A messy hostel room in Istanbul, a girl with very little luggage and many tan lines. That’s how I met Diana, who just got to Turkey after a 5000 km bike journey across Europe.
We immediately started to chat and I got to know a brave and cheerful person, a true force of nature. I asked her to tell you her incredible story.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your trip, Diana.
I was born in Canada, but I am from Ecuador. I always wanted to travel by bike, it was a dream since I can remember and it finally came true when I went across Europe from Brighton to Istanbul, through Scandinavia. I was so scared of doing it, I was waiting to have the right people to do it with, to be fit enough to do it, to have all the right equipment.
As I was waiting, I had a fantastic job in a big corporation back in Toronto, making good money. I basically switched the briefcase for the panniers when I realized that the idea of not leaving was making me more afraid than the idea of doing it. I didn’t want to waste my life just watching my dreams fade away.
So, you’ve just left?
I took a month to plan as much as I could: I did a lot of research and I ended up meeting all the right people at the right time. It is really amazing, once you say “Ok, I am following my heart” the universe starts giving you all you need. For example, I ended up meeting this guy really randomly, he is an engineer and he loves bikes, so he taught me how to fix mine (and he also became a great friend!). At a point, I realized that I didn’t want this trip to be only about myself and I met a guy who said “Why don’t you do it for charity, raise funds for kids in Congo? This is the project that I am working on, are you interested?” So it became not only about me, but helping others too, helping kids in Congo who lost their parents in the genocide.
And you haven’t planned much else, apart from this, right?
Yes, it was mostly about fixing the bike, buying the right things, trying not to overpack because that’s a killer when you are rolling things around with your legs. I did a bit of planning on the itinerary, but then I dropped it, it was too much. I was planning every single day, where I was going to, where I was going to sleep. Soon I found out that it was better to go with the flow. The fun thing is that when you go with the unexpected, you see amazing things happen to you, you are always in a state of wonder!
You were talking about fears before, which were your biggest fears before leaving and how did you overcome them?
I was afraid of everything. Of the dark, of the “Boogie Man”, of having to pitch the tent alone in the countryside. I was terrified. I had never camped alone, I didn’t even know how to put up a tent, and now I was going to do it alone, who knows where, at night. I was afraid that my body was not going to keep up with me. I always had a bike, it’s my favorite mode of transport, but I am not a cyclist, someone that cycles for 100 km or so. I was afraid of everything, especially of the unknown, of not knowing what was going to happen.
A few nights before leaving I couldn’t sleep, I was thinking: “I don’t know why I am doing this, I am not made for this, maybe this is for people who are actually brave”. And then my 10 year old niece basically gave me a pep-talk. She told me that if I really wanted it in my heart I could do it. There I realized that everybody is afraid. The trick is deciding not to act on your fears, but on your beliefs, confidence and on the fact that you can do it. At that point, everything becomes possible.
What was the best part of your trip, the best memory?
I was seeing so much beauty all the time: the nature, the people I was meeting, I feel like my heart grew and I started to believe that the universe was bigger than I ever thought it was. Random little things, people were so nice, so welcoming. Everything was so beautiful and incredible.
Doing something that was really scary and pushing everyday a little bit my limits made me grow. I saw myself becoming stronger, not only physically, but mentally. The benefit has spread to other areas of my life. I am not thinking small anymore, I am thinking I can do anything. It really expanded my ability to dream and go for it!
What does traveling alone mean to you?
Once, a guy told me this sentence that represents very well the meaning of traveling:
“Whenever you go to a new destination, you aren’t just visiting a new place, you are also going deeper within so you are just getting to know yourself better”
Initially I thought I am a solo traveler, but I understood very soon that it’s so easy to meet fantastic people when you are on the road. When you are traveling you judge yourself and the other people less. You let go of your rigidity and find yourself doing stuff you’d never normally do. You get to know yourself better, you judge yourself a lot less and you allow yourself to just be. It’s really fun.
This is Diana’s Instagram profile, if you want to follow her in her future travels!