I interviewed Jenny Graham to the scottish magazine. If you like what I have written, you can read more of my articles in the magazine every month.
Jenny Graham: Writing the book was more difficult than the journey
Holding her new book, First the coffee, then the worldOn her lap, occasionally glancing nervously at the newly printed cover and thick stub of pages, Jenny Graham declares, « Probably, definitely not probably, it was more of an emotional rollercoaster writing this than cycling around the world. » .”
Perhaps, you might think, the record-breaking cyclist from Inverness, in the Scottish Highlands, has forgotten some of the tougher parts of the 18,000-mile journey through 16 countries in 2018, but no, she’s sure the writing has been the most difficult. task.
Laughing, Jenny, 43, adds self-deprecatingly, “It took me two years to write this book. It only took me 124 days to go around the world on my bike.”
She continues: “Writing has taken me totally out of my comfort zone. The thing is, I don’t consider myself very academic and while I enjoyed school, I struggled with the learning side of it.
“In fact, I’ve recently realized that I’m probably dyslexic and that’s why I’ve had this terrible impostor syndrome about the book. I was constantly worried that I wouldn’t be good enough and couldn’t do it.
“But when it came to riding my bike, day after day, even during all that time alone, in new and strange places and with many challenges, I felt much more confident. I didn’t know if I would set a world record before I started, and the journey was definitely very difficult physically and mentally, but I never thought about giving it up. »
The truth of Jenny’s record-breaking trip
In writing the book, which many friends had encouraged her to do, Jenny has had the opportunity to give a more in-depth account of her journey.
After holding the female Guinness World Record solo and without support for almost three weeks, she suddenly found herself in demand for interviews on television, radio and in newspapers.
Her open, candid, and witty disclosures of the trip also brought her new opportunities, including speaking as a guest, giving corporate talks, podcasting, and becoming a host for a cycling documentary channel.
Through this, many of the challenges of his incredible solo journey were turned into points of entertainment. Jenny admits, “When I’m in front of an audience, I tend to laugh at things. Even if what happened was difficult or dangerous, I was often looking for entertainment value because people like to laugh and I think people felt that I was taking it all in stride. But this was not really the case. »
The book gives a truer story. She says, « Writing the book has allowed me to separate things, take a closer look at my emotions, and be very honest about the difficulties. »
As an example, there is a rather long first chapter titled “preparation”. Jenny says: “Preparing for the trip was difficult. Somehow it was harder for me to get to the start line than it was to get to the finish line.
“First of all, I had to believe that people like me could cycle around the world. I had seen other people go on amazing adventures, but I didn’t think it was something I could do. »
Jenny, already an experienced cyclist, doesn’t talk about the physical aspect, but about her ability to plan the race, raise funds, get sponsors and visualize it.
She says: “I already knew I was good at riding long distances, but there was so much more to planning the record attempt. I needed the confidence to approach sponsors and supporters and make them believe I could do it. »
The ups and downs of a trip around the world
Then, from her first pedal stroke on June 16, 2018, leaving the Brandenburg Gate behind in Berlin, Jenny felt the freedom of “being able to just ride a bike”.
As expected, there were positives and negatives to a solo challenge. Although Jenny, who had her only son, Lachlan, at the age of 18, is talkative and outgoing, she reveals that she likes to be alone.
She says: “I like cycling with other people, but for the round-the-world cycle it was easier to do my own thing. It meant there was less stress and pressure when traveling with others.
“I could go at my own pace and make my own plans as I go. Very often, I just decide to have another coffee, and then I hit the road, just like the title of the book says.
However, there were times when Jenny admits that she would have enjoyed the motivational boost from someone else. She says: “You have to learn to manage yourself. There is no one to motivate you, no one to get you out of your bad mood and no one to put you in a good mood. There is also no one to blame for anything. You have to discover your own roller coaster of emotions and be aware of your natural ups and downs.
« Through the trip I learned to take care of my mental side. »
Fear also played a role in the early stages of the journey. Says Jenny, « It might be too easy to tell yourself that you’re afraid of all sorts of things, but I’ve learned to figure out what real fear was and when I was just craving a little comfort. »
In Russia, when Jenny was faced with the danger of traveling on the busy Trans-Siberian Highway, she made the difficult decision to cycle at night instead of during the day. She says: “There I was on the 9th, already breaking my rule of not riding overnight bikes too early in the trip. I was worried this was going to end up being a mistake, but the highway traffic was a real scare. »
In Alaska, on another highway, the bear menace saw her ring a bell, play loud music and sing while riding her bike. “It was quite the picture, riding down that lonely road,” she says, laughing again.
In the book, Jenny also explores the many « amazing experiences » of biking abroad.
She says: “There were many countries that were new to me. I enjoyed seeing new places, experiencing different cultures, and benefiting from the kindness of strangers. Many times, people who have less give more.
“This made me think a lot about how grateful I should be for the life I have in Scotland. Although I am not particularly financially wealthy in my culture, I am wealthy in terms of the freedom to make my own decisions and travel.
“I have had great opportunities throughout my life, such as outdoor education training and rewarding work supporting underprivileged children.
“And there I was too, feeling so lucky to be able to take off to cycle around the world.”
…So she wrote a book
It was October 18, 2018 when Jenny finished the record-breaking journey while returning to the Brandenburg Gate. She says: “I can still remember the incredible feeling of that day. My mood was high. I felt dizzy and laughed hysterically. I guess she felt unreal at the time.
“Looking back now, I could never have imagined what the journey would bring me on so many different levels, including so many new experiences, a new career, and different expectations.
« I’ve even written a book, which I would have thought was completely impossible before I set out on the journey. »
- First the coffee, then the world: a woman’s record-breaking pedal ride around the planet is published by Bloomsbury.