I have a bit of exciting news for all of you.
During the first week in Dhaka, as I was preparing for the adventure over the next 3 weeks, Brooks England requested I write an essay for their annual publication The Brooks Bugle. At a coffee shop, under a dupatta and snuggled into a bright batik shalwar kameez, I pecked out a piece that felt as if I released a part of my soul into the universe. It felt good to write, like this, again. It felt great to relive those experiences but at the same time reminding myself who I am and what I stand for.
The Brooks Bugle is a publication of 150,000 and distributed through shops, subscribers, and each saddle and bag sold throughout 2014 will include one. I’m so humbled by the response to this piece. It was almost 4 years ago I embarked on this physical journey, and it’s been an emotional one since.
I am not sponsored by Brooks and it was a delight and honor to be asked because of my previous accomplishments. I’ve added the text below this blog post to make it easier to read.
Currently going through these files from last month, I have a couple of stories that I feel are just incomplete. This is why I’m not sharing them publicly. Sitting here in awe of the people I shared life with in one of the most horrible conditions I’ve ever seen. I’m using all my possible resources to try and find funding to continue this very important work. I’ll be privately emailing folks soon, with a few limited edition prints available in hopes to raise funds to continue this work. This really gives me a punch in the pride, but I have limited options right now. There were so many of you that donated generously to my Kickstarter because you believed in the work I was doing, and this current body of work is equally important. There were so many of you that didn’t want a reward, you just wanted to see me succeed, you wanted to see the faces that meant something to me. My eye and technique has developed so much over the past few years and I feel like that the stories I am trying to tell need to be told. Humbly yours, forever – Moseman.
(Now we read the news about supposed terrorists looming through Xinjiang. There is no proof yet that Uyghurs were responsible but it’s already been publicized that they are at fault. You can bet I won’t be wearing headscarves around China any time soon.)
Meet Shabana. She’s an adolescent living in the slums of Dhaka. I went with her to her home where she showed me a photo of her future husband. When leaving Dhaka, I did not get to say goodbye to her because she now works in the garment industry. Her mother was a cook and cleaner where I was staying, so the message has been passed along that I will return and hopefully get to see her again. Shabana was my Bengali teacher for the first week in Bangladesh.
When talking to with young women, and recent brides, it’s not the arranged marriage that sits wrong with me. It’s not my place as a white Western woman to try and change the culture and tradition. What saddens me is that there is no support or therapy for these young women when they fall into depression and confusion after being put into a strange household, a young husband, and strange parent in laws.
There are nearly 3999 other images I want to share, but I chose this one because she’s a young lady I saw over a course of a few days and I have a bit of an emotional attachment to. She braided/plaited my hair horribly a few times, with me nearly falling asleep in her sweet arms when combing her fingers through my dry, ratty hair.
If you’d like to be taken off the mailing list as well, please don’t hesitate to email me at email@example.com. I’m a thick skinned gal and can handle it. Also I know how these days we are bombarded with emails.
Text from The Brooks Bugle:
A horizon of 360 degrees, the most vivid and rich blue skies you only dream of and at times standing on my tippy toes thinking I might actually be able to pluck a cloud from the heavens. Days would pass with seeing exactly 2 buses and if I were lucky a few lorries and a half a dozen motorbikes pimped out with neon colors and a speaker loaded on the back pumping American hip hop. Washboard roads and sometimes jeep tracks that cut through the plateau in the general direction I think I want to traverse. Locals have lined stones along the edge of the roads in hopes to prevent the tourism industry loaded into Land Rovers from ruining this desolate, dry, arid, and vacant space.
My feet sore from walking, inspecting the soles being worn down in the heels and at times catching my feet dragging. The sun is boiling my skin and I have every millimeter covered except my face and the two top knuckles of my fingers. If I get out of the sun I freeze.
I have no detailed maps, just some crap tourist map of China, as I never had intent of crossing into the Tibetan Autonomous Region. My riding partner of six weeks, that I had randomly met in Litang, and I had a very heated, abrupt, and emotional break up in a the middle of a yak field days after crossing over. Along with the absence of maps there was also no fuel for my alcohol stove as we had come to rely on his gas burner. I would NEVER find myself to not be self sufficient again.
