Talk about cutting it fine. It’s the day before I’m due to leave family, friends, home and everything I know for the round-the-world trip of uncertainty and I’m sitting here in a mild state of panic waiting for the postman. You see my Carnet de Passage still hasn’t arrived and I can’t leave home until it gets here. Passport aside, it’s probably the most important document I’ll be carrying, because I can’t get the bike into certain countries without it.
While I’m waiting for the postie and putting all of my blind faith in the Royal Mail, I’m rushing through a list of jobs I’d promised would be sorted weeks ago. I’m up ladders cleaning out leaves, moss and bird crap from gutters; I’ve filled the log-store to bursting; I’ve serviced the lawnmower ready for spring, and even shown my wife the particular sequence and technique necessary to get the old beast running.
There’s a strange, almost heavy atmosphere around the house. I keep catching my son’s eye, but whatever needs saying remains unsaid. The dog’s skulking about with her tail between her legs, and my daughter —whose just turned 18 — is doing her best to spend time with the family, despite the lure of her boyfriend, some new wheels and a seemingly endless number of party invites.
Through it all, my wife’s been just brilliant, to the extent that I’m actually wondering if she’s happy to see the back of me. She keeps coming back from work with more ‘essentials’ for me — medical supplies, toiletries and all kinds of packets of food that I know I’ll never fit in my panniers. Being a doctor, she’s also looked after my vaccinations too, and nursed me though the after-effects of various nasty jabs and courses of protection against Yellow Fever, Hepatitis, Cholera, Rabies, Japanese Encephalitis, and a lot more.
She’s had the neighbours around earlier today to witness the signing of various Wills and Power of Attorney documents, which she’s super-efficiently organised in just a matter of days — in stark contrast to the carnage of my final preparations. You see, I’ve not actually packed anything on the bike yet because it’s in a series of piles in three different rooms around the house and I know for sure that it won’t all fit on the bike. So I’ve been procrastinating and spending hours just looking at it, before shutting the door and moving on to the next room — and the next pile — in the hope that it will somehow sort itself out without any input from me.
If I can offer just one piece of advice to prospective overlanders, it’s to give yourself at least six months preparation time for a big trip, especially if you’re naturally busy with family/work/sports commitments. I gave myself just two months to throw myself full-time into this project and it’s nowhere near enough. A good example of this came a couple of weeks ago when instead of celebrating my daughter’s impending adulthood on a family day out to London, I found myself rushing around Kings Cross and Farringdon to pick up visas for India and Myanmar (at great expense from a dedicated agency) organising more photos for a second passport application before whizzing across town to the Iranian Consul to wait — behind 120 others — for the ‘chance to apply’ for the visa, despite already having filled in forms and paid the US$ to get the required authorisation code from Tehran…
But you know what, it all came together on that day in London and I’m sure it will come good for me too. I’m hoping that by the time you read this, I’ll be several thousand clicks east of the Lincolnshire Wolds, from where I’m writing ridiculously early on a Sunday morning in March — because with every passing day I’m waking up earlier in a state of panic, excitement and fear, all rolled into one.
It sounds crazy but I feel like I’ve already been on a long journey just to get to this point — and I haven’t even left yet. However, I’m sure that once I’m on the road, everything will settle down to a completely new and different pace of life.