The Mental Challenge

I’ve been feeling pretty anxious lately about the obstacles I may, no, WILL, face on this tour. Oddly enough, I’ve accepted the major risks inherent to traveling by bike in Africa (risk of collision, malaria, heat stroke, theft etc, I’ll leave these worries for my family). Instead, it’s the not so obvious scenarios that I’m worrying about:
(in order of anxiety induced)


  • pain, particularly in my neck, but also in my knees. Both have been problem areas in the past, and without opportunities for adequate rest, I know these could turn into major energy and confidence drains once aggravated. My only hope is that popping pills (I usually avoid painkillers unless absolutely necessary) and stretching will be enough
  • cold weather. Yes I’m from Winnipeg and yes I’ll be in Africa, but I’m one of those people whose feet and fingers go numb when it is 19•C. It takes a lot of warmth – space heater, down comforter and boyfriend’s body heat – for me to shake the discomfort of a cold night, none of which will be available in my tent when the temperatures drop at night and at altitude.
  • I can handle mosquitos and other flying objects, but the thought of crawly nasty bugs invading my sleeping quarters is unnerving
  • I’m grossly underprepared for this tour in terms of mechanical skills, endurance training, and bum conditioning. I just hope I’m not the only one.
  • equipment malfunction. Highly technical gear will be nearly impossible to replace once en route, and pretty much everything I am bringing, from tent to shoes will be needed on a daily basis.
  • finally, I’m worried about my health, from digestive issues to not having enough food or water between rest stops.

I understand that most of these anxieties are really just problems in attitude and thus am trying to manage them with positive mental imagery. I imagine myself staying positive, embracing challenges and accepting that pain is temporary, among other cheesy reminders.

Of course the question “Am I ready?” is also keeping me up at night. Wondering if I should bring one pair of glasses or two, whether I am packing too much or too little clothing for cold weather, if I have enough tent pegs, if I should invest in a bike trainer and so on.

At this point, I’ve spent so much time preparing, worrying, and preparing some more that I just need to get to the start line and realize that everything will be ok.


2012 Goals

I’ve been living with less goals these days, though there are some general things I’ll be keeping in mind in 2012:

  • be truly open to new experiences/cultures/people
  • don’t accumulate stuff
  • family is always more important than money
  • be confident (this applies especially to school)
Here are the few goals I do have for 2012:

Tour D’Afrique


  • stay positive and remember that pain is temporary
  • don’t get addicted to painkillers
  • cycle as many km as is reasonably possible

Friends (Though I always try to visit a few friends each year, this year should be easier as  people will come to ME in NYC!)

  • I intend to:
    • see several friends from McGill at least once (whether it be in Toronto, Montreal or somewhere else)
    • visit at least one friend from my exchange
    • attend Stu & Maggie’s, and Brenna & Kenley’s weddings


  • “return” to a vegetarian diet when I am back from Africa

2011 Highlights

As it is a new year, I spent my morning reflecting on how crazy 2011 was (good and bad). It  was a year full of transitions and travel. My experiences wouldn’t have been the same without such wonderful, amazing hosts (Maggie and Stu, Dany, Julia, Vicky, Murray, Marina and Danielle) Here are some highlights:

  • Guatemala
    • Biking to a macadamia farm with my great friends Erika and Danielle
    • Experiencing the wonders of Antigua, Atitlan, Tikal and the Rio Dulce with Erika
  • Belize – my first warm water dives with amazing fish and coral

  • Honduras
    • Living (briefly) with my old roomie Julia, one of my favourite people ever, in San Pedro Sula
    • Night diving in Utila (one of the most exhilarating things I have ever done)
    • Cliff jumping and swimming in waterfalls in Yojoa

  • Nicaragua
    • Volcano boarding with Mike in Leon
    • Watching Mike relish our spa day in Granada
    • Climbing the biggest, baddest volcano on Ometepe Island

  • Montreal – it was pure bliss returning to this amazing city and bixi-ing with my best girlfriend Dany.

  • Toronto – Steph, Vicky, Julia, Murray, Mitch and Dany. I couldn’t ask for more (with the exception of Benny).
  • Ottawa – watching Vicky teach Ronen how to waterski was priceless. Learning how myself was icing on the cake.

  • Churchill, MB – swimming with thousands of belugas was a lifelong dream fulfilled. I’ve never felt more proud of Manitoba and more privileged to be somewhere.

