The world is divided into two types of people. First, there are the type of people who, when you tell them you’re going on an open-ended bike trip around the world, say:
That’s amazing! I wish I could do that!
Today’s post is not about those people. It’s about the second type. This type, when you tell them you’re going on an open-ended bike trip around the world, say:
You should be careful of the x when you y!
This advice tends to be less about wanting to keep us safe, and more about the hidden fears of the people giving the advice.
Here are the top 5 things other people think we should be afraid of—and the reasons we’re not.
1. Be careful of the drivers when you get to Europe / Russia / Asia
Everyone (EVERYONE!!) who’s been abroad is quick to warn us that those Germans / Italians / Russians / Poles etc are keeeraaazy drivers. Apparently, we should be careful on our bikes or we will die, horribly, under the wheels of a large automobile.
First, this advice is equally applicable in Los Angeles, where we live and frequently bike. We are constantly careful. We will continue this vigilance in any densely populated areas we may visit.
Plus, it’s not like it’s our first time crossing the street. We have ridden in the back of a Fiat Quinquecento with an Italian behind the wheel, driven the mean streets of Casablanca, and been stuck in a taxi while the cabbie raced a Humvee through Cairo. The driver still expected a tip.
Finally, we have no plans to bike on the autobahn. For the most part, we’ll be seeking out quiet country roads where we are more in danger of being run over by a hay cart than a BMW. On those occasions when we have no choice but to commune with cars, we will be careful.
2. Be careful of the police when you free camp
Lots of people who have never camped anywhere have warned us that camping on public land is illegal; we should under no circumstances attempt such a thing. Lots of people who have done lots of free camping tell us that if we put up our tent in a relatively secluded, obviously uninhabited space, we should be fine. At best, no one will see us. A little worse, someone will see us and not care. At worst, the police will see us and move us along. At even better than best, the farmer who owns the land will see us and invite us over for breakfast.
Bonus warning: This warning combines 1 & 2. We should be careful not to get run over by an out-of-control truck that flies off the road and runs over our tent while we are free camping. Since we are not planning on camping on the shoulder or in a ditch, we’re hoping this is a groundless worry. It would have to be a spectacular Throw Momma from the Train incident to ever occur.
In fact, we are more at risk of getting run over in an official campground.
3. Be careful of rabid dogs that will eat your face
One night in Greece, Stephen and I almost got locked in some ancient Grecian site in the middle of nowhere. After they unlocked the gates to let us out, we stood alone in the Greek night, waiting for a bus that would quite possibly never come. Packs of wild dogs howled around us, and we imagine them circling, slowly closing in. Of course, they never came near us.
Wild dogs are a scrappy bunch. They are not to be taken lightly. But humans are much scrappier than wild dogs and the dogs are smart enough (for the most part) to be terrified of us.
I often hear tales of dog attacks on cyclists. It can happen (and yes, I am a little worried about it). Every time I worry I visit the site of bike tourists Tyler and Tara, who have about a million pictures of the totally non-scary dogs they encountered in Romania.
4. Be careful of quitting your job. You will never work again.
This is a huge worry for some people, and a major reason why a lot of folk never embark on anything more than a one-week, company-sanctioned holiday.
I have hired plenty of people and I have also taken plenty of extended time off. I know without a doubt that smart employers value the free-thinking, creative, and adventurous spirit it takes to embark on any kind of journey. They also value the organization and planning skills it takes to make a wacky dream into reality. Stupid employers do not like this kind of employee. But who wants to work for a stupid employer anyway?
5. Be careful of pickpockets, murderers, and general (foreign) riff raff
The advice here can be boiled down to this: if you venture far from your front door, you will immediately be surrounded by people who want to harm you. After all, foreigners are dirty, evil, and not to be trusted.
We have travelled. We know how to look after our belongings and our selves. We also know that at some point, we’ll probably get robbed. If you’re on the road long enough, it happens. When it does, we’ll take a deep breath and go buy a new thing to replace the old thing, hoping that someone who needed it more than us is now enjoying the fruits of their theft.
As for murderers creeping through the dark woods to kill us in our sleep? Well, we’ve been brave enough to roam the streets of Los Angeles for 7 years, so I’m going to gamble that the forests of Slovenia will be no worse. ♥