I came, saw.. and took off again..
2 months in the Netherlands after 13 months living as a nomad. What’s that like? First of all, it’s great to talk my native language again. No matter how fluent my English is, it’s still different to express myself in the language I grew up speaking.
Ever since day two I get asked a lot if I feel adjusted again. I didn’t even need an hour to adjust. Of course it became my daily life to every day not know what awaits me, to search for a place to sleep and to live in a culture that’s not mine. But after being born and having lived in the Netherlands for 28 years it really doesn’t take much time to adjust again. Which doesn’t mean that I fit in seamlessly.
I decided to pick up some work at my old job in an outdoor equipment store to make a bit of money and get a taste of ‘normal life’ in the Netherlands. On my second day at work I was kinda ‘done’ around 3 p.m. And then suddenly it hit me that that wasn’t up to me. As if a cage was lowered down from the sky and put down over me like over a mouse. Caught!
The meetings with my friends have given me incredible joy and energy. Much more then I’d expected. I hardly ever miss them while travelling. Just every now and then I miss to be with someone who know me, my background, language and culture. Or to be in a place where I don’t have to answer questions about what I do and why. But I never expected to find so much joy just hanging out with them again. Just to catch up on each other’s daily lives, to be interested in each other, give support and have fun, those things touch a string in me that hardly ever gets strung during the short encounters while on the road. It’s beautiful to feel that and to remember as a reason to visit my homeland every now and then.
My need for space and peace has been a bit of a struggle. I realized only when I got to the Netherlands how overstimulated I was and how much space I need, especially in this crowded country. Even though I travel alone I’m almost always approachable. The only moments that I really felt that I was all by myself without any chance of someone interrupting was during wilderness camping in the far north. For over a year I haven’t had that feeling of just closing a door shut behind me and having a space or place to myself (well, expect for the fancy 5* hotel Umpqua Bank put me up in for three nights). Now back in the Netherlands I needed that more than I’d expected. What a privilege is it to have a private space. Something we grow up with, privacy and a bedroom to yourself from a young age on, but isn’t that common around the world. In these past two months I’ve gone back and forward between houses of friends who were on holidays and staying with my mum.
I also realize how the travelling changes me, little bit by bit. Even a journey of which two third was through ‘western civilization’. Diving under in a foreign culture doesn’t seem necessary. Just not being part of a society but to look at it from the perspective of an outcast seems to do the job. I mainly change in a direction that I’m happy with and therefor I call it ‘growth’. On the one hand I’m becoming more open-minded, respectful and merciful, qualities that I pursue. On the other hand I sometimes realize that I’ve become less patient in certain ways. A complete opposite of the other characteristics, but something I kind of understand looking back on how I’ve been independent and self-sufficient for 13 months without having to wait for or build on others. Maybe a stop in the Netherlands every now and then isn’t a bad idea to monitor my evolution and polish the rough edges.
This stop is almost over though. After two beautiful summer months in the Netherlands, five presentations, meeting two new sponsors and a visit to We Love Cycling in Prague, it’s time to get back on the bike. Quite a bike…
I’ll be taking off on the newest touring bike from the brand Santos, the Travelmaster 3+. A bicycle specially designed to travel around the world and bringing a lot of baggage. Disc brakes for extra brake power and 62mm tires on 27,5 inch rims that together will make it roll smoothly over obstacles. Those are the biggest changes for me.
But, whereto? Whereto? I can hear you think. At this moment the only plan that’s definite is for the coming 1,5 months. I’ll ride from Tilburg to Dunkerque in France. From there I’ll take the ferry to Dover in England and ride along the coast to Cotswold and Wales. From Fishguard I’ll take the ferry to Ireland and ride a 3/4 round tour of southern Ireland to Dublin. From there it can go two ways. By the time I get there I’ll have heard from the Banff Mountain Film Festival whether the short-film Scott Hardesty and I submitted will be screened or not. If yes, I’ll fly to Canada and will head east on my bicycle after the festival. If not, I’ll continue my ride to Scotland and hop to Scandinavia from there and ride north and then back south through the Baltics. By the end of January, I expect to fly to Colombia to continue my journey through the Americas heading for the southern tip of Argentina. But, to be honest, there are no definite plans really..
Whether I’ll end up in Canada or Scandinavia, I think I can leave my shorts at home and pack a lot of thermo and down. Even through Scandinavia is located far more north then the southern part of Canada (Oslo is located 10 latitudes more north then Winnipeg) the average temperature in December in Oslo is only -3 (Celsius) compared to an average (yes, that’s right, average!) of -20 in Winnipeg. How many digits below zero I’m getting myself into is still unsure, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be chilly.
The snowy parts of my rides so far, like Bulgaria, Montenegro, Canada and the United States, have made a big impression on me. The cold is a huge challenge, but is only something very special. Cycling in a snow covered landscape is magical. I want to see the world and to really see and experience it I don’t feel like I have to visit every country in it’s most ‘friendly’ season. The challenge of the elements is one that has an attracts me. Many times more than the challenge of dealing with annoying sexist behavior of men in central America, of which I know more of the same awaits me in south America (though maybe more moderate). No, I prefer winter, with its quiet white blanket of snow, its crispy mornings, frozen hands and feet and smoking chimneys.
But first I’m heading to England and Ireland. Also for these countries I didn’t chose the ‘ideal’ months, September and October. Elements are fun, but weeks of rain isn’t. Let’s just hope it won’t be too bad. But who knows… After two months in our wealthy country, where it seems anything is for sale, I find it a liberating thought that we still can’t own the weather and it just does whatever it wants without us being able to influence it.
(Feel free to ask me again how I feel about that in a month from now…)