I do miss home. I’ve missed it ever since I left on this obscure journey to Bhutan. I think often of the people and places that I’ve been relating to meaningfully for years. Everyone and everywhere that helped me stay stable, connected, and happy, just as I am sure I also helped them. This is the second Christmas I’ve been away on this journey and everything back home feels more precious to me than ever before.
Yet I am eternally grateful to all the people I’ve met along the way who have welcomed me open-heartedly into their worlds. Without them I would have not been able to stay stable, connected, and happy as I journey through different lands experiencing sometimes deep challenge. That support continues to flow and people’s capacity to do so still astounds me. . .I am developing something of a deep faith. . .
China’s capacity for care
I have really loved cycling in China. The warmth and generosity of people has gone beyond anything I’ve experienced on this trip. Given what I have experienced up and down the Americas that is quite astonishing.
More than a few times people have gestured at me to stop cycling so that they could then invite me for food in a local restaurant. People have welcomed me into their homes to enjoy a traditional Chinese tea ceremony with them. Often people have refused to accept payment for things that are customarily paid for, or insisted I accept their gift of not insignificant amounts of money.
I was enjoying cycling China so much I became more confident and started getting more and more remote with my riding, delighting in even the smallest of interactions with people as I passed by their tiny villages and smallholdings. I can’t comprehend how it must have felt for people to see me ride by. When I stopped at local market to get some food, for example, there would often be a little commotion. People would want to take photos of me, sometimes secretly without thinking I knew, for example, when I was busily tucking into a bowl of noodles.
Cue an “inevitable disaster”
One of my biggest worries before I set out for this trip was having a fairly major mechanical issue with my bicycle somewhere remote. Worse still, I had thought, would be if that were to happen in a place where there was a major language barrier.
So of course that happened! Let’s say to teach, or should I say remind, one of a valuable lesson – that there is normally a way through, and that way through will often be with the support of others who may go above and beyond. . .
To keep it short, I broke, not one, but two spokes on the rear wheel of my bicycle, where most of the weight of both my luggage and I are loaded. To replace spokes (I had spares) on a rear wheel is not straightforward (requires very specific tools), nor is it advisable to ride very far with two missing spokes with a heavy load. Yet when tools are unavailable locally and when one finds them self on dusty, bumpy, empty roads that are largely inaccessible to heavy traffic then that is just the way it is, and what one has to deal with.
But people showed up with unconditional support
This is what I’ve been dealing with over the last few days. No-one locally had the tools (a bicycle repair person might just be someone with a box of tools and a pump), yet I managed after much precarious cycling to get somewhere less remote. I then managed to hitch a ride with two Chinese men. These Chinese men took me, after some very incomprehensible meandering that I am ashamed to say scared me enormously, to a big city some 150kms away. They refused to let me give them anything other than a limited edition “Adventures in Happiness” sticker.
Then after a day traipsing around the city trying to find a person that could help me repair my bicycle I had given up hope. Yet the day after I encountered a local person who made space (several hours of their time) to help me. They too refused to let me give them anything other than one of my stickers.
Faith at Christmas. . .
At this point I have no idea where I’ll be physically on Christmas. I will again not be at home – with the people and places I know well. I don’t much mind. It has been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster ride these last few days. Now I know that I am not stuck and that I can get back on my bicycle there is a big release of tension. There is gratitude. There is happiness.
Over the next day’s perhaps I’ll find myself again riding alone very remotely. Maybe at some point I’ll ride up a hill approaching a small village with a smile ready for anyone who wishes to meet a smile. Wherever I am, I will be honouring each soul that I have ever crossed paths with, and also those I am yet to.
What I have faith in is the power of togetherness. That is what I celebrate at Christmas, whether I am near or far. That we will get through whatever it is we are going through best when in a spirit of togetherness. We may not always have togetherness, sometimes we might need to be, or happen to be, alone. Yet at some point the opportunity to move towards togetherness always presents itself, and in moving toward togetherness things will likely become that little bit easier, lighter, and happier too. . .