Carpe Diem – Seize the Day: The 2023 Silk Route
Carpe Diem – ‘seize the day’ – is one of the few expressions I know in Latin. One of my few regrets from my student years is that I didn’t study that language. To this day I imagine that if I had done so, then on my frequent TDA Tours, I would be able to visit a large part of the world and fairly quickly be able to converse with locals in their official language; be it Spanish in Argentina, French in West Africa, Portuguese in Brazil or Italian in Sicily.
On the inaugural TDA Silk Tour through Central Asia in 2007, there is one day that sticks in my mind. The sweep rider Darryl and I were taking our time, enjoying the day. In the afternoon we passed many stands selling watermelons and after declining many invitations to taste a watermelon, we finally succumbed and stopped. The old man examined several watermelons and after rejecting a handful he cut into one, giving each of us, a very tasty juicy slice.
Though Latin wouldn’t have been of any use, my rusty Russian from elementary school was, and soon enough we had a conversation going. Next out came a bottle of vodka and there was now no way of saying, “nyet, nyet, nyet”. For the first time in my life, I experienced watermelon with a shot of vodka. Not bad! Except that one shot followed another and then another as local traditions demanded. Fortunately for Darryl and I, we were eventually able to flag down a lift to our camp.
Drinking vodka during the day is certainly not the smartest thing I have done in my life and I do not recommend it to anyone. The reason I bring this up is that cycling the Silk Route and the different ‘stans’ including the fabled cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva has always been a highlight of the tour. To borrow an expression from the National Geographic, it is “travel destinations that educate, illuminate, and spark connections and wonder.” By the way, ‘stan’ refers to the ethnic group in the area through which we cycle. So, on the 2023 Silk Route, the cyclists will be pedalling through the regions of Uzbeks, Tajiks, and the Kyrgyz.
Returning to ‘seizing the day’, the complete sentence, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, comes from the poet Horace. “Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero” can be translated as “pluck the day, trusting as little as possible in the next one.” I am thinking of this approach as a result of what happened over the last three years. How so much of what we had planned didn’t happen and how some of what we are now planning to do would only be a part of what was originally intended. Take, for example, the Silk Route. The 2023 expedition was fully sold out but when, as a result of pandemic and security issues, we announced a shorter version, many riders started cancelling and decided to wait for the next full tour in 2025.
In preparation for my next trip, the Journey to the East, which has been cancelled three times during the pandemic, I read a book by one of my favourite travel writers, Pico Iyer, – Japan for Beginners. He has been living in Japan for almost three decades now, so I figured he might know a thing or two about the country. What I recall most from this small book is the Japanese awareness of the impermanence of things. Everything changes and changes all the time. That is something to keep in mind and why we should all grab any opportunity when it becomes available.
No one, not myself nor any of the cyclists who decided to delay their Silk Route Expedition to 2025, can predict whether it is a good idea and whether it will still be a good idea in two years time. What I do know, and what I try to practice in my life, is found in another wonderful lesser known Latin expression. “Solvitur Ambulando,” attributed to Saint Augustine, means, “the problem is solved by walking” or more often in my case (and may Saint Augustine forgive me), “Solvitur Cyclismo“, “the problem is solved by cycling.”
So, if you are still considering whether to join the 2023 Silk Route Expedition or not, “carpe diem” and do some Solvitur Ambulando or Solvitur Cyclismo.
Our self-powered caravan begins in Beijing, China, the political and cultural centre of China and crosses mysterious lands, fiery deserts, and...