Me, a regular girl
I’m not really sure I deserve space on Mikael’s site, a site for explorers. Me, I’m just a regular girl who is following a dream, which happens to be taking me through Africa on a bike. Some people call this adventure or exploration. I don’t have a name for it – I’ve said I’m going to do something and now I’m trying to do it. But when it comes to adventure and exploration, one of the reasons we do this is the same for us all….the challenge.
Challenging ourselves, challenging convention, challenging ideas.
One of the toughest things when travelling is keeping in touch with friends and family back home. True, it’s easier in these days of modern telecommunications and internet technology than ever before. Two words – Skype and Facebook! The difficulty I find is that this sometimes feels like a one-way flow of information. Everyone back home wants to hear about my exploits, but they can’t understand that I want to hear how they are too. Not just a ‘oh, I’m fine’ or a, ‘nothing new here’. Life goes on, sure. But just because I’m not there, I still want to hear about their lives. I want to hear the office gossip and I want to hear about Friday night’s regular trip down the pub. It may not sound as exotic as my world, but for me it’s no less interesting.
Today I received an email from a friend updating me on his life back home. For months his wife has been battling with cancer. I had no idea. Perhaps there’s not much I can do from another continent besides offer my best wishes, say I’m there if they need anything. Perhaps there’s not much more I could offer if I was in England either. This got me thinking though…. just how different is my supposedly exciting, adventurous life to those of my friends back home and even strangers I’ve met on my travels. I’ve set out on this journey to challenge myself and my ideas. My friend back home has his own challenges to face.
There are many people who everyday have challenges they have to overcome. They have no choice. Whether it’s the seven-year-old Senegalese boy who has no home and has to beg on the street if he’s to eat that day, or the ten-year-old Mali boy who wants to be a lawyer when he’s older but needs to somehow get oil for the lamp if he is to do his homework in the evening, or my friend back home whose wife has been having chemotherapy in the fight against cancer. People everywhere have seemingly insurmountable challenges thrust upon them everyday. They meet these challenges head-on and, more often than not, beat them. It’s part of what makes us human – to strive and succeed in the face of adversity.
I’m lucky. I’ve had it easy and so I’ve gone searching out my own challenges to tackle, targets to beat. It means I’ve no excuse to fail. Or does it make me more likely to?
As far as I can see it, it comes down to two things:
1. Where you set the bar
2. What the consequences are if you fail
For those who have no choice in the challenges they face, they don’t get to set the bar but often the consequences of failure are so great they will do everything possible to succeed.
But when you set your own challenge, do you set it safe in the knowledge of your own abilities, where you are almost certain to succeed and achieve a small step forward? Or do you set it sky high, where no matter how high you jump and how hard you try, there’s a risk of failure?
And when you set your own challenge, there is often little at risk if you do fail. The urgency and drive may not be quite so great. Does that make it harder to succeed?
Me, I was not so sure in my abilities. I had no idea if I would even, with all the will in the world, be able to achieve those aims I had set myself. But the consequences of failure would be little more than going home with my tail between my legs. That was before I left England.
Nine months into my travels and I’ve cycled over 10,000km. I’m now reasonably confident that I can cycle all the way to Cape Town. I’ve no doubt there’ll be unforeseen challenges along the way, but I’ve more faith in my abilities now and as long as I keep pedalling, I should eventually get there.
One of my interests, besides travelling, is photography. I don’t claim to be good but I do enjoy it. So I’m cycling through Africa and taking lots of photographs. My hope is that people back home will see these photographs and see that Africa isn’t all war and famine and corruption. Africa is so much more. It’s a mosaic of beautiful countries and amazing people who have faced their own challenges and are now looking at a bright future full of potential and success.
Whether I can successfully use the trip to help raise awareness and understanding, through my photography and increasing interest in writing, of all that is Africa remains to be seen.
Read more about Helen at her website (www.takeonafrica.com) and see her photography at http://takeonafrica.com/the-photo-project/50-images-of-africa/