More on the WHY
Mainly, because I just looove those sexy cycling tan lines one gets when riding in the sun.
Then, because as Ernest Hemingway once wrote: “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and can coast down them.... Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motorcar only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”
And last but not least, because evidence shows that prolonged low-intensity exercise treats depression as effectively as antidepressants – but without the side-effects, of course. In short, I’m doing this to get better.
First, because it’s possible (big thanks to Sarah and Lilly as well as Rob Greenfield for inspiration). Second, for the challenge. I have always had easy access to money. I got my first paid job at the age of 16 and finding work has never been an issue. The deal is straightforward: need something? Get a job to earn the money for it. A complete opposite of my sister who puts time and effort into finding “the next best deal,” “the cheapest whatever-she-needs,” “that thing she wanted for FREE.”
Don’t get me wrong: I work in financial administration and am the first to know that NOTHING in life is free. Money, however, is not the sole medium of exchange. It surely is the most widely spread and very convenient, but *not* the only one.
I am confident I will be able to get what I need through bartering, swapping skills, trading stories, volunteering or simply asking for help. I’m basing this on the premise that we’re all alike: we are compassionate human beings who stick together. Okay, I can hear the LOLs of some of you from here… But let me tell you that I really do *not* remember an instance when I refused help to someone who asked me for it. I do however remember, very well, that time when my sister invited three Portuguese back-packers who were lost in our hometown over and had them stay for a week in our house...
I find that making money is not *that* hard after all. Acknowledging, on the other hand, that I am not a self-sufficient super-hero but depend on others and my ability to make human connections, reach out and ask for help is the real challenge.
Why solo? Because there are far too few women who dare to do things on their own. I have been travelling by myself for over a dozen years now and still, the first question people throw my way is: “alone?! Aren’t you afraid?!” The prevailing belief is that once a woman leaves her house, her parents, her companion, she becomes an easy target. Once on her own: everything and anything can happen to her. Once far away from her family, bad things will necessarily happen to her. Well, let me tell you this (and I am speaking from first-hand experience): dangerous or hurtful events are not delimited to distant places and unfamiliar people. Actually, over a staggering 80% of sexual violence against women is committed by a perpetrator known by the victim (here are some stats: France, Poland, US). If the wrongdoer is known to the victim, chances are the lieu is too.
Indeed, I have been sexually assaulted not that far from where I lived as a kid: the first time, just across the street opposite my house, then at a bus stop 2 kilometers away, at a crossroads 3-minutes away from home or on a bus ride home…
Am I more vulnerable when alone?
Well, my experience shows that offenders are not concerned with such petty details: they’ll happily flash you when you’re accompanied by friends, grab you when you’re with a family member or grope you when you’re on a school trip.
I have been victim to sexual violence when on travels only twice (you can read about one instance here). Personally, I actually feel empowered when on my bike. I feel strong, manly and untouchable.
Let me quote Susan B. Anthony, who said it best: “I think bicycling has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel. It gives a woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. It makes her feel as if she were independent. The moment she takes her seat she knows she can't get into harm unless she gets off her bicycle, and away she goes, the picture of free, untrammelled womanhood.”