I miss my bicycle. It’s been 20 days since we sent them home, just shy of 3 weeks. If I remember correctly this is the longest I have gone without riding since I really started to ride regularly, almost 6 years ago. I’m really ready to be back on my bike, not carrying all my possessions with me and trying to get back in shape for some racing this fall. I’ve missed this type of riding since we left and am excited to be back at it in a few more weeks (but 6 whole weeks of no riding! AGH! I’m not sure how I will survive) I think it’s also a sign of being almost ready to be home. We’ve been away a long time and, although I am still excited for the remaining weeks of the trip, I think we are both ready to be home soon. It’s a strange feeling to have. Both excitement for what remains and excitement for it to be done. I’m almost ready to go back to routine: to have my own room that is always there, a kitchen, a roof over my head that is constant. Returning home will be so different from the past few months, yet so familiar. I’ve been rather surprised at how long it has taken to get to this point. Before leaving on this trip I had never been away from home for more than three weeks, and now 4 months later I am just starting to be ready to head home. When we left I figured that at some point I would run into homesickness, but honestly at this point I am not sure that I will. I’m ready to be home when the time comes but I don’t think I will get to the point of thinking I want to be home until we are at the end of the trip. We’ve kept busy, seen amazing things and met so many great people that I haven’t had much opportunity to miss home. I can barely believe we have already been gone for 130 days, it feels like only a little while ago that we were in Turkey wondering why on earth we had decided to do this.
Every part of the trip has been incredible. Sure there have been some low points and times that were really tough but I don’t think there is much I would change. After the first few days we found ourselves thinking “why did we start in Istanbul, that was a terrible idea.” but now I think that was one of the best choices we made on the trip. Without starting in Turkey we wouldn’t have seen some of the most amazing things on the trip and would have missed out on meeting so many great people. It was only by starting in Istanbul that we ended up riding through the Balkans, which were some of our favorite places of the whole trip. This trip has sparked so many new ideas for places to go and future trips that we may have never known about without going into this trip with so little preparation and so little idea of what we were doing.
Another unexpected product of the trip has been making us both excited for all that we can do when we get home. Being unable to work on the things we enjoy doing has been hard for sure, but it has renewed my passion for really working hard at them when I get home. I’m so excited to be able to come home and get back into the workshop and practice my welding and build more frames. And I can tell how excited Autumn is to be back in the studio making jewelry. It’s great to realize that i’m going to be so busy when I get home, working, learning, training, and racing and also know that I’m going to enjoy it that much more having taken a break for a while.
Now that we have embarked on the second half of the trip, we thought we should spend a little time reflecting on the trip so far. Berlin makes for a perfect halfway point for our trip. It is known for being trapped between east and west, straddling two cultures. Within our trip it provides a center over which our trip can reflect. We began at the very edge of Europe, right at the border with Asia. Berlin marks the beginning of Western Europe and we will end our trip once again at the edge of Europe, the begining of Africa.
As I write this we are sitting on a night bus on our way to Cologne and it feels a bit wrong. It’s in every way the opposite of how we have been traveling up until now and neither of us really likes it. Out the window all I see is black and even in the daylight it would be whizzing by at 120 km/hr. Tonight we will cover the same distance we would normally ride in a bit over two weeks. It’s a bit hard to imagine really. We won’t meet anyone, we won’t have any stories and we won’t see much, even if we look. This isn’t to say traveling by bus or train is so terrible, it’s certainly not and is necessary for us to do what we want to do but after the first half it is really different. I can speak for both of us in saying that we have enjoyed traveling by bike even more than we imagined. Sure, it’s hard at times and were often tired at the end of the day but there is nothing else that can really compare. It’s an awesome feeling to look at a map and be able to trace from Istanbul to Berlin through all the countryside and small towns and have a memory for each place. What it looked like, how the weather was that day, people who live there, what it smelled like; every detail is there for as long as you can hold on to it.
The cities we’ve been to have been amazing. The architecture, history and sites to see are really really cool but without the people you meet any city could be just about anywhere. Of course they are differnt and have their history but you don’t get a sense of what a country is without getting to talk to people who live there. We have been lucky enough to meet some really incredible people along the way. People have graciously invited us into their home, talked with us, given us great tips on where to go and what to see and through all of this taught us what it means to be from the place they are from. Our gratitude for all these interactions, small or large, is more than we can write. It’s been the trip of a lifetime already and we are only halfway done.
In the past 6 weeks we have also learned a lot about how to travel and how to do so by bike. We joked the other day that this trip is really just a trip to learn how to travel, but it has a lot of truth to it. (My mother will be beaming as she reads this as I suppose it proves she has been right all along) We have both learned to really put ourselves out there as a result of this trip. Before we left I would never have felt comfortable greeting a random stranger who may or may not speak the same language as me and asking if it would be ok for us to set up our tent and sleep in their yard. These days it’s a pretty regular thing. And even more surprising is how positive the response tends to be. More often than not people go out of their way to help us. It doesn’t matter if they know exactly what we are saying or we know what they are saying. The majority of people are really good people.
I would imagine a lot of people are wondering how Autumn and I are doing after spending 6 weeks being constantly together. I can tell you it’s pretty rough to be stuck with her allllll the time. (We figured a week ago that we probably haven’t spent more than 2 hours apart since the trip started) It seems pretty overwhelming but really it’s not to bad. We have 5 hours a day on the bike usually and don’t have to spend the whole time interacting. We spend enough time in our own heads just thinking or relaxing that we get along just fine most of the time. Sure we get in some fights but honestly a lot fewer than you would imagine after spending so long around someone. It’s actually been really nice to be traveling together. We spend a lot of time solidifying our thoughts by bouncing them back and forth. Autumn says that she sees the things that keep us entertained and I see the things that keep us alive. It’s a good balance really. Often it works out well that we think really differently as our skill sets don’t overlap too much and we can acomplish a lot of things.
We are really going to miss traveling almost exclusively by bike (I promise, Autumn said so too) and the experiences that come with it but we are really looking forward to the rest of the trip. Lots more great places to go and tons of people out there to meet. As always, if you know someone where we are headed who might want to meet up let us know!
We really hate that we have to write this, but yesterday some of our bags were ripped open and some things were stolen. It’s nothing we can’t manage without for a little while but most are things that we will need to replace fairly soon like Autumn’s cycling shoes. As many of you may know our budget for the trip is fairly tight and having to replace stuff is a fairly large setback. As much as we don’t want to ask, if you’ve enjoyed reading the blog and want to help out a small donation of $5 or $10 would incredibly helpful in replacing the important stuff. You can donate through the PayPal button on the sidebar.
As always, thanks so much to everyone following along for your support the whole trip. It really means a lot to us to be able to share with everyone and hear back from you in comments.
In other news: Albania has been beautiful and we’ve really enjoyed our few days here. Here’s some pictures from a cool castle we visited in Lezhë
We’re on to Montenegro today and will be on the coast soon! The weather is looking up and we’re really excited for what is to come.
We have a blog! After a lot of procrastination we have started our blog. Right now it is still a work in progress as we get everything figured out and set up, but hopefully within the next week we will have posts up and the blog running full swing. We are departing tomorrow to Tennessee for a week long “training camp” style kickoff for our preparation. Only a few months to get Autumn used to this whole bike riding thing. Check back for updates!