The Indian Golden Triangle Challenge
What I learned, what were the highlights and how did I do?
So many things to say and so much to explain. There were so many highlights that I can’t pick one but I will try and trim the number down in order not to bore you all!
Firstly I’d like to thank Charity Challenge for such great organisation and the team they assembled made all the difference, and what a team, certainly one of the highlights of the trip as they were very open, clearly wanting to answer your questions about India, the culture and history of this beautiful, chaotic country that seems to work to the sound of its own rhythm, a beat that is all Indian and could never be dulled. Another highlight was the surprising generosity of everyone taking part in the challenge, they were supportive, friendly and there to lend a hand or kit in an instant which made it so much easier to feel part of the group.
What did I learn? Well, that breaks down into several parts – about me, about India and about others. One simple thing I learned the hard way is that if you brake suddenly and hard you learn to fly… yes, I flew over my handlebars doing a full summersault on day two, no serious injury and it once again showed the caring nature of the team and group who were genuinely and openly concerned for me, this is something I still struggle with – allowing people to pick me up or care about me, in this case it was both and I didn’t push it away like I used to.
I also learned or was more accurately ‘reminded’ not to focus on the problem. As I cycled on the first day and a half I noticed that the roads had quite a few pot holes and other small obstructions, like stones, and poo (lots of it) littering my path. I would see a hole or stone and focus on it as I wanted to make sure I missed it, however much of the time I would be drawn to it and bump across it… not good for the bottom all that bumping! On day two it occurred to me while I was just peddling away that I was doing exactly what as a solution focused hypnotherapist we tell people not to do, I was focusing on the problem! From that moment on, when I saw an obstacle I looked for the route I wanted to take and missed most bumps along the way (though at times even that was not possible ).
Another highlight was the visit to the Taj Mahal. Yes, I knew it was beautiful and I’ve been told that by many but seeing in person you see the skill, artistry and excellence that was used to create the palace and you can see the detail that surely could only have been exacted due to the feeling of true love and devotion that enables a man to honour the deep eternal love for his wife. I truly understand why it’s one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Another lesson was that you can’t make a judgement of India and its people and culture from a single perspective. It’s not as simple as it being a country called India with Indian inhabitants, the culture is so diverse and its history so deep that every area has its own personality and needs that differ from its neighbour let alone areas of India thousands of miles away. India has it all, but to align the diverse needs of 1.2 billion people may never be achieved. I’m not sure if that makes me sad as the country could be a world leader if everyone pointed in the same direction, but also, I could feel the desire of the people I met to keep their individuality of their local identity. All the people I met however were passionate about being Indian.
I learned that I had a deeper strength and am a little competitive! The need to feel a sense of achievement drove me to keep near the front and attempt to climb the hills. I’m aware that I’m more a leader than a manager, however I was happy not to lead here, but needed to be nearer the front than the back. Does that make me a hypocrite? I did t
he challenge to raise awareness of male suicide and how men don’t talk and feel they must ‘man up’ … I did find this a little hard to come to terms with on the trip as I had many incidents where I felt the need to be ‘manly’, but it’s the way I am. On the first day or two I cycled behind one of the lady cyclists who was very nervous cycling through the crowded, bustling and if I’m honest, dangerous streets of the cities. I cycled behind her in a protective manner and kept encouraging her. Would I have done that for a bloke? Well I think yes, I would if I knew he needed the support.
When I fell of my bike (in a most dramatic way, I so wish it was on video I would have won a BAFTA) I had loads of people around me. I’d banged my knee and everyone was saying “stay still”, however I had to get up and get on my bike to prove I was OK. Was I? Well, yes I was but half the reason I got up is because I didn’t want to look stupid. I wasn’t ashamed and it didn’t dent my pride as someone suggested it might have. OK, for a split second it did, but I never really looked at my knee as I didn’t want to seem like a whimp maybe? I’m not sure. And then there was the need not to be seen at the back, which is where I expected to be when I left the UK as I knew I wasn’t that fit. But my need not to lose face enabled me to push my limits. Is that good or bad? Is it in conflict with the charity I was raising money for? I don’t know!
Another highlight was the Dastkar Kendra a women’s skills Project //www.dastkarranthambhore.org/ourjourney.asp , this was an inspiring place to come, the lovely things they produce there meant I spoilt my grandchildren with lovely dresses and shirts. But also I wanted to buy this much so I could to show my appreciation of what this project does for women in India. The week before I left for India I went to a fabulous event to celebrate trailblazing women and the 100-year anniversary of women in the UK getting the ability to vote. In India, as I have been shown, the culture most often still sees women as second-class citizens, this project is partly about making that change; I hope it does.
I learned that I could choose to let things go, that the me of a few years ago would have reacted negatively, based on my own vulnerable state rather than what was really going on. I observed things and was pleased with the way I saw myself reacting. I learned that in recent years I have grown as a person.
There were lowlights too, but these we mostly my perception rather than fact – the poverty, the hygiene, the traffic. What do I mean? Well, the poverty was clear but that’s based on my understanding of it, so many people who I saw as poor seemed to be ok with it. I don’t know if that’s just acceptance or cultural beliefs or if they were really happy with who and what they are. But I found some of it hard to accept. The hygiene relates to the environment around towns and villages; there seemed to be rubbish everywhere. Wherever people were, there was rubbish of every kind on every spare piece of land. Animals that roamed free, such as pigs, cows, dogs and goats would be in the rubbish scavenging. And it seemed to be just the normal way of things, I’m not judging these situations, but I recognise I didn’t understand it or like it.
The traffic seems to be a monster, untamed and angry all the time, however by the time I got to the end it was just what it was, organised chaos that you needed to learn to flow with. But it was very intimidating to most, me being me I had to take it on and found being assertive rather than passive seemed to work most of the time for me (more ‘man up’ stuff, sorry) but when I looked at the busiest places I saw, I suppose, excellent drivers and riders as there was very little in the way of incidents. As we tried to use the roads like the British do, we probably caused more problems than the chaos itself.
A big highlight was the proper use of social media. I got so much support and interaction on FB from friends and family that kept me going, we had fun with the toy polar bear that rode up front on the bike for the whole 500k. The bear has his own fan club (bigger than mine ☹) It was lovely to get messages of support and it shows when used well social media is a positive thing, especially for Gilbert Snaffle the Polar Bear.
I learned the finish line wasn’t as important as the journey.
In the ten days of my Indian Golden Triangle Challenge I have met some lovely and inspiring people and made friends with people from across the world, I have been challenged in my beliefs and I have grown as a person. When I chose to do this about a year ago I had 3 goals:
- to champion a cause that fitted my values and beliefs,
- to get fit to improve my own health, and
- to visit the land of my father. I achieved all of these and so much more.
I’d like to thank everyone who sponsored me, supported me and enabled me to take on this challenge of cycling the Indian Golden Triangle and complete it.
you can still donate here //www.justgiving.com/fundraising/garyjohannes
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