5 reasons why this trip was amazing before it started / by Rachel Banfield

So, I'm packed and ready to go. Well, as long as 'ready' can be defined as feeling a combination of excitement and 'ahhh, what am I doing!'

Earlier this week I was telling someone how my trip has already been worth it. Officially it begins tomorrow, but in reality it started months ago. Here is why:

1. Learning

6 months ago I had no idea where Kyrgyzstan was, nor how to spell it. I didn't know any Russian. Or how to change a tyre. Or what a derailleur was. I also didn't really know where the Silk Road actually went. Or what language is spoken in Tajikistan. Or what chamois was. I didn't know how to dismantle a bike and I certainly didn't know how to put it back together. While I'm not an expert on any of these things now (and the last one will no doubt be tested when I arrive in Hong Kong), I do feel like the last six months have been full of learning.

2. Generosity

If you want to be reminded of how amazing human beings are, I highly recommend telling them that you're going to cycle across the world. I have been completely blown away by the generosity of both friends and strangers. A friend's husband, who I'd never met before, spent his entire Easter Monday morning giving me a bike-fixing tutorial. I have been given accommodation by multiple family members (yes, I'm that relative!). I had a friend overseas buy me a new saddle for my bike, just because she wanted to know that my bum would be as least sore as possible. Someone put me in touch with their friend's Mum who happens to live in Kazakhstan, or a friend of a friend who works in Turkey. I have been lent a car, been given clothes and had money donated towards my trip. I have been assured that help is just at the end of phone line. A person I've never met before has offered to send me any spare parts or maps I may need along the way. Could people be any more amazing?!

3. Motivation

Last year, within a matter of weeks, I went from the fittest I've ever been to getting puffed walking up the stairs. Shortly after, I was lying on the couch with a thyroid condition, constantly tired. It was on that couch one afternoon when I decided that I would cycle across Asia once I was healthy again. Without having something like that in mind, I think it would have been really easy to focus on being sick, rather than on getting better.

4. Teaching

With my plan in mind, the rather significant setback was lack of funds; doing an unpaid internship for 6 months isn't exactly the best way to rake in the money. So I sent out my teaching CV to a few English language schools. Four months later and I was seriously considering whether to leave at all. I love  teaching. It was amazing seeing people from all parts of the world - from Saudi Arabia to Brazil, Tahiti to Korea - getting to know each other and learning about different cultures (myself included). If only everyone could experience that kind of environment, I'm sure the world would be a more understanding and tolerant place.

(One of the many lovely gifts from my students)

5. Being reminded of what you have

Knowing that you're going to leave soon is always a time when you appreciate what you have. This time is no exception. I'm more in love with New Zealand than ever before, I'm constantly bewildered by how I got so lucky with the friends that I have and my family is the most supportive, hilarious and inspiring that I could ever ask for.

So, if this is what the preparation stage was like - bring on the adventure itself!