Trips like mine are about self-discovery and learning new things about the world. Here are things I’ve already learnt in my first four days on the way to Clitheroe.
1. People’s Perception
People’s perception of you is almost entirely down to your mode of transport and where you are.
As a cycle tourist I seemed to be welcomed as an eccentric, non-threatening, poor Westerner. (“He must be poor, otherwise he’d have a car.”) People were everywhere friendly to me, except perhaps drivers in the UK.
My brief foray into van dwelling changed things. Possibly because I drove a subtlely converted white Transit I was pretty much universally seen as a monster, either a potential burglar or child snatcher. That’s ridiculous. I hate kids.
And while backpacking it’s interesting to see the different looks I got in town and in the countryside. In the hills around Lancaster I was greeted with a smile and a wave, as someone simply enjoying nature. But in Lancaster itself I was a dirty tramp, looking for some wasteground to pitch his tent, the filthy, homeless peasant.
Well, yes, I am technically homeless and on the financial scale I’m less Donald Trump and more Worzel Gummidge, but if you’re going to take that approach then I should leave a hat out whenever I’m sitting around in town and see how much I can collect.
Because I cycled for such a long time I thought people were nice to me because I was a likeable sort of person. Now I know it was all down to the bike.
In normal life I eat way too much. The first few days of this trip took me along lonely countryside lanes devoid of shops. My bag is too heavy as it is; I don’t want to be carrying loads of things from Tesco as well. But despite hardly eating anything, probably only 4,000 calories over those 4 days, and with a load of physical exercise, I’ve coped. But, yes mum, sorry, I’ll eat better from now on. Promise.
3. Despite being expensive, Compeed plasters, the ones you put on your feet as you feel a hotspot coming, still fall off when your feet get wet. And yesterday my feet got very wet. See number 4 for more details.
The Maps.me app can’t be trusted. As a cyclist I always chose its car routes (minus motorways) because its cycle tracks were frequently uncyclable. It wasn’t unusual to be directed up a huge stone staircase, hardly ideal when fully loaded. And today its walking routes were unwalkable, with swamp-like fields hiding invisible tracks. And when they were visible they were death-defyingly dodgy or blocked by dozens of fallen trees. So from now on I’ll use the cycle map option while walking. There’s always a solution.
Walking all day with a big bag on your back is knackering. This could partly be down to number 2 above, but I think it’s more about my general fitness. And only by continuing to do it will I become fitter. So that’s what I’ll do.