Going to the Moon, Great Cycling Tours and Expedition Behaviour
What makes an epic tour, or for that matter any cycling tour, great? Which of all the elements that make up an expedition is the most important? Is it the countries one sees, the terrain, the vistas, the food, the cultures? Anyone who has been following my blogs through the years will not be surprised that I am very interested in space exploration and have written several pieces about TDA tours and space travel.
So a month ago when I saw an article on CNN – Inside The Secretive Process To Select The First Astronauts For NASA’s Next Moon Mission – you can bet that I clicked on it. In the next two or three months, NASA will announce who will be the crew that, after a hiatus of five decades, will be heading back to explore the moon. The most likely person to lead the team is a man who in November resigned from the very prestigious job of selecting the crew for missions. By doing so, he became the most eligible candidate to be selected. His name is Ted Wisemen, a decorated naval aviator, test pilot and an astronaut since 2009.
My fascination with space travel started long before I read Tom Wolfe’s famous book – The Right Stuff – and the subsequent 1983 film based on that story. I bring this up because whoever is choosing the final crew from the 41 eligible astronauts, the most important element in the mix is not only that they have the ‘right stuff’ but that they will fit into the ‘right team’. Every one of the possible choices on the list has the courage, skills and other abilities that have allowed them to become astronauts. To be chosen for this important mission, there is another vital consideration, one that anyone who has participated on our tours may recall being discussed – Expeditionary Behaviour. Ted Wiseman had this to say on the subject – “We (at NASA) pride ourselves on expeditionary behaviour: being a good teammate, emptying the trash can when it’s full, cleaning out the dishwasher when your parents ask you. Those sorts of things.” “That’s really what we’re looking for in those first Artemis (to the moon) missions. Technical expertise. Team player.”
In my blogs, I have often compared our long distance cycling tours to missions in space and stressed how important expedition behaviour is for the riders and staff while on tour. While participants on our tours are not trained astronauts with millions of dollars invested in them, the same elements that create a successful space mission, are also part of what creates, not only a successful tour, but also a tour that is a great tour, the memory of a wonderful adventure and a job well done. We all have bad days, when nothing goes right, when we are tired or sick. There are also days on tours that, no matter how much we prepare or how much experience we have dealing with tough situation, when things happen that are out of our control, when border crossings become a nightmare, when vehicles break down, when road conditions or security concerns require changing course, when food goes bad or gets burned.
It is so very easy to lose one’s perspective and to start looking for scapegoats. It is easy to become negative, to make a list of everything that is wrong with the staff, with the company, with the design of the tour, particularly when one is unfamiliar with the challenges and uncertainties that exist behind the scenes. Or you can remind yourself of Expedition Behaviour and be the positive force that helps everyone through difficult, often totally unexpected circumstances. That is being part of the Right Team.
In his book – Endurance: A Year in Space a Lifetime of Discovery – Commander Mark Kelly writes that there are astronauts who only went to space once. The main reason for them not going up again was their Expedition Behaviour. We at TDA are not NASA, we don’t choose the people who register for our tours. What we try do is to point out to them how important their attitude is to the success of the tour. Many come prepared, understanding their own challenges and those of the company organizing such tours in an unpredictable world. Some participants may not initially understand the importance of positive attitude but then surprise themselves and make a positive contribution and feel good about it. Others don’t, at least immediately, but years later they write us about the amazing tour they were part of. From some, we never hear anything ever again. C’est la vie!