Beijing 2007, they were busy building the Bird´s Nest Stadium and my daughter Emma and I were busy trying to get into Tibet. We were staying in a hostal in one of the few hutongs (old neighbourhoods) saved from the bulldozers which were cleaning up the city in preparation for the Olympic games.
In the hostal I met Fritz, a retired German, heading back home after cycling round the world.
We sat in the hostal´s courtyard and chatted well into the night. Fritz told me about his children and grand children; he told me about wild camping in the Australian outback; he told me about the thousands of kilometres he had ridden, about scary moments, the beautiful places he had seen and the kind people he had met. We also talked about his forthcoming 70th birthday, about aging and what it meant for him. I felt inspired by his stories and that night I found it hard to go to sleep.
In the small of the night, I thought about the time when I crossed the Pyrenees from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic on my own in 2002, carrying everything I needed in my rucksack. In those 47 days up in the mountains I experienced absolute joy and freedom. I thought about how I loved the company of my friends and family who met me occasionally to stay a few days with me. How good the encounters with other walkers in the mountain huts at the end of a day were, and how great it was that at any time I could look at the map and decide to go down a valley to a glacier lake, have a dip in its waters and let the sun dry me out.
But most of all, how much I loved the long days on my own. There and then, I decided that one day I would take to the road on my bike, and like Fritz explore the world.
Next week it will be the day.