A Story that hasn’t yet happened…

…she goes by the name of Anticipation:
The fleeting time between planning and departing, in which anything seems possible, albeit slightly surreal. My heart is full to the brim, boiling over from time to time, with the sheer excitement of moving towards another chapter, the end of which is yet unknown.

The luxury of a beautiful day job: supervising children for the Duke of Edinburgh programme outdoors allows me to test new gear for upcoming trips and enjoy sunrises like this one

The occasional pinch of reality assures me that I am not, in fact, dreaming: the embassy visits for a new passport, the terrifyingly tight budget calculations, the booking of travel insurance to calm my mum, the bouts of late-night anxiety brought on by doctor’s visits and public speaking events.

Can I pack my bag already please?
Stickers and cards to hand out at fundraisers and on the road – to raise awareness for social circus and the Handstands on the Road project

By now, this anticipation of a summer full of travels, new experiences and doing more social circus work has become palpable. There is a constant, low-key buzz playing on my mind like music as I mull over the best and worst case scenarios, the overwhelming possibilities of new sensations:
the acidic pain in my thighs from cycling uphill, tirelessly counting each revolution of the wheels to encourage progress up a mountain and the wind on my face when freewheeling down the other side makes it all worthwhile; the scents of a busy street market in Istanbul, the sickening sweetness of cantaloupe flavoured tobacco slowly burning up in a Nargileh in front of a café, the hot, smoggy air sticking my T-Shirt to my skin, making me long for a shower not to come for another day; the Turkish summer sun scorching the back of my neck when hiking the Sufi Trail, fending off stray dogs with my trekking poles and the laughter of children whose language I won’t speak but whose coy smiles and glowing eyes are universally understood when I finally make it to the social circus school Sirkhane in Mardin.

On tour with Spark! Circus in Thailand, 2014 – bringing joy and hula hoops

Right now, all of these seem so close, yet so far away. At this very moment, my reality is still in my friend’s hot London flat, which I am eternally grateful for. I doubt any of this would be possible in the same way without this incredible human whose stories you can find on Faraway Flyer. So here I am, in front of a laptop, poring over logo designs, stickers, fundraising events, blog posts and cycling routes.

The rough itinerary for the next few months goes like this:
London -> Budapest -> Istanbul -> Konya -> Mardin

While I have been planning the Sufi Trail hike, connecting Istanbul and Konya, for quite some time, an early departure will now lead me to Budapest to embark on my first ever long-distance cycling trip with a new found friend.

To say that I am nervous is an understatement. The longest distance I have cycled in a day is probably somewhere around 60km and I don’t own a bicycle to practice, but I have faith in my legs that have been carrying me loyally for over 26 years now, in my sturdy body that hasn’t let me down no matter what I threw at it, and in my mind, convincing me that this is an exhilarating prospect rather than a silly, uninformed decision made on a whim.

See the bike in the background? I’m training, I swear…

So in about a month from now, I will be cycling from Budapest in the general direction of Istanbul, which is around 1400km in not a lot of time. If you make a bet on how long I will last, please donate your winnings (or losses) to Sirkhane on my behalf.

Outline of the Sufi Trail, my path from Istanbul onwards

In Istanbul, I cannot wait to reconnect with my little brother, safe space of my sanity, travel inspiration and beloved well of delicious tea that never runs dry, before leaving for the Sufi Trail. At this point, I wish to take my hat off to Iris and her team of trail warriors – I have never received so much positive trail support before even starting my journey. From individually designed postcards with handstanding characters, extremely detailed guide books to T-Shirts, stickers and answers to all of my questions, these guys are fantastic. If you wish to support their work of developing and maintaining a beautiful pilgrim’s trail, you can do so here.

This encouraging card with the most touching drawing of a handbalancer reached me together with my Sufi Trail passport. Making my heart feel so full!

The Sufi Trail itself is a hike that leads from Istanbul to Konya in around 40 days – I am hoping to do it a little faster than that as I would like to arrive in Mardin before the end of September to get ready for Sirkhane’s annual circus festival.

The kids putting on a show for us at Spark! Circus, Thailand, 2014

Maybe I will even get some street performances in in the villages I will pass through during my hike, but first and foremost, I cannot wait to follow the footsteps of Nayzen Orhandede, the first parende –or pilgrim – on this trail leading to Konya, where in 1273, famous poet Mevlana Rumi (who I coincidentally share my birthday with) found his death. His words are full of beauty and inspiration and while I don’t necessarily consider myself religious (or atheistic for that matter), I have a lot of time for the wisdom and poetry of mystics.

“Don’t you know it yet? It’s your light that lights the world.” – Rumi

And in this spirit, I wish to carry more light and love towards Konya, and then onwards to Mardin.

It feels like a long time that I have last been involved with a social circus project, Spark! Circus in 2014 and I feel that I have learned so much since then, in terms of technical skill but also regarding teaching, passing on those skills and generally being more mature in challenging situations.

During a day show in Mo Kee Village, Burma, 2014 – until today, it remains one of my favourite places on earth

When I recently looked through the pictures and videos I took from the Spark Circus tour through Thailand and Burma, I felt almost ashamed, like I hadn’t appreciated the opportunity of being there and contributing to such an amazing project nearly enough but even back then, I did all I knew, all I could, so all that remains is to do the same again, after having grown a little more (and never enough).

Through social circus, through promoting play in a safe space, Sirkhane aims to create a positive, colourful environment in areas where it can be hard to be a child, in areas of Turkey near the Syrian and Iraqi border that are often affected by conflict.

You can donate directly to them and find out more on their Facebook page.

If you like things to be a bit more interactive, I hereby invite you, dear reader, to my social circus talk and workshop at London’s community living room and co-working space Ziferblat.

Let me tell you a story that hasn’t yet happened… and a few that have, lined with pictures, badly timed jokes, videos and a little workshop. Come and make your own juggling balls and learn how to use them while recycling a plastic water bottle and throwing things at strangers. It will be fun!

Hopefully, I’ll manage to organise a few more events in London before dashing off to Budapest.

If you like Handstands on the Road – and would like to see more of it, especially handstands – you can now follow it on Facebook as well.

Play day during the most stunning London summer I have witnessed so far

Next (planned) stop: Budapest.




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