6 Things That Will Never Be The Same For You After A TDA Tour
This blog is for TDA alumni, because only someone who has spent a few months travelling with the crazy circus of a TDA tour can relate to these things that will never be the same for you again.
1. There’s no flagging tape on your Sunday afternoon bike ride
Never again will you approach a roundabout, intersection or T-junction without scanning the area for those oh-so-comforting strips of bright orange tape you always find wrapped around light poles, tree branches, or strategically placed rocks on the ground if you happen to be in the North African desert without a single other thing to tie the flagging tape to!
It becomes a natural reflex, and you’ll find it difficult to go back to planning your own route on a casual Sunday afternoon ride after spending several months (or half a year, in the case of the South American Epic!) following the life-saving flagging tape.
2. Thumbs up/down means nothing to random drivers passing by
With traffic comes car horns. In some countries it’s a lot. In others, it’s not so common. But after a TDA tour, regardless of where you are cycling in the world, you won’t be able to hear two short honks in quick succession without instinctively sticking your arm out and giving a “thumbs up”… or maybe a “thumbs down” if you’re out of water or feeling kinda tired.
Whatever the issue is though, it might take a few minutes to realize that all you’ve done is confuse an unsuspecting driver – the support vehicles aren’t coming!
3. It’s no longer acceptable to eat five plates of food for dinner
This is perhaps the most difficult habit to shake after a TDA tour. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a towering, muscular, 100kg male or a teeny tiny 50kg girl, on tour you eat a ridiculous amount of food. Literally, small mountains of food on your plate that will disappear within minutes and then you go back up to the chef and ask for the same amount again.
While the 150km of cycling ceases to be part of your daily routine when you go home at the end of the tour, it takes few weeks for the copious amount of food consumption to cease along with it, which makes for a dangerous situation where you can quite easily stack on all the weight you lost during the tour in the space of a few weeks afterwards!
4. Setting up/packing up a tent will never be a time-consuming task for you again
Let’s use the Tour d’Afrique as an example. Four months. 121 days. Camping every single night. That means setting up your tent 121 times in the afternoons. It also means packing up your tent 121 times in the mornings. Believe me, you get pretty efficient at it.
By the time we reached Cape Town, riders were essentially just pulling their tents out of their duffel bags, throwing them in the air, and assembling them mid-flight so that it was ready to sleep in by the time it hit the ground.
5. Being stared at will never bother you again
Doing a TDA tour through remote areas of regions like Africa, Asia or the Middle East is probably as close as an ordinary person can get to knowing what it’s like to be a celebrity walking down the street.
People stare unashamedly. They follow you, taking hundreds of photos. Some will shyly whisper hello to you as you walk past, while others will chase after you screaming it at you over and over again. After a few nights of camping on the football field of a primary school in Tanzania, for example, you will never be bothered about people staring at you ever again. In fact, chances are that you won’t even notice it.
You become so desensitized to the fact that you stick out like a sore thumb travelling through these areas that it’s a bit of a reverse culture shock when you return home and are no longer a spectacle for everyone you walk past on the street.
6. Just generally being able to return to a normal life
These tours promise adventure, and they sure as hell deliver. You will get more stories out of a TDA tour than you’ll get from a decade of doing the same old routine at home. The life lessons you learn are remarkable – you become more hands-on, you develop great social skills, you improve your fitness and cultural awareness, and you make lifelong friends, amongst many other important human attributes.
You might return to your normal life afterwards, but you will never be the same again, and that is the biggest thing that comes out of doing a TDA tour. …
Oh yeah, and here’s one more thing that will never be the same for anyone who has worked as staff on a TDA tour (particularly the Tour d’Afrique) – never again will you be able to drive under power lines without slamming the brakes, and then edging underneath them with your head out the window to make sure they’re not going to clip the handlebars of a bike on the roof of the truck and consequently take out all electricity to a small African village for the next 6 months!