Cycling

2015: Time For A (Big) Change

IMG_9823When it comes to writing pieces for this website, September is always a lean month. I’ve just been looking back at the number of posts made every month and since 2009 when CyclingEurope.org burst into life on the world wide web (albeit under the much less catchy soubriquet of Puglia2010 which made reference to my 2010 cycle to the southerly region of Italy), after the busy months of summer, their frequency drops significantly. In my dual life as a cycling travel writer and full-time teacher of French in a secondary school here in the UK, the latter occupation tends to dominate in autumn as my mind turns back towards the job that pays the bills. However, as the months go by and I look forward to the spring and summer of the following year, life gradually flows back into the veins of CyclingEurope.org.

That said, I’ve had more than just my current life as a teacher on my mind during September 2014. I’ve been thinking about (brace yourself), my future. Those who have read Along The Med on a Bike Called Reggie may recall my visit to Nice in the summer of 2013. In giving feedback on the first book – Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie – one reviewer commented that she would have liked to know more about the author as a person. I thought this was a fair criticism and when writing Along The Med… I tried to keep the feedback in mind. My visit to Nice gave me the opportunity to describe the career path that had resulted in me becoming a teacher of French – if you haven’t read the book, you can read the extract I’m referring to here – and I hope the information supplied helped to explain where I had come from. But in late 2014 I’m more concerned with where I am going…

For several years I have been considering a move from the south of England to return to my Yorkshire roots. I feel as though I have completed my ‘missionary’ work down here in Berkshire since I arrived in the county in 1999 to study at the University of Reading and the time is right to return ‘home’. In late 2013 following my cycle along the Mediterranean, I started to apply for teaching jobs in the north of England but after around ten applications and not one interview, I began to question if I would ever be able to make the move in the knowledge that a new job had been secured. Why all the rejections? I can only guess, but the following may have been factors;

  • As a relatively experienced teacher, I am also relatively expensive to employ; newly qualified staff have less of an impact on the school budget…
  • My CV has some interesting quirks for someone who purports to be a French teacher; my degree, for example, is in Mathematics, not a modern language…
  • I live in the south; is it worth the cost for a potential employer to fork out my train fare when they have a stack of other applications from local candidates?
  • I can only teach French; most language teaching jobs are given to those who can offer a second tongue, at least at beginner level…

I can’t really do much about the first two issues. As far as number three goes, I could up sticks and just move back to Yorkshire without a job but I would still be competing against the polyglots of the language teaching fraternity. I can, however, certainly do something about the last of my career ‘issues’. It is never too late to learn and it is certainly never too late to learn a language.

Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 12.58.59Put that thought on pause for a few moments as I turn to job two; the cycling travel writer. I have made no secret of the fact that I would like to complete a trilogy of European rides and after my adventures along the Eurovelos 5 and 8 in 2010 and 2013 respectively, the Eurovelo 3+ (the + being the extension from Trondheim to North Cape in Norway following the Eurovelo 1) beckons. When I have mentioned the timing of this ride – in the middle of 2015 – a few people have quite rightly pointed out that it would require me to take a very long period off work to complete such a journey. A few weeks ago I even set out a timeline for the trip – read about it here – with a departure date of the 18th April which had some people scratching their heads. In fairness, it had had me scratching mine too, until that is, I hatched the following cunning plan:

  • Leave Reading, Berkshire at the end of 2014 having quit my job, saved a little money and (crucially) having sold my flat. What follows is predicated on the minor matter of managing to find a buyer but I shan’t allow this to put a spanner in the spokes for the time being. Let’s just say that things are looking hopeful.
  • In early January 2015 head off to Salamanca, Spain to spend three months learning Spanish. I’m already doing a bit of linguistic foundation building having signed up for an evening course at Reading College which is going well and is quite fun. Three months of living in Spain and being taught in a language school (any recommendations would be welcome by the way) should bring my level in the language up to a point where I can at least offer it as a second language to younger students – those in Year 7 and Year 8 – on my CV.
  • Just after Easter 2015, on Sunday 18th April, set off from Santiago de Compostela along the route of the Eurovelo 3.
  • In early August (having taken 100 days to cycle to North Cape – full details here), return to the UK and specifically Yorkshire to find somewhere to live and start the search for a job. Initially this is likely to be supply teaching but once I have my feet on the ground, a local address and a second foreign language in my teaching quiver I am hopeful that it shouldn’t be too long before I can find a permanent position once again, hopefully before the end of the calendar year.

On a financial level I should be OK with a combination of savings and income from the first two books although as this can never be guaranteed, the security of the proceeds from the sale of the flat will act as a safety net should one be needed. There are many ifs and buts, many details that I still need to work through (how, far example, do I sort out the logistics of moving to Salamanca prepared for both a three month stay in the city as well as a four month cycling journey across Europe?), but it’s a plan that might just work. If it doesn’t, well, I’ll improvise and make changes as required. If the flat doesn’t sell, I’ll hang around until it does. Would it be such a bad thing to delay the learning of Spanish in Spain until the final three months of the year for example?

Much to think about, much research to be done, much planning to carry out but 2015 could be an interesting year to say the very least…

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