The long way over
One bike | two adventurers | 20 countries | 22 months | thousands of kilometres | a lifetime of stories to tell!
I reached for the medium-sized bag that holds the first of my diaries of our memorable trip and many more of the diaries, plus some forgotten souvenirs, inadvertently left in this most-treasured bag.
Memories came flooding back as I poured the contents of the bag on the bed to retrieve particularly my first diary which held precious memories of the first few months of our trip, including our time in England, our mad three day dash across from France to Sweden and our time in Russia and Kazakhstan. What also fell out of the bag included not only the other diaries, but museum souvenirs from Kazan in Russia, magnets from Alcatraz in San Francisco and the Goonies Jail in Astoria, Oregon (a museum of one of Craig’s favourite movies from his childhood). There were glossy tourist books from Yellowstone Park in the USA and Hampton Court in England, and a hotel letter I’ve kept from Marian’s House in Dushanbe, Tajikistan – a memorable ‘oasis’ in our travels – one of many.
The story behind the ‘travels’
“I’m thankful for my wife!” I can’t even remember if this is what my husband, Craig, said exactly, but I do know that he was full of joy and couldn’t contain it when the pastor of our church at the time had asked for some participation from the congregation. I just remember the feeling of complete and utter peace and happiness that I had obeyed what I felt I had been prompted to do and this was the result – a very happy and thankful husband and an exciting adventure ahead of us. Why did he feel that way? Well, just five or six nights earlier he had heard me say an unconditional ‘yes’ to his question that we consider once again to sell our house and travel through Africa on our KTM 990 Motorbike for six months. He had asked previously, but this time, why did I say that unconditional ‘yes’, and no more, till he told me all the details the next morning?
How did this come about?
The Sunday before I had come back from attending a women’s conference – Colour, in Sydney – where I’d heard a great message from Craig Groeschel about fear stopping you doing God’s will in your life whereas ‘perfect love drives out fear’ – God’s love. Craig had said to me not long before I’d gone to the conference: “Dreams are obviously just to dream,” and “I have responsibilities and one of those is to you to keep you safe”, etc. He was trying to persuade me and I was resisting. Nothing I said as encouragement to reconsider helped. In my view, it was affecting his daily motivation and enjoyment – affecting his hope for the future, in effect!
All I knew was that all of a sudden, after we had been discouraged from going by others as well, nothing in our daily lives seemed right anymore … work, serving in the church and where we lived. When I heard this message about fear, it resounded deep in my soul and I was moved to pray to God for our future, for no ‘fear’ no matter what that future was. By the end of the message I had felt compelled to say to God, “Okay, Lord, if Craig brings up the trip again I will say ‘yes’ with no excuses or ‘what ifs’!” It felt very right. It felt liberating, exciting and exhilarating with that little bit of danger that stepping out into the unknown brings. I knew God had answered my prayer and I was up for the challenge. The rest of the conference was even more enjoyable because of that promise (I felt) given to me, that we would be going and that when we went, it would be in God’s will and with His favour.
I arrived home and, lo and behold, within 24 hours, after eight-to-ten months of not mentioning the trip at all (as the discussion would get heated), as we sat on the lounge-room couch together, my darling husband casually said something to this effect: “I’ve been thinking about selling our house and going off on the bike again. What do you think?” I felt an inner smile and immediately said, “Yes”, and as it was very late, we both went to bed, thinking a lot to ourselves but unbelievably, nothing more was discussed!
In the morning Craig said, “I suppose I should let you know what I’m thinking. You just said ‘yes’. I’m thinking of adding Russia and Europe as well and making it a two-year trip.” I can still feel the elation I felt at the mention of Europe! “My reward for being obedient,” I thought to myself selfishly! It was decided to leave in almost a year’s time in early March, so from then on Craig’s time, especially, was spent ferociously researching and planning and preparing, when not working.
There were many people that helped us prepare but I have to mention the artistic flair of Renee and Jackie Iedema (Craig’s sister and Mum respectively) who staged our house to look a real treat and one I would have bought all over again if we’d not been looking forward to such an exciting future of travelling. It had been a very hard decision to sell the house which had been the family home since 1998. I was surprised at how emotional I felt and how scary the thought of not having a home to ‘come home to’. In the end it was rented for one year and sold on our first return in February 2013, so I had plenty of time to get used to the idea, but it still was hard to say goodbye. Every time I drove past for quite some time my heart would lurch – a pretty bizarre feeling.
Another hard thing was saying goodbye to our church and our involvement in it. I love singing: singing to my God, singing together with our church worship team, Vox Dei, and especially singing alto with our gorgeous worship leader, Leigh Forrester. As the year of planning and waiting passed, everything in our church life started to change. Leigh went on a well-earned holiday and there was a need for others to step forward to lead while she was away. I had always said I was a good team player rather than a leader, but this time I felt prompted that there was no reason I could not, with God’s help, lead our team and our congregation in song.
By the time Leigh was back I had led many times and was very grateful for the opportunity to do so, and especially had the feeling that I had grown up. I still, to this day, credit our upcoming extended trip overseas as giving me a confidence that I had not felt before – a feeling that this is a ‘now or never’ opportunity as when we come back we may go to another church, depending on where we settle. I had taken the opportunity to help where I could help, ease the load and at the same time learn so much while serving. This was definitely a wonderful and liberating repercussion of going on Craig’s ‘dream trip’, inspired by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s Long Way Down adventures.
Craig had been talking of riding a motorbike together in Africa for some time. When I was involved in the discussion, we both agreed that it would be much more enjoyable to take it a bit slower than Ewan and Charley and not be so pressured. We could play it by ear a bit more and we could take about six months.
We got confident and started to discuss the plan with a few people. Some good friends happened to invite us to dinner with another friend of theirs, who is a missionary in South Africa. He said many things but the one that rang in my ears was his warning: “Your wife could be raped”. He had travelled throughout Africa, not just South Africa, as had our South African friends who definitely did not want us to go. It had stopped us both short … until that March weekend at the 2011 Colour Women’s Conference. I am so glad I said ‘yes’ to this extraordinary adventure.
Photos: © Craig and Sharon Iedema