  • Friends
    • Gimli (specifically August Long) and all the people who are synonymous with this magical town (Chloe, Katrina, Kenley/Brenna, Stu/Maggie, Dave/Dani, Leslie, Aaron, the Goons and their girlfriends, and of course Mike) are always a highlight of my year.
    • Leah’s wedding was heart-warming and filled with unique, memorable and artistic details
    • All my lunches/breakfasts/dinners with my friends from BH (Megan, Alexis, Clo, Carleigh, Marta, Kyla, Marisa, Fejes, Katrina, Dany, Leah, Brenna, Steph)

  • Family
    • It was amazing to finally visit my Uncle Brian and Aunt Virginia in Kelowna, BC. They have a beautiful lakefront house and a winery with amazing views (and wine).
    • I am so so proud of my brother Nelson for having such a successful year. He moved out, released an album, went on tour, and completed his fifth year of mechanical engineering (with amazing grades), all while working part-time.
    • I had a great year with my step-dad David and his new girlfriend Terri-Lynn. She is fantastic, supportive and interesting. I also really enjoyed Anne’s (my step-grandma) visit. She taught me how to knit!
    • I enjoyed working closely with my dad this year as he ran for the Green Party in the provincial election
    • Mike’s family continues to be the best second family anyone could ask for, always so generous and welcoming
    • I felt very honoured to be named Lucas Alvarez’s (the cutest baby in the world and Mike’s nephew) godmother

  • Getting accepted to Columbia University to do my MBA
  • Selling my mom’s house and finally settling her estate was a big relief! It also meant I could finally move out of the suburbs!
  • Awarding the first Janet Sprout Memorial Scholarship to a very bright, motivated and promising girl from Afghanistan.

To Do List

My to do list has gone from about 5 pages long, to 5 items long and I am very excited! Here’s what I have left to do:

  • Learn how to repair a flat tire, adjust my brakes etc
  • Get my bike fitted and boxed (and call the airline to advise them)
  • Return: sunglasses and pants / Buy: new sunglasses
  • Advise credit cards of travel plans and cancel cell phone
  • Do as many spin classes as possible before I leave on January 9th!!!

It’s unbelievable how time consuming preparations have been. From visa applications and health check-ups to gear research and training, my family and friends know the process has completely consumed me for the past four months. It feels great to have purchased my last items today!

October 8, 2011

Now that the provincial election has passed and I have submitted (half of) my applications to MBA programs, I am able to finally focus on the Tour D’Afrique! So here’s what I’m working on:

I’m trying to take advantage of this unseasonably warm weather in Winnipeg and get in as many long rides as possible (longest so far: 70 km, but hoping to do my first century this week!…update-this never happened)

I’m getting bored of riding the same suburban trails over and overrrrrrr but they are smooth and I’ve enjoyed crunching the piles of leaves this past week. I’ve started cycling with music, which admittedly isn’t the smartest move but, without my safety-first mom to lecture me about it, I’ll take the added motivation until someone else objects

There’s something to be said about NOT preparing for a BIKE RIDE across AFRICA. Who wants to know that they will definitely get rocks thrown at them, probably have a lot of digestive issues and possibly contract malaria? I find the more I prepare, the more nervous I get. I’ve read blogs from past participants with varying results. Bottom line, I need to stop researching. And I need to buy the best gear I can afford.

With varying climates (altitude, desert, rain forest etc) I have a LOT of gear to buy. In fact, the only things on my packing list that that I haven’t had to buy include: sandals, rope, a couple t-shirts and sweaters, socks, bathing suit and a water bottle that I stole from my mom’s bike. That means the list of things I DO have to buy is 3 pages long (really).

Because each piece of gear is so important (I will be camping for 4 months so I can’t have a tent that leaks, or a headlamp that sucks or bike shoes that give me blisters etc etc), hours of research goes into a each purchase. Everything has to be as lightweight and versatile as possible. I spend weeks debating between getting arm warmers or a long-sleeved bike jersey?A synthetic sleeping bag or a down one? 1-person tent or 2? iphone or blackberry? cyclo-cross bike or hybrid? clipless pedals? brand of multi-tool? contacts or laser eye surgery or prescription sunglasses? new saddle? bike computer? camelback or water bottles? saddle bag or handle bar bag? These decisions seem so insignificant but they are CONSUMING ME!

I’ve tried to delay many of my purchases to the fall season so that I can buy things on sale, but costs are still getting out of control! Many friends have offered to lend me some gear, so I greatly appreciate that! I’ll be posting a complete packing list and cost analysis before leaving. Preview: all the little things have been waaaaay more expensive than I had guessed they would be. 😦

Well that’s about all I have to say for now!