Wild camping life on two wheels

Reflections: Life on two wheels

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.

A picture taken by a fellow bike-tourer in Italy
A picture taken by a fellow bike-tourer in Italy

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

Encouragement

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!

Even a bike-tourer deserves to feel pretty! Courtesy of a lovely Warmshowers host (@Larimeloom)
Even a bike-tourer deserves to feel pretty! Courtesy of a lovely Warmshowers host (@Larimeloom)

Pushing on

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.

Long roads ahead!
Long roads ahead!

Try it

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.

 

8 thoughts on “Reflections: Life on two wheels

  1. Katie, lovely to read and I have only met Chris a handful of times, but the way our paths crossed and whe. They did helped me at a very low time. I have taken my own road less travelled in a different vain but please keep writing, posting and growing, it makes those back home smile.

    I have learnt there are times for travel and adventures to far off lands, and times for travel and adventures that are closer to home,Meath can challenge you in new ways. For now mine are closer to home, but I still have a zest for the world and certainly my love of two wheeled adventures.

    Keep going, Bonne chance xxx

    1. Hi Katy,

      Thank you for such a lovely and thoughtful message. Chris has told me about you and I am very pleased you decided to follow your dream, as to me that is what life is all about! Close to home or far away, all the best! Never stop challenging yourself. Katie xxx

  2. Hi Katy & Chris,

    Great story so far. Forget about education, what you learn here is all about real live experience the best lessons for the rest of your live. I went back-packed hitchhiking to the Pyrinees (spelling must be wrong, the montains between France and Spain) and did coast to coast by feet, backpacked and often sleeping in the wild a small tent. Drinking water from small rivers, washing myself on every small or larger water I encountered. Water temerature ice cold, during the day bloody hot and at night often just below zero degrees if you decide to stay on a relatively high altitude route. You had to wash your self before 4 hour in the afternoon so you can use the last sun before nighttime, not doing so and you would not warm up during the entire night! Weather change in a matter of minutes form above 30 deg to thunderstorm and heavy wind requiring emergency shelter. Loosing your way with only maps and compass, no gps and mobiles at the time resulting in severe hunger for some days as you have to plan food to the journey you decide to do. I was often in the wild for a whole week before seeing the civelized world again. Meeting great pepole in small villages, fellow traffelers and those who are scared meeting you as the smelling dirty ghost you sometimes are. Lucky enough most are open minded and helpfull… Enjoy your adventure to the full with all ups and downs that are inevetable in live, no matter how you live it. I really enjoy your posts, feel some itching by now.

    1. Hi Freek,

      Thank you for your message! You sound like you have been through the wild well and truly. We are fortunate to have bicycles so our distances between food and water are much less than walking but we have discovered the smelliness just the same. Many people, like you said, are open minded and I wonder sometimes if our look and smell put people off – that, I’m sure we will find out. We have good thermal sleeping mats arriving today and our tent is two seasons, however we are having trouble locating decent enough pole replacements. We will keep posting throughout our years biking and really appreciate the support.

  3. It certainly seems that you two are enjoying a very special travel experience, more power to your respective elbows! When I made my first forays across Europe, I did it the ’70s way’: ie, I used my thumb. That option has gone now in most places, sadly, but I think the bike approach must be a good substitute in achieving real interaction with the people and cultures you encounter on the way.

    I’m full of admiration, both for your determination to keep pressing on in what must have been trying weather conditions at times, and your obvious ability to make friends along the way!

    Good luck with the remainder of your travels!

    Stuart (and Zizie)

    1. It seems to be the way to do it these days Stuart! Enough distance is covered each day to make the progress feel tangible, but not enough that everything flies by without experiencing the culture and local peoples.

      We’re only just getting started, but this way of life really is suiting us well. We’re actually looking forward to reaching more remote locations, where tourists and travellers are less commonplace. It’s much harder to make that connection with local people in places like France and Italy. Morocco & South America should tick those boxes, so we’re pretty excited for that part of the adventure.

      All our love to you, Zizie and everyone back home. Hopefully we’ll figure out a way to get content up more regularly soon!

      Chris

  4. Hi Chris and Katie,
    Lovely to meet you in Gebas Spain.
    What a wonderful life experience for you both. As you rightly said, if you can dream it, you can do it.!!!
    Good luck and best wishes to you both
    Doreen and Kevin

    1. Hi Doreen and Kevin,

      It was a pleasure meeting you both, also. Thank you for your kind support! Hope you are both well and that you enjoyed the rest of your holiday.

      Katie and Chris

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