So far this journey has felt different to all the others I’ve done. It’s not only been more physically gruelling, but it’s also been a lot lonelier. I’ve already written about how I’m perceived differently when cycling or walking.
When walking I *could* be walking around the world, but it’s far more likely I’m a car-less bloke carrying a load of shopping back from the supermarket or that I’m simply a hobo. And, as a result, conversations with the rucksacked version of me are rarely started.
On a loaded touring bike it’s a different story. I was clearly off on a national, maybe even international, adventure and therefore people sought me out, often if only to brag about how they themselves had once cycled from Land’s End to John o’Groats. Regardless, it was a conversation, and I was grateful for it.
All this is to say that interactions have been limited on this voyage and so those few, great, trusting people, who don’t know me from Adam, but have invited me into their lives, for a night or a meal or whatever, are even more special.
I’d gone over a week without a conversation and was feeling a little low when I arrived at Mark’s house in Northampton on Sunday afternoon. Even though we’d never met, I suspect he felt like he knew me at least a little having read most of my books. Even so, he was still welcoming in a complete stranger. But instantly I felt like I had a new mate. I was royally looked after.
The same thing happened a couple of weeks earlier in Sheffield when Rob opened his door to me. This time we had a connection – a mutual friend – but that was all.
I’d already written this blog and had forgotten to post it on Tuesday morning when another superstar emerged on Tuesday afternoon. This was even more amazing as she was a single woman, inviting me into her home, never having read my books, and just wanting to reach out to someone doing something unusual. Saint Emma she shalt be known.
During all these meetings the world felt an instantly better place. It’s so lovely to go from stranger to friend in a few hours, but I felt like I did with Emma, Mark and Rob.
So this is me, raising a virtual glass to them all, as well as to all the other people I have met and befriended, or will meet and befriend, on this long trip. Thank you for being you!