I hugged my mum and kissed my sister. Friends and family who had come from all over the country began a countdown. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. And then I began to cycle. I was off. I had dreamed of this day for two years; I was finally an adventurer, cycling around the world, with thousands of miles of freedom before me.
...And almost immediately tears began streaming down my cheeks. What on earth was I doing? How did I have the audacity to think I could possibly ride a bicycle to Australia? I was never going to make it!
Why was I leaving behind all these people who loved me? The image of my sister, sobbing as she held one end of the start line, was burned in my mind. (It still is.) People tried to comfort her, but what could they say? “Oh don't worry, he's just cycling to Australia for the next year. He'll be back before you know it.” I had known my family would miss me, they would worry about me, and yet, I had still left; that was undeniably selfish.
I had thought breaking from the routine would be liberating, which it was. But it was also terrifying. Where would I sleep tonight (or for the next year)? Where was my next meal coming from? I had taken a giant leap into the dark and I just didn't have the answers.
If I was a sensible man, I would have turned around, admitted defeat, and gone back home. I dragged my sunglasses further up my face to cover the tears, and continued cycling. Real adventurers didn't cry, did they?
I didn't know it at the time, but I had already made the hardest 10 pedal strokes of the entire journey.
Since then I have clung to what little oxygen remains on mountain passes nearly 5,000 metres high, and survived vast distances through the desert's inhospitable 50 degree heat. I have kept cycling when I thought I couldn't. But none of that compares to those first 10 shaky pedal strokes.
Starting something new is always daunting, especially when it is really important to you. But it's only once you take that leap into the darkness you realise your dream is far closer than you realised. I went from someone who was talking about cycling around the world, to someone who was cycling around the world. And that made all the difference.