By Zac Clayton, 26-Mar-2012 17:58:00
March has absolutely flown by for me as the last few weeks have been very busy. At the beginning of the month I went on a week long outdoor survival course run by the same guys who train the SAS and US Navy SEALs - so they obviously knew their stuff. As well as learning some really useful tips and instilling in me a confidence in my ability to survive a catastrophe on the cycle it was enormous fun! A particular highlight was being set loose in the wilds for 36 hours with just my knife and firesteel for company which showed me that while survival isn’t particularly comfortable it’s perfectly doable.
The biggest lesson I took away is the importance of good preparation - the statistics say that no matter what survival situation you find yourself in, if you have done your prep correctly you will be rescued within 48 hours. Having gone over my own assessments I’m pretty confident that I’ve got my bases covered and that I’ll be OK. Hopefully a few family minds will have been set at rest as well, as I don’t want people sitting at home worrying about me!
Since then, the last 3 weeks of March have been a blur. They have been my final 3 weeks at work - at the time of posting this I’m about to head off for my final 72 hour shift! There have been many moments over the last 20 months since I graduated from Durham when the cycle has felt impossibly far off, and living on a shoestring budget to save the funds required thoroughly depressing. Now it is almost here, I can look back and say that working as a carer has been one of the most rewarding and character building experiences of my life. Looking after a range of adults with some incredibly severe and debilitating learning difficulties has really put into perspective how lucky I am to be able to cycle off into the sunset in 4 weeks and see the world. It has also underlined how important it is for me to give something back in raising a substantial sum for a fantastic cause like WaterAid’s.
Working my final shifts has taken up the vast majority of my time, but in my odd day off I have been squeezing in world cycle preparation as well. I’ve given the bike several good test rides with varying loads, and tested most of my other gear in the mountains around where I live. Thankfully everything seems to be as good as I’d hoped - those long hours in front of a computer screen doing research and debating options hopefully paying off!
In early April I’m going to load all of my gear onto the bike and take it for a test run down to London - 250 miles or so over 4 days. This will hopefully give everything a thorough run-down and highlight any basic problems, as well as providing me a chance to say goodbye to some friends and family along the way. It’s for reasons like these that I’m finishing work a month early - although my budget will be a bit tighter as a consequence I think it will pay dividends to have 4 weeks to solely focus on the cycle and make sure everything’s in order.
I have also made the decision to use the WarmShowers network as much as possible when I’m staying in cities. If you didn’t know, WarmShowers is a cycle-touring specific version of CouchSurfing - where someone (usually a cyclist themselves in the case of WS) offers you a bed for the night in their home. I feel this will be a great way to meet like-minded people and really get stuck into local cultures. To that end I’ve already lined up a couple of generous hosts in Vienna and Budapest, and I’m really look forward to meeting them and sharing stories.
Finally, I have given the website a thorough overhaul in recent days with the aim of making it a bit more interactive and also easier to update for me! You can now subscribe using RSS to get automatic updates and post comments on the blog, as well as connecting with the cycle over Facebook or becoming a website member. I have also created spaces for several videos that will be added over the coming weeks for me to talk through various aspects of the cycle.
With only 4 weeks until I leave now, I expect things to hit top gear. As well as the practice run I have many loose ends to tie up, as well as fully briefing my support team back home so they are completely up to speed. Fingers crossed, things won’t go wrong - but if (when!) they do, my team will form a key part of my safety net. I expect to put up a few more blogs (along with the videos) before I set off, so make sure you subscribe to make sure you know when they’ve come out!
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