Not being particularly impulsive people, we began with a logical process of elimination (on a continental scale). While Latin America is near and dear to our hearts, the majority of our travels have been there and we are craving the excitement of wide-eyed-completely-out-of-our-element newness. So Central and South America were first to go with a “been there, done that” stamp for the sake of finality. Likewise, there are certainly many places in North America that qualify for “before it’s gone” status, but the United States and Canada are invariably a bit too close to home. While no doubt it has been done, or at least attempted, we’re (not yet) hard-core enough to launch a bicycle journey to the South Pole, so Antarctica was the third continent down. Europe was also simple; too expensive and not likely to undergo drastic changes any time soon.
That left Africa, Australia and Friends, and that little detail of Asia, totaling a mere 55% of Earth’s land surface area. Here, we had to be perfectly honest with ourselves. As much as we would love to explore the African continent, the thought of beginning a cycle tour there felt pretty daunting and intense. Our perceptions may well end up being misperceptions, but our guts told us taking on Africa by bicycle is something we would need to work up to.
Now that we were down to pinpointing somewhere on the remaining one-third of the planet, the easy process of sweeping elimination came to standstill. Australia and all of Oceania beckoned, along with Japan, and endless possibilities in Asia. Even Turkey was still in our sights.
Of course, the next step was to detail the ol’ pros and cons list for each of the finalists: Australia, Japan, Turkey, and Palau. Yes, Palau. Seemingly random, I know. Our friend, Rachel Loud, is the volunteer coordinator for an organization called One Reef. We have been in conversation with her about volunteering with local Palauans engaged in coral reef conservation efforts. (Of course, if you are also interested in joining their important efforts, we would be happy to put you in touch with her.)
Now this will surely come a surprise: each place had both significant pros AND cons! Can you believe it? When taking into account the season, our budget, and the feasibility of finding onward routes by bicycle, we were left with no clear choice. But beyond that, while all of these options are certainly desirable travel destinations, none gave us the innate feeling that it was the “right” place to begin.
For a brief period, we resorted to new and more creative strategies. Similar to the spin-the-globe-and-wherever-your-finger-lands-that’s-where-you-are-destined to-go trick, we did the open-to-a-random-page-in-world-atlas version. (We didn’t have a globe to spin.) After several re-dos, and still coming up with certain no-nos such as Yemen that would cause our mothers to have permanent insomnia (or worse), we abandoned that perilous tactic for…
The cheapest airfare method! Who knew you could fly to the Philippines for $400 in the middle of typhoon season? I kid you not. And that was before Haiyan hit. Oh, poor Philippines. Hmmm, perhaps basing this major decision on a good airfare deal isn’t the best idea either.
When neither logic nor randomness prevailed, we were forced to take a step back and really examine our supposed predicament. We were baffled by the fact that with a whole world to explore, we somehow could not commit to any of it for lack of perfection as an ideal starting point. Finally a simple, yet essential, question lurking at the core of our conundrum started to crystalize in our consciousness: What place are we most desperately passionate about experiencing no matter the obstacles in our way? Then an equally weighty follow-up question: Doesn’t it just make so much sense to begin with this most important place to ensure we see it before we run out of time, energy, or (most likely) money?
Without hesitation, we could easily agree that our ultimate goal is to explore the Himalayas. And with that, everything became cut-and-dry and our vision came in sharpened focus. A sense of relief flooded through us, with the unshakable feeling that this was the decision; there would be no turning back.
So, why didn’t this genius priority-based decision-making occur to us sooner? Seasonality initially dissuaded us from considering our Himalayan dream. Our preliminary research indicated autumn is ideal and the summer monsoon season makes views, transport, and treks unreliable. If we were going to make the investment required to actually live this dream, we wanted to maximize our chances of experiencing the best version possible. Oh yeah, and the idea of beginning a cycle tour in extremely mountainous terrain at elevations of too many thousands of feet to count may have had something to do with it too.
However, once we dug a little deeper with our research, we realized that with our “thorough” (as in slow, painfully slow) travel style, we will easily outlast the summer rains with the prospects of limitless exploration. In fact, we will likely just be settling in to the region by the time summer turns to fall. And if we start in the highest place possible, it has to be all downhill from there, right?...Right!?!