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Carpe Diem: Philippa's Cycle Odyssey

This summer Philippa Cox decided to ‘seize the day’ – a seeming instruction inscribed on a necklace she received for Christmas. And so she set off on her own personal challenge, one girl and her bike, eight countries, eight thousand miles and eight thousand pounds for her chosen charities. Read her inspiring story and make 2017 the year that you ‘seize the day’.

"Carpe Diem" or "Seize the Day" were the words inscribed on the necklace given to me as a Christmas present in 2015. They were fitting words for 2016. I had been thinking about a long distance bike trip for a while and had initially thought of crossing America. However Europe is on my doorstep and I liked the idea of travelling through several different cultures and so the plan to cycle from the most northern to the most southern point of Europe developed. Eight countries, 5,000 miles with no set route or timeframe - just a beginning and an end.

I had done a couple of long distance bike trips - from Lands End to John O Groats and the length of the Rhine.  These were cycle trips with friends and I had the reassurance that if anything went wrong there would be someone at my side, for company, for planning, for disasters if they occurred. This new idea to cycle solo was totally out of my comfort zone.  I would be travelling thousands of kilometres by bike, on my own and need to be completely self reliant.  It would be a challenge and an adventure and I knew that both would make me a stronger person.Training has been a bit up and down – and I don’t just mean along the beaches in sunny Suffolk. I have endured injuries, pink strapping, hurricane like winds, lashing rain and a training plan that is crammed into half the time that the average marathon runner gets.

I was excited and terrified all at the same time.  I would be experiencing the cold mountains of Norway, the hot plains of Spain and many unknowns in between. There were many "what if" questions on my mind - What if I have a bike accident?  What if I run out of water? What if I get sick? What if I got lost? What if my bike was stolen? But as I worked through them I realised that all of them were surmountable, and I would deal with them if, and when they happened.  Research and preparation were important to make sure I had the right kit - making sure I had warm clothes for Norway and cool clothes as I headed South, camping equipment and a tent. I needed to be completely self sufficient. I spoke to others and read blogs of people who had done similar things.  My bike repair knowledge reached as far as fixing a puncture.  Brakes, gears, cogs and spokes were way beyond me so I did a bike maintenance course to make sure I could do basic repairs myself.  I researched kit and become a self confessed geek in all matters  light weight and camping equipment.

Nothing could prepare me for arriving in the most northern airport of Europe.... A desolate place where I felt like turning round and getting back on the plane.  But once I was on my bike the landscape opened up and I felt that sense of freedom and adventure that I had been seeking.  My life became simple - eat, bike, sleep, repeat. As each day progressed the unfamiliar became familiar and the challenges became easier.  I learnt that the "what if's" were something I could manage to deal with when they arose.  My bike did need repairing along the way. I did have an accident (thankfully only putting me in the ditch). I did get lost (and still do!) but all of these mini challenges I have overcome and the difficulties have been outweighed by the incredible experience of travelling through mountains, lakes, rivers and in a way where you are not just passing through it, you are part of it. You feel the wind rain and sun and you hear, smell and observe nature around you in a unique way. By stretching myself beyond what I thought was physically or mentally possible I feel stronger and more confident of my abilities.

I decided to support The Youth Adventure Trust because it was an obvious fit and by taking on this challenge myself I wanted to help others for whom adventure can make a person realise their full potential.

I would encourage everyone to step out of the comfort zone and take on an adventure however big or small because when you do, you realise what you are capable of.

Carpe Diem!

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