Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher, once said: “Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”
And that single step for me was taken on Monday 10th August as I embarked on, what I didn’t realise at the time was to become, the best thing I have ever done in my life.
Now that I have been back in the UK for a few days, and have had chance to catch up with family and friends, and adjust back to normal life, I wanted to capture a few final thoughts, lessons, and tips from my journey, in the hope that it will either help you practically (if you are thinking of doing a similar trip) or provide inspiration to do something you have always dreamt of doing.
I still don’t think it has sunk in that I actually cycled 1,000 miles by myself. It’s one of the reasons why I like the quote above; by breaking it down into small steps (read: 100km days in the saddle!) it didn’t seem such an insurmountable task as cycling 1,000 miles sounds. You just have to take that first step, and then keep going.
So I’ll start with a few practical tips I would suggest for anyone doing a similar trip:
1. Take a bell
I didn’t have one on my bike; with the Garmin, front light and phone mount it already looked like some sort of spaceship, but a bell is a useful piece of kit for the cycle paths. I resorted to shouting; “Achtung! Bitte!” As I approached people from behind, but it was much more elegant to have someone ding their bell at you from 50m out. I often found myself crawling behind a couple who had spread across the bike path and made it difficult to pass. I think a bell would have helped my cause.
2. Plan in advance but don’t be scared to change course
In life I’m not known for my spontaneity, but rather a good plan and actually the drive to get it done. So as brave as it was to set out on my own, I was never going to do it without a good plan of where I was heading and staying each day.
This served me well pretty much 95% of the time: the GPX maps were great, and most of my accommodation spot on. However, there was one day where my accommodation plans fell through that morning. In these moments it’s essential not to panic and keep pressing on with the day. In a way it was quite liberating cycling along not actually knowing where I would be sleeping that night, but also not being concerned about it either. The reality is, there will always be somewhere to stay; it just requires a degree of flexibility.
3. Always have spare change and Euros on you
My morning coffee stops were one of the highlights of my day. They were always outdoors on little tables with umbrellas, spilling out from one of the local cafes. They were also usually very busy, which I always enjoyed as I often found myself in conversation with someone about the trip.
One thing to note about these coffee stops though is, they often don’t accept card payments. Even in these Covid-19 times, where it seems everyone in the UK is allergic to cash, on the continent they still prefer cash payments for their €2.50 coffee. I was caught out once, and had to literally empty my bags to find some spare change, but from then on I always had Euros on me.
“Believe in yourself. You are braver than you think, more talented than you know, and capable of more than you imagine”Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
I think my achievement will only start to sink in once I memorialise it in one of my properly Goodall ways; whether that’s a big frame of photos or a story book or poem. Once I start creating that memory I think it will really hit me. Until then, I have a few final thoughts on my adventure that I would like to share.
Firstly, it’s about the power of believing in yourself and sticking to your guns. I did have a few people “concerned” about me travelling solo, as a woman, and on a bike as it could be a bit “dangerous”. Life is inherently risky. However, I believe that there is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing. Put yourself out there, step out of your comfort zone, have that 2% mindset. You never know what you might achieve.
Whilst on my trip, I watched quite a few different documentaries and interviews with Eliud Kipchoge, because yes, I am low-key obsessed with the man. One of my favourites was a keynote speech he gave at the Oxford Union (very fitting as I will be at that very institution in a matter of weeks.) In it, he talked about his top tips for success, not just in a sporting sense but in life too. One of his most important points was about the power of self-discipline. “Self-discipline starts with you”, “Self-discipline is doing what is right rather than what you feel like doing”.
I think my trip taught me about the power of my own self-discipline. I had many messages from people as my journey went on saying how relaxed it looked and how leisurely the trip seemed. And from an outsiders view it probably did look like that at times, but they didn’t see the 05:00 daily alarm; or the hours spent in the evenings preparing food, snacks, and the bike for the next day. I could have had more lie-ins, more rest days, taken it more leisurely but it was my self-discipline that got me up at silly o’clock everyday and turned the pedals day in, day out.
Kipchoge referenced a famous Chinese proverb, which he related to self-discipline but I think you can relate to any aspect of our lives: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now”. There is a huge amount of wisdom in these lines, and I truly believe it.
And finally, over the past three weeks I have definitely learnt about the importance of celebrating success. So many times in our lives we just move on to the next thing; I’m definitely guilty of that. In a matter of weeks I will be starting my next adventure at The University of Oxford and will face a set of completely new challenges. However, I made a point of celebrating in Vienna what I had actually achieved in getting there. I shared it a lot with family, friends and online because actually, I found that people also want to share in your success too. So don’t hide it, be proud and say: “I did that”.
So to end this chapter, I want to thank you all again for reading and following along on my journey. I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog as much as I have enjoyed writing it. My JustGiving page for MS-UK is still live, so if you can sponsor me it would be so appreciated by myself and the team at MS-UK. I shall leave the link here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Jo-Goodall2?utm_campaign=lc_frp_share_transaction_fundraiser_page_launched&utm_content=d725b01a-1060-4c4e-b75d-8ff86ae2019e&utm_medium=email&utm_source=postoffice&utm_term=1598467454701
1,000 miles, 78 hours of cycling, 18 coffee stops, 1 destination. Mission complete.