First Day Depression

It happens every time. I get off the plane in a panic, rush to put my bike together, sprint to the hotel, and then have a total meltdown. Suddenly, the plans and ideas I once had about my bike trip vanish and all I’m left with is fear and doubt.

On the first day of my bike trips I always think to myself, “Can I really do this? Am I ready for this? I can’t do this alone. This isn’t as much fun as I thought it was going to be. And why  in the world do I keep doing this to myself?”

This isn’t some story I’m making up either. It’s real… and it happened just four days ago.

I’m in Aruba right now and I completely freaked out upon my arrival here. Why did I freak out? Well… I don’t really know. But I do know that this happens to me on just about every bicycle tour I’ve ever taken. And I know I’m not the only person who has had this experience on day one of a bicycle adventure… so I thought it was a topic I should write about.

On the first day of your bike tour you’re likely to have a million thoughts running through your head. Some of them will be good, but many of those thoughts will be bad. You’ll be doubting yourself, thinking about everything that could go wrong, and worrying about things back home. This is normal; so don’t cancel your trip just yet!

I’ve talked to more people who’ve quit on the first day of a bike trip than you can imagine. It really is incredible how many people plan out a bike tour, make all the necessary preparations, and then on day one, back out of the trip entirely and go home with their heads hung in disgrace.

The important thing to note about the first day of a bike trip is that it is only the first day. It’s kind of like your first day of work at a new job. You’re excited, but scared all at the same time. But unlike a job, bicycle touring is supposed to be fun. So why the heck do you feel so bad?

There are a number of reasons why you are feeling this way. You could be tired, hungry, depressed, filled with anxiety, or simply doubting your own capabilities. The important thing is to acknowledge the fact that this is only the first day and that things will get better in the future.

You should know going into your tour that you are likely to feel this way. If you’re lucky it may not happen at all, but it’s likely that it will.

For this trip to Aruba I was really, really upset when I first arrived. The ride to the hotel was as scary as hell; I was hot and sweaty; I was worried about issues back home; I received a nasty email from some jerk on the Internet; and all these things culminated into one nasty meltdown.

So what did I do?

I went to sleep and tried to forget about it.

One of the best things you can do if you are feeling like this on the first day of your bike tour is to get some sleep.

When you wake up in the morning you will have made it past your first day and you will be in an entirely different mood (A better mood hopefully).

One of the keys to success when touring by bike is that you just keep going. Set your eyes on the horizon and ride! This can be difficult at first, but after a few days you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about and you’ll truly begin to enjoy yourself.

As for me and my time here in Aruba… I’m really having a blast now. I’ve settled in, learned my way around, navigated the fiercest roads on the island, and seen the sites.

If you find yourself suddenly depressed on the first day of your bike trip, I recommend you get some sleep, slow yourself down, and enjoy the ride.


3 thoughts on “First Day Depression

  1. Colleen says:

    I’ve got a question. You talked about getting depressed on the first day. What about later on in the ride? I did a tour with a friend this last summer. We were on day 12 of a 13 day tour when she basically hit the wall. She was ready to quit with only one day to go. I tried to talk to her, but nothing I said seemed to help. She did finish (partly because we had no cell service at the park we were at) and I think she was proud of herself, but I’m not sure she will go again. Any ideas of how to bring someone out of that despair?

  2. Bicycle Touring Pro says:

    Lowell, Setting a goal for the first day is a good idea. The problem most people make is that they set too large of a goal for the first day. And by setting too large of a goal they push themselves to the extreme on the very first day and then think that every day on the road is going to be that difficult. That is why I always recommend that people set a very SMALL goal for themselves on the first day. I usually don’t ride more than 20 miles on my first day of a long bicycle tour. Anything over 40 miles, I think, is pushing it for your first day on the road.

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