Check out the rest of our Adventures series by Nidhi
There are a few activities that most people in this world seem to know how to do and enjoy doing, but that I can't really do. One of those activities is biking. It seems like an essential skill in life, like driving a car. Almost like a right of passage - something everyone should learn before becoming an adult. But somehow, I skipped a step or two on my way to master that particular skill. I learned how to ride a bike as a kid , but only on a kiddie bike. After the age of 10, I didn’t ride a bike again until I was 27.
Like the phrase “it’s like riding a bike” indicates, I assumed that being able to ride a bike would come right back to me. So when I was visiting Mendoza, Argentina with my friends a few years ago, I agreed to do a bike tour of the surrounding vineyards. It’s just riding a bike, I thought. What could go wrong?
Well, as I soon found out, many things could go wrong. Since they were rental bikes (and old, Argentinian ones at that) I got stuck with a bicycle that was too big for me, making it hard to push off and hard to put my feet down to stop. Also, I didn’t remember how to use the brakes. Actually, it occurred to me at that time that I had never actually ridden a bike with brakes, so it was, in fact, my first time on an adult bike.
Of course, as I was riding along wobbly and in fits and starts, the “easy and fun” bike ride we were promised took us onto a narrow highway. Cars were buzzing by right next to me, barely a few inches away, and I was freaking out. To make a long story short, the rest of the day involved me falling over a few times and then, the piece de resistance - I accidentally knocked my friend over as she was biking, which caused her to skin her knee and elbow pretty badly.
Needless to say, I was kind of scarred.
But in my recent travels, I kept running into situations where a bicycle was the best way to see a city and its surroundings. I resisted at first, the bad memories of my past experiences hanging over me, but when I was in Inle Lake in Myanmar, I forced myself to reconsider. We talked to many tourists who raved about the beauty of the area, and I realized that to see this beauty, I had to bike. I had silently been hoping that I’d never have to ride a bike again, but part of me knew that I couldn’t run from it forever.
So, a little reluctantly and nervously, I gave in. As we tested our rental bikes, I couldn’t help but feel anxious. I mean, what if the experience was like last time? What if I injured myself? But I had to take the chance. I was in Myanmar, and I wanted to see the country. If the only way to do that was to ride a bike, well then, that’s what I would do. I hopped onto my rental bike (which by the way was the perfect size for me - the benefits of being in Asia where the people are smaller) and took off hesitantly.
We rode to a nearby vineyard (the irony!), and I slowly started to gain confidence. The scenery was amazing. There were rice paddies, lush greenery, locals working on the side of the road, and kids waving to us as we rode by. I began to feel more at ease and enjoyed the warm breeze around me. Surprisingly enough, it was relaxing! A totally opposite experience from Argentina.
And then a few days after our first bike tour, we rented a bike again and rode to a monastery further away. Even though the previous ride went well, I was still a little nervous, but I went for it anyways. This time there were big trucks and buses zooming past us, but I kept my cool and just moved off the road a little as I saw them coming. I wouldn’t let myself think about it too much; I just had to keep moving. And I’m glad I did, because otherwise, I would have missed gorgeous scenery and a beautiful sunset. The bike rides gave me much more of the flavor of Myanmar and local life than anything else I could have done. I was so happy that I swallowed my fear and took the leap to ride a bike again.
Another time, after my travels in Myanmar, I was in Zanzibar, and I had the chance to ride a bike on the beach. Yes, on sand! How is that possible, you ask? Well, in Zanzibar, when there is low tide, the water recedes quite far back, which exposes a stretch of packed, white sand. Perfect to ride a bike on!
This time I didn’t hesitate. We rented our bikes and set off to the Blue Lagoon where we snorkeled in the gorgeous, clear, turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. Paradise.
These amazing experiences were made possible by the fact that I faced my fear head on. Thank god, because if I hadn’t, I would have missed all of the beauty that Zanzibar and Myanmar had to offer, which would have really scarred me.
What it came down to was that, for me, the benefits of riding a bike in those situations totally outweighed the potential negatives. I travel to experience countries, and since that is most important to me, I really couldn’t let anything get in the way of it.
The experience has given me the courage to look at the other things I fear or am hesitant to try with a critical eye. I now try to understand what’s behind the fear and to move past it.
What is it that you fear when you travel? Is it holding you back from traveling in the way that you want to? Try to move past your fear and confront it head on. Trust me, you won’t regret it. It’ll open your eyes to a whole new side of this world.
Nidhi is a Contributor at Sona.