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Chapter 1: Forward in Fear

Baghdad, Iraq. April 5

I woke up, head spinning with half dreams. First, those from sleep, muddy images mixed with the still slumbering eyesight. Then, those from a task that sounds simple, but the more real it becomes, the less realistic it seems. A dream of a quest too big to comprehend for the one who has never done anything like it. To cycle from Iraq to Sweden. Whilst the thoughts were blurry of motion, the sensation was clear.

I am in way over my head and there is no turning back. I am afraid.

In my head, finding a proper bicycle in Baghdad along with all the accessories had felt like the biggest hurdle, mainly because it was necessary and something I couldn't improvise; I would need proper gear, especially in the first parts of the journey where bike shops and repair stations would be few and far between. Upon leaving the comforts of the guided tour and the luxury hotels, and meeting up my first Iraqi host Adil, I was immediately able to start working on the bike challenge. After a few hours and with much translation help from Adil, my confidence grew. We had found a serious place with knowledgeable staff (or so I sensed) and quality gear that would be able to equip me fully for one million dinar. Less than I had planned for, more than I had hoped for, but well worth it for the sake of stress relief. I let out a brief sigh; it would be alright.

Of course, not all was clear yet. The money was needed in cash, which I didn't have, and ATM rates can be problematic at best. I would probably have to shed some of my things, and possibly one or both of my bags, in favour for the new, mounted ones. Should I make another shipment home? With or without the bags? Sell or give away the bigger one? These felt like minor issues though and in the car riding home to Adil, I felt light and satisfied.

After a home-cooked lunch and some less-than-productive phone time, I slowly turned in for an afternoon nap. When I woke, new worries had filled my head. Or rather, the next few unanswered questions in lines of many and more had been brought forth, long present but waiting for their turn. I had yet to secure a host for my first night on the road (and all the following). I needed to setup a payment option for online donation, which would require paypal, which depended on access to my Swedish phone number for verification, the service for which was paused for at least two more days. I had to write my first chapter of my blog, which nobody knew about yet because I hadn't told people about it. And I knew this was just the surface of a deep well that I was now swimming in. The only way out was down, through it all.

And so it was then, for the first time since I thought about this quest, I felt fear. Fear of making a fool of myself, of being called out for the imposter, for not knowing what he is doing. Fear of failing the task I had set for myself, and begun to tell others about. Fear of my own struggle with commitment.

But then, overwhelmed by the tasks from without and the fears from within, a subtle certainty crystallised. A small yet deep sense of purpose that confirmed and reassured. My own calm voice from a stronger moment:

This is your true journey. To be afraid, overwhelmed and underprepared. This is where you grow. This is why you are here. You are doing the right thing.

Knowing that voice to speak truth didn't remove any obstacles in my path. It didn't cross any items from the checklist or make the challenge seem any easier. Instead, it helped me see the obstacles as the very path itself, a lesson I etched in my mind to be ever present throughout this journey and beyond:

My tasks and my fears are not blocking my way; they are my way.


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