Tegan’s current adventure: “is called “trying to be a grown up”, which is very difficult and making for very fun cartoons.” We mostly know her because of her great Unclipped Adventure cartoons which just make everyone smile! Her creativity is awesome and because of it a few unexpected adventures came on her path. By now she has done some remarkable one so let’s read what she has to share with you:
Could you tell us a little bit more what kind of adventures you have done? Which adventure was the most important to you and why?
I’ve done a few long-distance cycle tours, in Africa, Spain and the UK, ranging from a few weeks to a year – and last year I was given the opportunity to attempt a 10 Iron Man distance self-designed triathlon around New Zealand in 25 days, raising money for World Bicycle Relief. That (NZ) was definitely the most challenging thing I have ever done, and what a feeling when I actually completed it with just a few hours to spare! After that I felt like “I can pretty much do anything now. Building a rocket, heart surgery, underwater hockey – bring it on.”
That said, the Africa cycle tour was the adventure that really changed my life – I went from being quite an ambitious but very insecure 22-year-old to being a much more self-assured sort of person with a lot of faith in people and the world.
You had the opportunity to cycle on the bicycle from Tom Allen, was this where your love of adventure and cycling started?
Pretty much! I loved cycling (as a sport) and travelling, but had never even heard of cycle-touring until shortly before that trip. I had a tough first week (rain, getting totally lost, being stuck without a place to stay, sunburn, emergency room visits, saddle sores – all the usual fun things) but I reckon within a few moments of setting off from Tom’s house in Bristol I had a feeling that I would probably spend the rest of my life either on an adventure or planning an adventure.
And the more adventures I’ve been on, the more I’ve been able to start to see everything as an adventure! I often say that adventure is an attitude, and every day I learn that a little bit more. I’ve recently started adventures in vacuum-cleaning the house.
How were you able to convince your family to go cycling with you?
Hmmm. I wish I could say that I did, but actually my parents were going to go cycle-touring just the two of them and my sister and I had to convince them to invite us along!
How did it work out? Any arguments? Pros and cons of cycling with family?
It was the best thing any of us has ever done, ever (and that means a lot considering we’ve all been to Sea World, twice). There were one or two very short ‘misunderstandings’ towards the beginning of the trip, and after that absolutely nothing.
Pros of cycling with family:
- After years of living amongst each other but not getting to really know each other as adults, this was an opportunity for us to get super close
- Parents willing to ‘tough it’, but still happy to stay in the occasional guesthouse and like to stop at a lot of coffee shops. Sister and I happy to go along with this.
- Can share out duties as a team, depending on strengths (different people to cook, put up tents, plan route, organise accommodation etc).
Cons of cycling with family:
- I can’t think of any. Maybe you’re a bit less likely to meet people and have fun (not fun) character building experiences than if you were cycling alone.
What do you do when you are having a rough day? could you give an example? Have you ever thought you could not go on? What did you do?
Lots and lots and lots of rough days on adventures. There were times in New Zealand when I was beyond exhausted and it was freezing cold and pouring with rain and I had to try and motivate myself to go and swim 10km in a freezing cold, choppy sea, or cycle into a horrible wind and I really didn’t feel like it. And in Wales – a week of pretty much nonstop rain, putting up a wet tent every night, crawling into a wet sleeping bag, the lovely smell of damp just everywhere. And Africa – Malaria, heatstroke, elephants. Cycling through the elephant zones were probably the toughest out of all of those, because we had a really scary encounter with an elephant and after that I developed such a bad phobia that I would hyperventilate for literally the whole day of riding through the wildlife parks.
But those kind of days are really amazing opportunities to see what you’re made of – when you’re forced to do something you really, really don’t want to do but just have to, and then you actually do it and survive. It’s not even usually a matter of convincing yourself to do it or repeating a mantra etc., you just have to do it so you do.
In ordinary life at home, it’s too easy to avoid doing the stuff we’re scared of, but I reckon if we were forced to do it more often I think we would have a lot more confidence and respect for ourselves.
How do you deal with uncertainty? When do you feel most uncertain? What does your perfect day look like? And do you have one that comes to mind?
Uncertainty is pretty much my default state of being. With most things – in life and adventure – I just close my eyes and hope that I make it out alive.
My perfect day – opening a tent on top of a mountain with a cup off coffee going on the little stove, getting on bicycle to watch the sunrise. Stopping for a big breakfast after a little while. More cycling and eating and cycling through magical tropical places. Stopping by a river early evening to swim and set up camp. More food! Sleep. No elephants anywhere. My first time wild camping alone was a bit like this, I thought my heart was going to explode from bliss.
What is your favourite time of day and why? Do you have a daily rhythm while bicycle touring? Do you have a daily mantra or routine you cannot live without?
I love early morning, when everything is totally still and my mind is clear and there seem to be beautiful morning creatures flying around everywhere. And a few crazy truck drivers who have been driving through the night and are on their eleventh can of Red Bull – nice to give them a bit of a wave and try not to get run over.
When cycle-touring it’s pretty easy to get into a routine of waking up when it gets light and going to bed when it’s dark, but it depends very much on what country you’re in and whoever you’re touring with. In my limited experience, boys are not fantastic early-risers compared to girls.
What is your biggest craving while cycling?
Biggest craving while cycling? A huge meal of cooked veggies! It becomes so easy to just eat ‘on the go’ food, and on a vegetarian diet that can get unhealthy quickly. On my last two adventures I’ve had to make a big effort to take the time to think about proper nutrition.
