#5 - But. Why?

When I was meeting people on my journey, they had two questions. The first one, are you not scared? The second one, why? No, I was not scared. Very easy answer. But, the why question got me. Because I had only one answer. Because I can. And honestly, that was true. I never had the dream to go on such a long-distance bike trip. I simply wanted to have a significant break and a challenge that seemed worthwhile. I had money saved, and I had time. Good enough.

Wednesday, 10. January 2024

Berlin, Berlin Brandenburg
North Coast 500 - View on Little Loch Broom after a very grueling ascend

View on Little Loch Broom after a very grueling ascend.

After I returned though, I thought about why I would recommend to everyone to go on an extended solo bike ride. Not necessarily as long or far as I did, but for a good amount of time. But definitely on their own. Here are my whys:

You'll learn that you can rely on yourself

While pedalling I thought about this one quite a bit. I concluded that I would, if I would ever hire people again, I would send them for a month of unplanned solo travel. Sounds bonkers, but I'm sure that it enables people to build self-confidence. Not the cocky kind, but the kind that makes people calm and believe that they can figure things out. When biking on your own you will be confronted every day with a ton of tasks that you need to master. How far do I cycle today, what's the climb, where can I sleep, where do I get food, what shall I do when I have a flat tire? And there will be problems. I had days where I overestimated how much I could bike, I had days when along the way all campsites were still closed, and there were days when I didn't get any food. But the majority of days, everything was just fine. Because I learned from my earlier mistakes and because I slowly developed confidence that I can rely on myself. After all, I was doing it every day.

You'll learn to ask for help

That might seem a bit contradictory to the above point. But in the end, it's not. Being confident will enable you to ask for help, if you need to. You'll be able to recognize that you need support, without doubting yourself. I'm possibly the only long-distance cyclist, that started their journey without having ever successfully changed a tube when having a flat. I had booked a bike repair workshop, but actually couldn't go, due to work. Having a flat was my absolute nightmare, but obviously, it eventually happened. I had all with me, but all over my panniers. Once I had my gear together, a girl came by and asked if I needed help, and I happily said yes. She didn't know how to fix a flat, but it was great to not be alone. On later occasions, I stopped other bikers and asked for their support. Everybody was happy to help, and all the flats were successfully fixed. Or just asking for some hot water, to get my morning coffee. Or accepting help, when people offer it. I did not find it easy in the beginning, but eventually, I realized, that most people are glad to help and that there's no shame in accepting it.

You'll be able to live with uncertainty

The first few days from Brindisi I had perfectly planned out. I had the routes for the stages, I had accommodations booked. But then everything came different, you might remember my issues with the dogs. While some Bed and Breakfasts allowed me to cancel my stay, others did not. I spent money on nothing. After this period I never planned again so much into the future. I rather set a goal where I would roughly want to be by the end of a week and took it day by day. Sometimes I got further than I planned, but mostly I was riding less than expected. But I never spent money on planning too much in advance. This sort of planning gave me a lot of flexibility, to stay a bit longer at a place, or to take a shortcut with the train, when I was not enjoying an area too much. Every day I started new and I was never sure how the stage would exactly plan out (I usually knew the ascend of the day) or how my campsite was. Over time, I was fine with that.

You'll be so proud of your body

That's an important one. Most people judge their body on how it looks. Too fat, too skinny, too whatever. And never good enough. But during a trip like that, all of this doesn't matter, what matters is that you make progress. I didn't train at all for the tour, but started slowly. But over time I gained strength and developed a lot of pride in my legs. They brought me from A to B, simple as that. And when I had this gory wound on my hand, I could see how it healed itself. There were days as well, usually after extended rest days, when I had bad back pain. I respected that and rode less on these days, but eventually it disappeared. Every time. I never wore makeup and extensive skin routines were boiled down to just wearing sunscreen.

A big aspect of being uncontent with oneself is comparing yourself to others. Going solo gives you a big advantage there. You travel at your own pace. If you can't make a climb, you push, no shame in that. And you don't have to compete to be faster than anybody else. You just keep on pedaling, or well, pushing. There will be people that surpass you, I had that often. But most people were cheering me on. After all, I had a lot of luggage.

Soon after I started my trip, I felt super strong. A great feeling!

You'll be stunned by nature

I mostly avoided larger cities. They were not interesting to me, I wanted to see nature. I was spending so many years in front of a computer, in an office, in a city. Nature was what I was interested in. Not all landscapes were stunners, but even the ones that weren't were still very enjoyable. But I had as well very dramatic landscapes. The ones where you are surprised by the beauty, the ones where you have to stop and just enjoy, the ones where you have all of a sudden a big grin on your face, and eventually some tears in your eyes. And on the bike, there's nothing between you and nature. You feel the wind, and rain, you can smell the sea and flowers. It's the best way of traveling.

You see as well the difference between nature that is exploited and nature that is fairly untouched or where people live closer to it. And it's very obvious, what is more beautiful, at least for me.

I feel that the above-mentioned points made my trip worthwhile. It's not that I started from zero on any of these, but deepened them. I can only recommend to everybody to go on a bike ride on their own. You might want to start with just a weekend or a month. If you need a little pep talk to get going, you can mail me. Happy to jump on a quick call to answer any questions, that I can or just to tell you how great it was.

As mentioned in the last mail, I won't be getting a new job anytime soon, at least not this year. I still have some savings and want to see whether I can find other ways of earning some money. This is what I mean by I'll want to be an adventurer. I won't go on a world tour or travel through Africa, at least not right now. But my adventure will be to shape my life to how I want it to be.

For this year, I have three big projects:

Building out staunchy.com - I built websites all my life, but either for others or as projects that I did not take very seriously. I want to see whether it's indeed possible to make money with a website, and adjacent projects.

Traveling more with the bike. The first trip is planned for April. I'm going to cycle around Ireland. It was part of the original plan of last year, but I decided to back to mainland Europe.

I'm starting a garden! I'm very excited about this one. I can work with roughly 50 square meters and I want to see whether I can bring it to a point where it produces enough vegetables that I could live on them. It might be a total fail, but I love to get my hands dirty!

That's it.

Ciao, ciao!


Mood: happy :)