I have been asked an uncountable number of times, “Why on earth did you decide to cycle almost 7,000 kilometers from Shenzhen to Mumbai—alone—through areas known to be dangerous for women. And with a deadline to catch?”
It’s a cliché but the idea came to me when I was in India. By then, I had called China my home for four years. I ran a magazine, organized events, had a well-established network and a great group of friends. But I was bored. I needed a new challenge and I needed a change of atmosphere. Suddenly, I found myself looking for a new locale in India and a new mission.
Having been there before, I was acquainted with its poverty, but the number of kids on the streets of Mumbai shocked me into a decision. Disabled children and their situation here have always burdened my conscience, and I also wanted to say a symbolic, “Thank you, China,” for having me these many years.
I really have no idea how I ended up deciding that cycling all this way was going to be the way. I love cycling, that’s true, but I cannot remember where or when it turned into a plan. I just know that when I got back to Shenzhen I told my friends something like,“Guys, I’m going to move to India and I’m going to cycle there for charity.” Funnily enough, they believed me.
How it all worked out, the way the project came together was bizarrely smooth. As if it was meant to be. Everything just fell into its place and before I knew it, five months had passed and it was July 31. I had moved out of my apartment, given away all my furniture and things, vacuum packed my clothes and stored them with a friend. Suddenly, I was again a traveler with no rent to pay or boss to heed.
On August 1, I left Shenzhen with heavy heart, but with the readiness of someone prepped to take over the world. I knew I was going to miss my friends tons and that I had three months of loneliness ahead. I also knew this trip would not only help to change the lives of those kids, but should likely change, radically, who I am and how I see the world.Though, I had no idea to what extent.
I have done a lot of hitchhiking, backpacking, couchsurfing and wandering in my life, so I thought I was ready for what was moving towards me. Here’s some news, it’s one thing to travel for leisure with no time restrictions from beach paradise to volcanoes and jungles and metropolitan cities. It’s a totally other thing to reach a village in the middle of China after cycling 100kilometers—tired, dirty and with no hostel that would accept foreigners. I was so not ready.
By now I have learned how to deal with the reality. Change, adapt, toughen up or die. I did the first. I have learned how to deal with long days in silence; local people’s overwhelming and uncontrollable curiosity; communication issues, lack of places to sleep, bad roads, hard climbs and constant problems with the bicycle. I have been detained and investigated by military police due to entering a restricted military zone without knowledge of its existence. I have been, on numerous occasions, kept and handled by police to make sure I am not a spy or a danger to Chinese security. I have been stuck in heavy rains, floods, landslides and storms.
As I mentioned before, I have a deadline to catch. Tibet, its entrance forbidden for foreigners traveling independently, requires such tourists to join organized groups. With all the expenses I had to cover I simply did not have money for that. Budget Tibet Tour is an awesome socially responsible travel agency that tries to give back to the community by supporting charity riders like me.
They agreed to sponsor a tour from Lhasa to the Nepalese border that started on September 20, meaning I was following a very tight schedule. But life is full of surprises and plans often broken. Three days after leaving Chengdu, I experienced high-altitude sickness (not recommended) and after that, a fever, which equaled a delay of three days. I then tried pushing on hard, and got sick again. Almost recovered from that, I took a little hike and got attacked by a stray dog, most likely with rabies which means I now have a new plan to follow—my rabies vaccination schedule.
I could now say,“I’m done! I’m going to leave this mess and fly to Mumbai!”But what makes winners different from losers, is that a winner can end up at the total bottom, get beaten down and hurt, but will rise, wipe off the dust, forget the pain and try again. Find another way. Change the plot. I don’t want to be a loser, I want to be a winner. I want to ride my life and help others to do the same. So I found a way out.
It meant cutting off about 400 kilometers between Xining and Golmud and taking a train instead, but I will make it to Lhasa on time and be able to continue through Nepal to India. Is it a perfect solution? No. But very few things in life are perfect and the key is to know how to enjoy and appreciate what life brings.
Kaisa was born in a village of 150 people in Estonia and has been traveling, residing abroad, for 10 years. She studied marketing, but says she likes to keep learning new things, and thus, has been a marketing manager, PR manager, event organizer, bartender, teacher, magazine owner and various freelance work. She is now 30-years-old and discovered her biggest passion, fitness, only three years ago. She is now becoming a personal fitness trainer.