I Never Intended to Be Brave, A Woman’s Bicycle Journey Through Southern Africa

From Adventure Cycling Association, March 17th, 2014
Post by Bridget McMillion/photo provided by Heather Andersen.

My first impressions of Heather as our tour leader are also my lasting impressions of Heather after reading her book. She’s independent, competent, confident, courageous, and methodical — all with a worldly calm about her that only comes from worldly experience.

In her book, "I Never Intended to Be Brave, she recounts her five months and over 5,000 miles of cycling across Southern Africa in 2003-2004, immediately following her two-year Peace Corps volunteer service in Lesotho, Africa. Her cycling route takes her through the southern countries of Malawi, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia.

As her Peace Corps commitment was coming to a close, Heather felt like she had not had the opportunity to explore Africa and did not want return immediately to the U.S. She had brought a mountain bike with her for casual riding and decided that cycling would be her preferred way to travel. Heather placed ads in cycle touring magazines hoping for a group of four or five interested riders.

Eventually, only two travel partners committed, and then one of the riders stopped communicating with her altogether. Heather was then left with just one riding partner, Paul, from Chicago, with whom she had only communicated with via email. About a month into the tour they are unable to reconcile differences in trip expectations and Heather finds herself having to make a decision on whether to keep going solo or end her dream.

She writes at this juncture, “In a way it would be easy to just go home, back to the U.S., rather than going on alone. It's easy to say, “well, I tried and it didn’t work out," easy to blame Paul for misrepresenting the kind of trip he wanted to do, easy to choose the illusion of safety in quitting rather than the uncertainties of solo travel …” Heather does not step down. She decides to continue her Africa dream trip, alone.

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