In a few weeks time I’ll be loading my panniers, polishing my pistons and setting off solo down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. For the best part of two months it’ll just be me and my trusty, ever-so-slightly-bright-pink Honda C90 moped. No back up, no translators, no medics, no crew. Just me and the familiar hum of 90-cc of raw moped power.
When discussing the trip with friends the most common response is along the lines of ‘Why the blazes are you going alone?’ Even my insurance company, adventure specialists Campbell Irvine, suggested it would be ‘a lot easier if you modified your plans and went with a travel companion.’ And that’s the nub of it, travelling with someone else is much easier. Which is exactly why, this time, I need to go solo.
Apart from a stint backpacking round India, all my travels and adventures have been with other people. When I tukked from Bangkok to Brighton I travelled every single one of those 20.097 km with my dear friend Jo. Shivering on the back of a Ural at -40 with me were Mr Tom and Mr Buddy from The Adventurists. And my boyfriend Marley was my constant companion for 3000-miles around the Black Sea. And on every other expedition I’ve organised, or film shoot I’ve worked on, there has been a plethora of translators, drivers, medics and crew. It doesn’t mean that each and every mission wasn’t difficult in some way, but having other people there vastly mitigated the risk and adversity.
By stripping away the comfort of companionship I want to see how I cope, and what I’m really made of. Will I be able to fix my bike if it splutters to a halt in the middle of a river? How will I handle nights spent in a hammock in the depths of the Laos jungle? What will it feel like to ride into a remote tribal village alone? And could I outstrip Usain Bolt if confronted by a many-banded Krait? The fact is, I’m deplorable at mechanics, scared of the dark and terrified of spiders. And if I always travel with other people, I’ll never be forced into situations where I have to confront these weaknesses myself.
I’m also alarmed at how fearful I seem to have become. A few weeks ago, I was relaxing with a cup of tea in Tanzania when I spied something red and black crawling across my shoulder. I screamed, leapt a foot in the air, and sent tea, camera and filming equipment flying into the dust. After several hysterical seconds Ben, the camera assistant, confirmed it was no more than a harmless beetle. ‘Jesus, and you’re going to Vietnam in a few weeks?’ he laughed. I can’t go through life acting like an extra from TOWIE every time I encounter something with more than four legs. So what better way to bash the wimp-factor out of me than a solo ride through the jungle?
Of course there will be countless times I want to share a laugh or a moment with Marley, or have a stiff G&T with a gaggle of friends. But hopefully there’ll also be moments of simple achievement – working out what all those shiny metal things in my tool kit are, getting across a river, not screaming at the site of a large spider. And those moments are what going it alone are all about.