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Before going on alone, after splitting with her cycling partner in southern Africa, the question Heather Andersen asked herself wasn’t, “Is it safe?” but rather, “Is this right for me?”
Before going on alone, after splitting with my cycling partner in southern Africa, the question I asked myself wasn’t is it safe as there are no guarantees of safety anywhere, but rather, “Is this right for me?” The answer was unquestionably yes. Touring solo in southern Africa, though unexpectedly, allowed me to find true freedom by experiencing the rhythm of life on the road without a schedule, relying only on what I could carry on my bike and find inside myself to sustain me, and discovering the warming kindness of strangers.
1 Get to know and respect the local cultures. In southern Africa, women don’t wear Lycra unless they are prostitutes. I did not wear Lycra there.
2 For your first solo tour, pick somewhere you are relatively comfortable going. I had toured solo in the US and Europe before going solo in Africa.
3 Evaluate perceived risks. Talk with the locals about conditions and ask for specific information. If someone cautions me about a particular road or area, I ask if anything has ever happened to other cyclists or travelers there.
4 Trust your intuition. The hospitality of strangers is one of the greatest gifts of bike touring, but I would turn down an offer from someone who gave me the creeps.
5 If your heart tells you to do a solo bike tour, listen. Doing what we love — or think we will love — is not always the easy choice, but somewhere deep down inside, it is the right one.