What is your perception of yourself? How would you describe your identity?
Often muddled, normally curious, sometimes mischievous, always head over heels in love with the world!
How would you describe your comfort zone? Has it changed?
From being forced to step outside of my comfort zone so often and do things that I find scary and difficult – from abseiling to approaching strangers for help to camping with lions – I have become so much more confident in my ability to learn and adapt.
It’s made me excited about facing my fears because every time I do I know I’m going to come out a stronger person.
I was given a cliff abseiling voucher for my birthday last year and I’m absolutely terrified of heights, but having just completed the New Zealand challenge I had so much faith in myself, I was determined to do it. When the moment came I volunteered to go first out the group and just refused to let my fear get in the way of any of how I conducted myself – and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Now I no longer see fear as a barrier but rather as an opportunity, which sounds cliched but it’s quite true.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
The people who inspire me are the ones who follow their gut, no matter how scary. I think, like a lot of adventurers, ’ve never needed inspiration to go on an adventure – in fact it’s harder to say no to an adventure than to start organising one – but I’ve often desperately needed inspiration to help me feel confident that I am filling my life with the right things.
How do you always come up with your creative ideas (for adventures and for your cartoons)?
Cartoon ideas come about mainly when I’m cycling! Even when I’m at home, just going on a morning ride to the beach is so useful, I come home and have to quickly scribble down all my ideas before I forget.
Has being a woman provided you with unique insights? Have you been invited into unique occasions because you are a women?
Being a woman definitely has it’s own advantages and disadvantages – I actually wrote a whole little piece about it as a contributor to one of Al Humphrey’s articles about women travelling alone. I find that being a woman on a bicycle makes people perceive you as being very vulnerable, or at least non-threatening (maybe more than they would a man), and as a result they don’t have their defences up when you get to meet them. This has led to a lot of amazing, curious people coming up to chat to me when I’m touring and often ends with them offering a place to stay and us becoming lifelong friends – as was the case when a wonderful Spanish couple who couldn’t understand a word of English literally saved me when I was stranded on top of a mountain one day. We’re still in touch (lots of Google Translate)!
Have you struggled with observations of the world around you? With which observations did you struggle the most?
For me, one of the best things that cycle-touring has to offer is the opportunity to be out in the natural spaces between cities almost all of the time (as an alternative to living just hopping from city to city). It gives a clearer picture of where food comes from, where the people who make our food live, where wild animals live. But I think like many cycle tourists I’ve struggled with seeing what we as a society are doing to these spaces – the way we treat animals (I once camped outside an abattoir), the scale on which we are allowing deforestation to take place, the impact of climate change on people who live directly off the land. It’s had a big impact on the way I live my life when I’m not touring, in terms of my consumption habits and broader political ideals.
How is the relationship with your family? Have you been missing them on your recent adventures?
Family is everything to me! After our tour together, we became this really tight unit and it was a bit of adjusting as we all had to settle back into our own individual lives afterwards. Luckily for me, my parents are my primary adventure advisors so they help me a lot with planning and preparation and checking in while I’m on the road without them. I miss my sister a lot though, she is studying in Sweden and we are hoping to go do some adventuring with her there next year.
Do you believe your experiences have had a positive effect on you? Would you encourage others to a embark on a similar journey to your own and why?
“Positive effect” doesn’t even come close to describing the level of personal transformation that takes place when you’re out adventuring. In non-adventure day-to-day life it’s easy to get caught up in the kind of routine where there’s very little reflection going on, because you spend your whole life in reactive mode. There is always something urgent that needs doing right away, and we don’t make time to put aside the ‘urgent’ stuff to think about what role that we, as unique individuals, really want to be playing in the world.
Adventuring gets you out of that routine – you get to see the world in a totally different way, you get to experience your body and the environment and new people and this all helps with learning about what you can and what to offer. That’s been my experience, at least – and has led me from changing my career plans from law to cartooning.
How do you deal with female hygiene and menstruation? Besides that, do you do anything different because you are a woman?
For monthly female inconveniences I am a big advocate of the moon cup! One of my best things about adventure is that it helps get rid of a lot of embarrassment about bodily functions – we are all human after all – and that helps in terms of being able to (tactfully) ask for help from strangers if you ever run into trouble.
In terms of doing things differently, I would be lying if I said I was never a bit more cautious because of feeling vulnerable as a woman, but I’ve only ever had one bad experience (in Spain) so my nervousness is probably more fuelled by media and social stereotypes than actual risk.
And obviously there are cultural considerations – in certain places it is expected that women and men abide to particular respective dress codes (like in East Africa it is not really acceptable for women to wear tight pants) and so I try to adhere to those as best as I can. I feel that as a guest in a region it is important to show respect to its culture and its people, especially being so often on the receiving end of their generosity.
What would you tell other women who are thinking about the idea of heading out on travel by bicycle? Do you have practical advice be to them? What would you have wanted to know before setting off on your journey?
GO GO GO GO GO – get a bike and just go.
Of course you can research routes, buy all of the fancy kit etc. But don’t think “I’ll start preparing now and then when I’m ready I’ll set off”. You will never be ready! Set a date to go, do as much as you can before then, and then just leave already. You learn so much once you’ve started and nothing ever goes according to plan anyway. Just take that first step – you’ll never look back.