I fully expected the first week, even month, of bike touring to be hell: knees cramping, leg pain and I was terrified of saddle sore stopping my ability to bike. However, to my surprise, apart from the odd ache at the end of the day, my body has coped surprisingly well. I make a note of mentioning this because if I can do this, so can anyone. Sure I made an effort before the big leaving day to get on a trainer and do my bit to raise my fitness. I also cut down big time on smoking. But most of the time I was lazy, Chris and I sat around eating popcorn and watching films, ‘the weather’s not nice, let’s do it tomorrow’ was probably the most common sentence passed between us during our last month in London.
6 weeks on
Chris has had great fitness since I met him and has already dipped his toes in the bike touring life. I, however had no idea what it felt like to bike everyday, I had never cycled the long hours in the heat of the sun or lived out of panniers… after 6 weeks I can safely say that I would not change this life for any other. Of course I still have a lot of time to change my mind!
It’s not a holiday!
A morning consists of packing down the tent, rolling up the sleeping bag and snacking or what we can before looking at our offline maps. We pick where we want to go, the less busy route (usually close to the mountains) aim in the right direction and push off on our pedals.
Early afternoon usually involves a stop or two for a pack of wafers and a refill of our waterbottles, then we just carry on. It is such a simple way of life, the survival way of life and I feel like we never stop! Even when we reach a spectacular view or just want to take it the surroundings my mind is still ticking away, so excited to absorb the different sights. It is not a holiday for us it is now our way of life and a real challenge at times too.
Evenings have become almost automatic and our brains turn into ‘find shelter mode’. We search for either: someone to ask if it is okay to camp in their garden, a comfortable looking location by a field or a wooden area (usually last port-of-call as this is where most mosquitoes roam) and then cook dinner! Our delicacy of pasta, veg and sauce always goes down well and then we, after unpacking everything that was packed in the morning we reflect on the day. I am always surprised by how much actually happens and have to write it all down in the diary before I almost always forget where we started the next day.
We have not yet made it out of the comfort of Europe and our expected time journeying around the world is still about 2 or 3 years, but at this moment in time I am truly happy and at peace with how we are living.
Things we have learnt so far:
- Keep pedaling, the hill has to stop just keep pedaling
- Heat of the day (1pm-3pm) can actually be very hot and frustrating, cover up!
- Wafers are the best snack and, if eaten in large quantities, release a ‘wafer high’ which causes complete madness
- Having a companion when traveling makes everything seem a lot better
- Armpit hair, leg and pubic hair will grow beyond control, but you learn to accept how natural it feels
- Clothes get smelly really, really quickly
- Water is brilliant, absolutely brilliant
- Life is better lived so freely when you take each day as it comes
- Goodness is everywhere
- We are ridiculous
- Taking every opportunity leads to the most interesting places
To everyone so far that has shouted after us ‘Enjoy your trip!’ or ‘Bravo, keep going, full respect’ while we were biking past, you have our biggest thanks. There is something so heartwarming about people encouraging us along the way. They have put smiles on our faces and brought laughter from our bellies and on several occasions made a tough section a whole lot easier. We purchased a bell horn from Tiger® and use it when large groups of cyclists whizz by, one time a group all cheered in a chorus and we were over the moon. People have made our trip incredible so far and to all the families, women and men from Croatia, Slovenia and Italy that put us up for the night, helped us with directions or simply gave us some water, you are all in my diary and my thoughts and you have made it possible for us to be this high-spirited as we move on across the globe!
I think the main thing that I have learnt so far in the trip is the importance of acceptance. The hill you are climbing will end, and so will the packet of wafers you are eating. The weather will be what it is and you must be prepared for any changes (we have been very fortunate so far between Croatia and France). We have also had to accept that not everybody wants us sleeping in their garden and not everyone will understand why we have decided to leave the ‘normal ‘way of life, but so far nearly everyone we have met has.
A lot of people have asked us if we have the money to do this and tend to ask how much we spend every day (approximately €3 per day, we are looking forward to living in Morocco and South America where it may be possible to live even more cheaply). To us, money is simply paper and coins, you could live of the hospitality and the kindness of others forever if you wanted to. We have met some people on Warmshowers who have known travelers who do not spend a penny and we have also spent an evening with a Frenchman called Francois who has travelled with limited funds for 40 years. We hope to one day make money from our travels just to simply keep us traveling but many have this dream and since the Pound has dropped against the Euro we are looking forward to eating elsewhere! We have not acted like a charity, not begged or busked (yet) but simply told our story and been giving more than we ever expected. Sure, we have needed money to keep the food in our bellies but living life on the little we spend seems like we are richer than we have ever been.
As I said before in this post, if I can do it, so can anyone. People are amazing and full of surprises, just from 6 weeks on the road I feel I have much more to give back to people. People have let us shower, fed us, left us to their home only knowing our name and age. The trusting, short but beautiful relationships you can make in just one night are incredible.
It’s sad that so many people (mental illness aside) doubt themselves and do not believe they can pursue what they wish. If you dream it you can live it. If you have the wish and not the strength you will find your strength by simply dreaming. If it is to travel, to cook, to find a home or find yourself it all can be done just try it. If it doesn’t work try something else – your time is never up.