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Esc Update: Cycling the 6 Continents

Three months have gone by since Esc Hero Dr Steve Fabes Escaped the City to embark on his epic expedition – to cycle the length of the six continents. Here Steve gives Esc an update and with it some advice for any one one thinking of doing something similar. Stop dreaming – start planning.

Guest post by Dr Steve Fabes

Like most decisions of great consequence, I happened upon the route for Cycling The 6 in a pub garden, beer in one hand, mini-Atlas in the other. The plan hatched was to travel the length of six continents, all by bicycle. I would leave my life in London and my job as a hospital doctor behind for five whole years to complete the expedition.

What did I want to get out of it?

First and foremost… an adventure. Only three months in and it has been every bit of an adventure as I had hoped. Secondly… a challenge, and there have been many. I also hoped I would learn a thing or two en route. Some lessons have been more profound than others but almost all have been learnt the hard way.

Lessons from the road

I will never again enter an Albanian shop wearing a Buff as a full face mask and unwittingly terrify all the staff. I will keep tiger balm well away from my eyes. More importantly I have discovered that the world is a friendlier place than it is frequently portrayed or perceived.

Before entering Albania for example my head was full of negative imaginings; a lawless place of landmines, terrorists, mafia and bandits. When I crossed the border if felt like a homecoming. Albanians working the fields would stop and shout, wave, cheer and even salute. Four times during my trip I have been invited into a stranger’s home to stay the night when spotted rough camping. I have been bought food on many occasions and have felt at times ridiculously unworthy of the hospitality I have received. In Albania I sat with a family who needed and could not afford basic health care, in a house where eight people slept in three rooms, with a beer in hand, full to bursting with food and with the promise of a bed for the night.

Cycling in to the sunset - Steve enjoying some kinder weather in the early stages of his epic cycle

I have also learnt to have patience. Not usually a virtue I am overly familiar with. I have stopped trying to break my top speed on the downhills and now just appreciate the rolling vista. In fact I try to ignore the cycle computer altogether. I camp earlier and look around more. I eat slower. I stop arranging ambitious rendezvous on couchsurfing.com and then rushing to get there. I don’t need deadlines in my life. I always take the route marked out as scenic on the map regardless of altitude or terrain and every so often I cycle somewhere just because it has a funny sounding name on the map.

The Challenges

The challenges too have been robust and varied. Just what I wanted. I have come face to muzzle with menacing mutts many times and in rural Greece. I was attacked by a large group of dogs (read the story). I have had to take down my tent high in the Alps without gloves the morning after the temperature plummeted to -19 degrees C.

Physically the journey has had an obvious impact. The contours of my legs have begun to transform and my new hairy visage has given me a partial resemblance to a Morris Dancer, so I’m told. I have lost ten percent of my body weight in three months despite incorporating a “middle breakfast” into my daily routine. In Montenegro and Italy I have relished the challenge of continuous mountain ascents from sea level to a height above that of Britain’s loftiest peaks. Perhaps more challenging than anything was the sustained snowball attack delivered without mercy by school children across Kent as I cycled out of the UK.

“Choosing to Escape the City was the best decision I ever made”

Along the way I have dealt with these many tribulations as best I can and have made as many sensible decisions as perfunctory ones. My route to Albania for example was decided solely on the basis of the direction of the breeze. But I am in no doubt that choosing to escape the city in the first place was the best decision I ever made and I am learning all the time.

“Decide, Crack on and do it”

I don’t feel particularly qualified to give advice or attempt to motivate others only three months into my trip. I don’t really think people need motivating at all to realise their dreams. Perhaps they need a little inspiration but is it lethargy or laziness that prevent people doing what they aspire to? I don’t think so. I think it’s indecision. You can’t decide what to do so you end up doing nothing at all. So the only advice I can offer is to stop talking about what you might do. Decide, crack on and do it.

Random statistics from my journey so far…

Current location: Thessaloniki, Greece.
Distance cycled: 4200 km
Countries visited: 13
Most amount of Milka consumed in one sitting: 450 grams
Favourite song to sing whilst cycling: “In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry (particularly good to belt out if cycling through torrential rain, heavy snow or gale force winds).
Most entertaining newspaper headline of an article about my journey: Italy, Ferrara: “The Real Forest Gump”

If you’d like to keep up to date with my progress please visit my blog at http://www.cyclingthe6.blogspot.com. You can become a follower by clicking on the link to the right hand side of the page or via the Network Blogs application on Facebook. There is also more information regarding the journey on my site http://www.cyclingthe6.com/. To sponsor my adventure please go to http://www.justgiving.com/cyclingthe6. Every penny donated goes to the medical aid agency Merlin.