Every night in my camp, marking the weeks since I had a shower, I would examine my feet noticing they are turning more and more blueish. My fingernails are pulling away from the bed, my ears are constantly ringing along with the constant “thud” of my heartbeat felt within my ear canal and all over my head. Lying down in my tent with the inability to sleep, hungry, I wonder if this is what it feels to be buried alive. At times I genuinely feel like I am going insane and even avoid nomads because I do not want to alert them of the mad woman on a bicycle.
This was the time of my life. These weeks and the months leading up to it would mark a major transformation of who I was and who I am today. Realizing how damn insignificant I am in this world, as Eleanor, as a human, and how we all are at the complete mercy of nature. There is no fresh water on the plateau, hail storms can give you a twenty minute warning and beat the hell out of you. Snapping tent poles because of the cold wind blasting at you and there is no wind shield at 5400 meters. Pouring cold water into your instant noodles while you set up your bed for the night hoping they will be soft for consumption in a few minutes. I had to eat as my 6′ frame was already down to 53 kgs a few weeks before and I know it was probably much lower at this point. Looking at my hands I could see the veins, tendons, and bones protruding more than ever before. Catching a glimpse of my hip bones in the tent at night, sometimes I wondered how I even had any strength to carry on during the days. There was NO option.
I have never felt so free in my entire life. People ask if I was lonely these days and I honestly can say the fullness I carried in my heart kept me company every second. If I looked hard enough along the horizon I could spot a nomad and a young child…or a shepherd woman perched on a cliff watching over her flock of sheep. Finding a nomad gypsy camp and witnessing an outrageous Shaman ritual or spending the morning helping a family of 10 children prepare for a journey to a local market. Life is full of richness and fleeting moments of pure bliss, but you have to keep moving forward, keep taking risks, keep placing yourself out of your comfort zone to encounter these seconds that make up an entire journey…of life.
With no maps, fear of water supply, I must trust myself because I have no one to help me through this. When you stand on a slight rolling hill on the plateau and you can see hundreds of kilometers ahead with no site of human life, you have to convince yourself there is no other option but to go forward. I’m not going to lie. It was tough. It was one of the most emotionally demanding experiences of my life but I managed to enjoy every second of it too.
This part of my tour of 26,000 kilometers is one of a few where it was more than just cycling. It was about self discovery, learning lessons of life, and becoming an emotionally and mentally stronger person. Moments that are brought to mind to get me through the days, where I find myself back in society a little over a year after pausing my tour. I say “pause” because I will never feel that it has concluded.
I watch our society want, and at times, expect immediate gratification and results. Summiting passes sometimes takes days and a whole lot of patience. One reason I cycle alone is because I really enjoy the ride up. I probably take a lot more breaks on the roadside than most and where I can stare out into the beauty of the world and time seems to lose all meaning. There is nowhere to be, no one to meet, no agenda. I’ll get to the top when I’m ready…there is no rush for me and the hours spent on the side of the road thinking and having revelations about life that I will not remember to the next day is what a lot of my tour was about.
Now it’s very evident this is also how I approach life. At 34 my photography career is just beginning to be something I can call a profession and rely on it completely for income. I received my first camera at 14 and was accepted into a program at 19. As you can see, I’m not a kind of person that gives up and I remind myself it’s about developing a stable and reliable grounding. What person can summit a 5040meter pass without weeks of training leading up to it?
There are too often times we can’t foresee or predict the outcome from our actions. We must have faith that something ahead will peak out and our hopes and dreams will be exceeded. Holding a steady pace and carrying on while remaining to have hope will take us far. Expectations? I carry none. Adding that to a load varying between 60-80kgs at time could be very very hefty. I’d prefer to be surprised when I summit that mountain that lies distant within my site.
When I feel like life is just spiraling out of hand and the switchbacks never seem to cease I put myself back on the saddle and return to the mindset that got me through those years navigating around Asia. I continue to take risks, while trusting myself and knowing there are also millions of people in this world that would be more than happy to help you if they can. Reminding myself I am at the mercy of nature but it will be left up to my own strength and will power to survive, or rather, excel.
Life sure is like a very very long bicycle ride. I have no idea what the destination is but I sure am enjoying the journey…wherever it leads.