Chapter 9: Dealing With Fear
It’s normal to be a little nervous as you plan a first bike tour.
Like any new adventure, there’s a lot to learn and you may wonder if you can figure out everything that will come your way. You may also find yourself weighed down by the fears of your friends and family – especially if they’re not familiar with bicycle touring. They may see your trip as dangerous and foolhardy, and try to dissuade you from doing something as ‘crazy’ as travelling on a bicycle.
Rest assured, you’re not the first person to deal with this.
In this chapter, Diana Johnson talks about the concerns she dealt with leading up to a bicycle tour across the United States. And yes, she survived. She even had fun, and learned a lot about herself along the way.
“One of the most valuable things I’ve gained from this trip is a sense of confidence and self-assurance. Those days I spent alone in the Rockies – and my days spent crossing Nebraska – have left me with a profound sense of self-reliance and capability that no amount of self-help books or gym sessions could ever match.”
“I learned to be brave. I learned to take risks, real risks, tangible risks, not the wishy-washy risks of everyday life. As a result of those experiences and successes, I feel entirely capable of taking care of myself. I did it. I’m awesome,” she wrote after finishing her trip.
Here’s Diana’s story about dealing with fear, as she was preparing for a tour.
It’s both exhilarating and mildly annoying when I tell a non-cyclist about my plans to cycle across the continent. “WHAT?!” They exclaim. “You’re cycling WHERE?” And then there’s the inevitable, “By YOURSELF?! – Diana Johnson
Mom? Dad? Don’t freak out but I’m going to bike across the country.
I know that it’s unconventional for a young woman to set out on a trip of this magnitude alone and on a bicycle.
I know it might be dangerous. As my mother pointed out, bears are not the only predators out there. She also pointed out that it would be very easy to stalk me on a bike, to which I replied that it would be very boring to stalk me on a bike.
I know that this trip will be incredibly challenging and intermittently lonely, frustrating, boring, scary, hot, cold, wet, and windy. I understand that this trip could suck. And you know what? If it sucks I’ll cut my losses and change my plans. I can alter my route, stop for a few days, or even fly to Georgia. Heck, I can stop in Kansas and settle down if I want to.
I try to explain to the non-cyclists (e.g. my family) that this trip is not as shocking as it might seem at first. Look around and you’ll find that cycling across the country is not that uncommon. Old people, young people, couples, and kids are cycle touring all over the place.
Not only that, but cycling across the U.S.A. is nothing compared to what some folks are doing. China! Across Africa! Across the Himalayas! At least I don’t have to bring a passport, a head scarf and money to bribe border guards.
I don’t want to cause my family undue distress. I don’t want them to worry. Trust me, I worry enough about this trip myself. As I see it, there are three types of worry going on here, and the challenge is teasing apart the different types and acting to ameliorate them accordingly.
First, there’s the worry and shock my loving family experiences because they are non-cyclists hearing about this trip for the first time.
Second, there is the worry of concerned parents and grandparents who want their ambitious but sometimes misguided daughter to be safe from harm and unhappiness, especially that which she inflicts on herself.
Finally, there is the type of worry that is absurd and irrational, stemming from watching one too many episodes of the Unsolved Mysteries television show about the murders of innocent young women.
The first two types of worry can be combated with facts, details, packing lists, websites, and long conversations. The last type of worry I can do nothing about except exasperatedly sigh and shrug my shoulders. I want the blessing of my family. I don’t want them to worry about me. I hope that they’ll come around. I think they will.