I have to start right up front with this review, and say I almost didn’t read it after reading the subtitle. “Sometimes it Takes Losing Everything to Find Yourself.” That brought to mind a Lifetime channel movie, or as I like to call it, The Depression Channel.
However, I had a hankering for a cycling book so I decided to give this one a chance. I am glad I did!
As I expected from the title, the author lost someone she loved completely, very tragically. However, I will tell you now, she lost him in a way that surprised the hell out of me. I read the paragraph three times to make sure it said what it said. I will NOT spoil it by telling you here.
As expected, the grief of her loss hit her hard. Many would have wallowed in it, started drinking heavily or just let it take over their lives. Juliana took a different tack. Inspired by the adventures of her lost loved one, she decided to ride a bicycle around the world!
She would head west from her home in Italy, to Portugal, on to the US, New Zealand, Australia, through most of Asia, and then, skipping the Middle east, through Turkey and back home.
Three things make this even more difficult. The first was she decided to try to set the woman’s record for the around the world trip. (You will have to read yourself to see if she made it.) The second is the direction she chose to travel. She was hitting headwinds the whole way.
Finally, when she decided to do this, she hadn’t been on a bike since she was a child. This meant not only did she have relearn how to ride, and then get in shape, she had to get in shape enough to ride an average of 125 miles a day to even have a shot at the record! I loved this passage from her which explains her overall attitude.
“I often wonder just how much human potential lies unrecognized and untapped, how much we are limited by our own fears as well as by social, cultural, religious, and self-imposed limitations. If we can break through those, how far might we go as individuals, as a species?”
I honestly thoroughly enjoyed this book. She had a way of making the pages fly just as she progressed through different countries. The challenges she shared in dealing with the winds, the mountains, traffic, people, and sometimes just getting enough food that didn’t try to kill you (India) helps the reader understand what a round the world ride really feels like. It did not take her long, though, to embrace cycling. These two lines welcomed her in the sister and brotherhood of the two wheels!
“If you really want to experience the world, get on a bicycle”
“….the finish line was not the objective, It was all about the ride”
She rode the route alone. However, she showed me that a wide network of friends, friends of friends and well wishers, plus an anchor of a logistics person at home makes all the difference! The legs did the work and brought her home, but more than once it was the kindness of the aforementioned and complete strangers as well, that kept her in the saddle. As she said:
“Family do not have to be blood relatives. They are the people who support you through good times and bad, the people who know all your secrets, celebrate your highs, and stick around through the lows. You cannot choose your blood relatives, but you can choose your family”
I highly recommend this book, not just to cyclists but to anyone who has suffered s loss, and had to work their way (or is working their way) back to the living. You can see the change in her as the ride progresses, and the spark of life gets stronger. She chose to honor the adventurous soul of her loved one instead of just giving up and hibernating her life away.
Once doesn’t have to ride a bike around the world, but one should think about what the dearly departed would have wanted you to do. As lost loved one said:
“So much of life is spent doing arbitrary tasks and fearing things that will never happen. During expeditions, you get to live the extraordinary. Dealing with fear is the price you pay to be able to achieve peak experiences. and learning. Nothing great can be achieved without jumping the fear barrier!”
I gave the book 4 stars and I hope you enjoy it! Jump that fear barrier!