A few days ago, we cycled over to the Champaign Public Library to give a talk about our bicycle tour.
Most of our preparation for the event was sorting through the photos we took during our trip. We managed to weed through something like 9,000 pictures, arriving at a set of 1,000 of our favorites. But, as it turns out, 1,000 photos takes a long time to play! Grimacing, we cut things even further, managing to whittle that down to about 250 for a 5 minute rapid-fire slideshow, which we played at the end (and posted here).
About two hours before our presentation was supposed to start, we wheeled our giant bicycles through library, into the meeting space, and then proceeded to make camp in what might be our most unusual spot yet. Once our tent was set up, we opened our laptops, made sure the projector was working, and sat down to figure out what we wanted to talk about. Maybe we should have prepared more, because our conclusion was to wing it.
Forty five minutes ahead of time, people started arriving. As the place filled up with expectant eyes, we began getting a little nervous, hoping our "just wing it" strategy would work out. A few visits with supportive friends and family in the crowd calmed our nerves a bit as we prepared. Well before we were scheduled to begin, the place was completely packed!
Our first audience ever was full of people young and old, including loyal readers, local bicycle club members, friends and family, even an English 101 class whose teacher had assigned our entire journal as required reading (yikes! we hope you enjoyed it :))
Tara took the lead as we started—I've never heard her give a presentation, but suddenly there she was next to me, this jovial public speaker. I was awed and buoyed by her charisma, feeling similar to how I did the first time I heard her speak fluent French with a perfect accent. In a matter of seconds, I was totally comfortable, just telling our story as we have done countless times in the past.
Over the course of an hour, we chatted informally about our trip. We explained what led up to our adventure, our motivation for leaving, and then trip itself. It was a little difficult to boil two years and hundreds of adventures in great swaths of Europe and Asia to thirty minutes. But, other than than that, it was actually really easy!
After the talk, we fielded a barrage of interesting questions for nearly an hour, and then chatted with many people individually before they headed home. It was really a thrill to have faces for the names of some of the readers who have been following our journey and sending us encouraging words throughout the past two years.
All in all, the presentation was a rousing success. Lavana, the friendly librarian with whom we've been corresponding, said that we had a bigger turnout than some of their most famous authors! We managed to cram like 140 people into the room, and still there were a few dozen people that had to be turned away. We had no idea at the time, and we're very sorry if you were among those who couldn't get in!
Thank you to Tara's dad, Mark, for being such a great promoter, to our dear friend Karina, who took most of the photos in this post, and to everyone who came out to hear our story!