It is ten days since I returned to Irish soil after my four and a half month journey through Africa. Catching up with everyone at home has been great and I've enjoyed telling many interesting stories. It has been so enjoyable to fully relax and rewind without any schedule on the horizon. For the previous 12 months, every waking moment had been taken up with plans of fundraising, sponsorship, cycle training, equipment sorting and visa collection among other issues. So after achieving my goal I am finally able to completely switch off, which has been so nice.
I have had a chance to reflect on the tour and think about the places that the cycle went through. It is quite surreal to look back at photos of Sudan and Ethiopia amongst other places and actually think 'were you really there?!'. It seems now such a distant memory and a million miles removed from the structured, comfortable and modern lifestyle we live our lives in. Every day was so intense visually, emotionally and physically that it is near impossible to truly recall the smells, sounds and sights of every place. Thankfully 50 other people were on the same adventure as me and there will be no shortage of moments captured on film for me to look back on.
The trip was an absolute roller coaster of emotions. The four months brought a full range of emotions ranging from total desperation to absolute ecstasy and elation. There are quite intense stresses and strains involved with cycling such a journey over a long period and in quite difficult circumstances. Thankfully the moments of difficulty were soon followed by moments of achievement and total delight. I was very lucky to share the trip with a super group of people from all over the world. We had some laugh and the rest days were like a holiday.
How do you actually cycle 12,000 kilometres?
I suppose it is a cliche but you take it one day at a time. You don't actually cycle it in one go but you break it down into smaller more manageable steps.
For example, a typical day might be 140km long. People would break the day into sections. The first might be to lunch at 70km. The next might be a 40km jaunt to a coke stop at 110km and then lastly complete the final 30km to the end. Suddenly 140km has been broken up into three easier steps.
This was the mentality I brought into every single day. It was easier to work towards a more achievable and closer goal such as lunch instead of focusing on the end. It worked very well and many small goals turn into a bigger goal.
I suppose this is a strategy we could all embrace in our every day lives.
In doing this trip I was taking on a challenge first and foremost. A challenge to cycle from Cairo to Cape Town. EFI was very important to me and I was extremely determined to ensure that I cycled every bit of the way. Even when I felt tired, sick or disillusioned there was absolutely no option in my mind but to get on my bike and cycle. People were sponsoring me because I was taking on this mammoth challenge and there was no way I was going to let them down. I found it quite strange that some other people on the trip could so easily take the option of taking a lift in the truck. I understand that people have different goals and ambitions but I just couldn't understand how they could so easily decide to give in and take the easy option instead of embracing the challenge. If you decide to run a marathon, you don't get a lift from mile 15 to mile 20 just because you hit the wall and it gets a bit tough...do you!?
Although the 18 people in the 2013 EFI club claimed all the accolades, I have massive respect and admiration for the people who lost their EFI through one or two days of sickness and still cycled every kilometre afterwards. They didn't give in and struggled on bravely.
The sense of achievement at the end was amazing and I was very proud to have completed such a journey. The darkest of days were extremely tough and enduring but they make it all the sweeter to arrive into the bright lights of Cape Town in one piece.
I feel very lucky to have been on this trip and have had an opportunity to share this experience with anyone willing to listen. I am very fortunate in my role as a teacher to be able to provide a positive role model for kids and share many aspects of the trip.
Many people dream of doing various things but fail to realise their ambitions for many reasons. Before I decided to take this trip, the reasons for not doing it were overpowering the reasons for doing it. Thankfully I was able to overcome the negative thoughts and embrace the challenge ahead. Once I paid the 100 registration fee, there was no turning back and the world conspired to make my dream come true.
Don't get suffocated by negative thoughts or people who tell you it can't be done...believe it can and the world will work in your favour.
'All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible'