A few days ago, I bought a bicycle to tour around New Zealand.
I hate cycling.
I mean, who doesn’t love the sensation of a numb vagina paired with mild saddle sores? My first spin class was my last spin class. This wasn’t because I wasn’t impressed by my flamboyant instructor and his Lady Gaga/Glee showtune-sufferthon-soundtrack, mind you. This may have been because my extensive career riding proper road bikes concluded itself after becoming the provider of hysterical laughter and ridicule from my housemate for weeks. After trying to force me onto a bike frame that was not only too big for me, but was also paired with a seat that was way too high, he watched my likeness to a newborn giraffe floundering gracelessly as he gleefully led me up one of the steepest, most public hills his shithead self could find. Needless to say, I ended up laugh-crying and walking the bike up the hill while he shouted profanities and insults about how much of a pathetic mess I was in front of an entire sidewalk of pity-filled pedestrians. I imagine his motivational skills put Tony Robbins to shame.
Follow that experience with my first attempts at mountain biking. Another friend of mine insisted on introducing me to the intricacies and finesse of being a badass. This experiment transpired on gravelly, rock-ridden terrain, in the middle of the woods, in the dark. Why I trusted this mountain bike messiah, I will never be able to explain, and after being thrown from the bike twice and jamming the handlebars into my ribcage, I decided I was going to fancy myself a leisurely, weekend bike rider. You know, one of those adorable girls with a cute polka-dotted headband and a matching dress and basket? (Except for the realization that it only works on Pinterest and if you’re 5’2 with short legs that’s not going to work. See also, “who the fuck wears a dress on a bike?”)
After spending some time acclimating to New Zealand, I realized that without a car/campervan or bus pass, your options are limited to hitchhiking or biking. I knew I didn’t want to chance being axe murdered or lost in the desert with Johnny Depp, so hitching was out. The countryside can be pretty isolated and without a proper means of transportation, can be difficult to navigate and/or escape. (Although probably effective at withstanding a zombie apocalypse). Living outside of a city, my days tended to consist of alpacas, New Zealand public radio, and frequent teatime breaks. Although I loved my 75-year-old, Mad Hatter, hard of hearing host, I realized that I had to figure something out, and quickly.
So naturally, the conclusion I came to was of course, a bike! I had to give it one more good-old college try, right? On the hilly, reckless, driver-filled, narrow roads of New Zealand. I went into the city and pretended I knew what I was doing for the first 15 minutes of purchasing a bike, until I realized that was a terrible tactic and openly admitted I had no idea what I was doing. Luckily, the guys at the bike shop shrugged it off and suggested some easier routes for me to take, advice on how to get used to the saddle, how to fix a flat, etc. Basically, my essentials. They made fun of me relentlessly and wished me luck as we parted ways. They promised to offer roadside assistance to the American girl diving in blind if I survived my first, real tour.
I’m convinced that the reckless fearlessness and spark of stupidity that defines youth is what’s driving me to take on something so foreign and outside the realm of personal comfort. I know that the most terrifying, unknown possibilities are the biggest, deepest drivers of self-discovery, growth, and courage. Despite being (moderately) fit and confident in backwoods skills, I actually have no idea what I’m doing.
This truth sometimes keeps me awake at night with racing thoughts and worries. This thought also assures me that there is nowhere else to go, nothing else to do except hop on my bike and ride.