2. If love to do a cycle tour, but the only way we’d do it is by checking into a hotel/motel each night. Sure it would cost more, but we wouldn’t be spending money on petrol to get there. I’d like to start with New Zealand, but it’s a dream that’s going to be a while in the planning.
    Still, the more I read of your travels, the more I want to do it myself.
    Being true to yourself is important. It’s the only way to be happy. 😊

      • Ah, but we come and go as a pair. Therefore all decisions are agreed to jointly – especially holiday destinations which are the most important decisions we make during the year. I’m working on it. 🙂

    • I have been pondering it the past 20km. If I were to recommend a country for a first cycle tour it would be Korea hands down. Loads of cycle paths. Ridiculously safe (you could probably leave your wallet on the ground and it would be returned with all money still in it). Heaps of cheap hotels. No need to carry more than a change of clothes because food is readily available. Korean Tourism Organization has invested heavily in museums, monuments and places of interest by including English translations and making entry free or super cheap. The best museums I have been to were in Korea. People don’t speak much English but they will take responsibility for being understood and understanding you through sign language, phoning an English speaking friend or phone translation apps. It’s cheap to fly there, easy to take bike on Air Asia as sporting equipment and if you get sick of riding you can always put your bike in a taxi or bus.

      I’ve driven in NZ and I think to Japan cycle there as a first tour would be challenging with the mountains , narrow roads and variable weather. Korea is a much better option for anyone contemplating a first cycle tour.

      • I really enjoyed your posts about Korea, and it looked great, especially in the North, but I think it would be a harder sell than NZ. Also, we have family in Christchurch, so… Small steps. It felt like a big step just getting the bikes!

  3. Andrew, I’m glad you reasoned your way through these thoughts. You can drive yourself crazy trying to emulate others. I realized last year that we all have our own way of achieving our dreams and there will always be part of your journey that is tougher than someone else’s, in just the same way that there will always be easier parts. We all get to the end after our own unique journey.
    By the way, Looking for 42 is a great title that encapsulates the journey.

    • Hey Steve,
      I can imagine that you definitely experienced some similar thoughts while walking the AT. Especially when you had to go home for a while (that’s my understanding of what happened when you were injured … I missed a heap of posts because I was in Korea without regular wifi).

      I have to give credit for the title of my blog to a good friend of mine who came up with it. It is certainly turning out to be a good description of my experiences hey. 🙂 . Tomorrow is my final day in Japan. I find myself pondering all I have learned and what I will take with me. The journey I am on certainly isn’t anything like the one I envisaged a year ago … it’s so vastly different … and so much richer than I could have imagined.

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