YOU DID WHAT!?!
Yes yes, I know what you’re thinking…
I shouldn’t be travelling at a time like this!
But they told us to be safe and stay home.
I live on the road…
I shall backtrack a little to attempt to reduce the confusion that is my life.
For those that don’t know, I have a full-time career as a Part-Time Professional Gypsy (PTPG).
I have been talking about stopping travelling and settling down for years.
And this year I mean it! I need a base camp!
There’s even a plan to head to Portugal and start up something [watch this space ] of my own there.
So why did I start pedalling in the wrong direction?
There were a plethora of reasons.
The first is that my friends Malcolm and Julia were getting married in the North of Sweden and I really wanted to share the occasion with them. I couldn’t fly or take public transport because we all know that’s how people get the Rona. So, I opted to do the only sensible thing; cycle.
The second reason for the journey was, as with all the great pilgrims of fairy tales and fables; you can’t simply head to your destination to find your treasure; you actually have to slay some dragons and wage some wars first. I had a lot more demons to tackle than I knew.
Also, The Adventurists, a small organisation with giant plans to make the world less boring were encouraging people to spend the month of August on some sort of epic journey as far as they could possibly get (Read up on The Mongol Rally X and the organisers if you need some life inspiration)! Everyone else took cars… gypsy life does not afford fuel.
The option to begin my pilgrimage to Sweden was made simpler when a good friend asked if he could join for part of it! He even offered to drive a few hundred kilometres so that we could get to the more interesting parts sooner.
And so I bought a bike. Or at least I found it.
It had been donated just that morning to a charity shop. I test rode it up the Netherlands to a dentist appointment then back down again to friends and family.
It worked so well that I named her “Kamili” which means “perfect” and “complete” in Swahili! (I think).
Jean Michel and I then bordered his man wagon and we shortcutted North to Germany, a land full of beautiful sunsets and smiling people and bustling beaches and ticks (there were so many ticks – be careful when weeing in the wild. They really like juicy African bottoms.)
Unlike my trusty steed, I soon discovered that my second-hand wasn’t quite as homey as I’d hoped. In fact, I should have opted for a smaller travel side-kick and neck if I’d known the dimensions of it….
We crossed triumphantly into Poland where we planned to follow the Baltic sea, but after seeing so many people crammed into picturesque places in a pandemic, we opted to detour and rather brave the hills than the masses!
And that’s when my demons seriously started to stir.
And, as is always the case, along with my mental breakdown came a physical one too – eight flat tyres in a day!
The war was on. A full-fledged battle that I had to take control of.
Sleepless nights, tears, insecurities rising. It was hostile!
We took our first rest day in Gdansk. The pretty little city was the perfect place to rest and recover and buy a new tent.
It was also where we parted ways.
Tired of the hills and more interested in free-camping in Sweden, Jean-Michel took the ferry option across “the pond”.
I continued on my planned route of cycling around the Baltic Sea but stopped for a cup of coffee with some friends and got talked into an extended rest weekend (and some beers).
The journey continued alone. I didn’t think much of it until I exited the city and arrived at the first crossroads.
I suddenly didn’t know what to do anymore.
I didn’t want to be alone. And I especially didn’t want to cycle alone.
1700ish km remained!
Maybe I should go straight to Portugal instead? I sat down on the side of the road to think and talk it through with some incredibly wise friends and family, but I knew the decision was mine.
In life, you can glean the wisdom of as many people as you like, but the final choice is always your own!
After the fourth concerned neighbour came out to offer me coffee, I knew it was time to get moving so I pretended to pull myself together and started pedalling. I had no idea where I was going so I half-heartedly pedalled away with fervency.
Later the same day I lost my phone charger and somehow managed to do a 30-kilometre loop.
I would have cried but I’d just come out of war and I knew that I was stronger than that!!
I stopped to ask directions to a supermarket because I couldn’t even remember which town I had been heading for. And before I knew it, I was sipping martinis with Kashia. My little battles were nothing compared to what she had endured. I was inspired and touched and motivated. It wasn’t even a question any longer – I was going to Sweden and I’d make it to the wedding… NOTHING could stop me!
Besides, I suddenly wasn’t alone anymore, I asked God if he would adventure with me. (It’s amazing how much fun I have had every time that I have been on an adventure with God!!!)
And that was the real turning point.
Suddenly life unleashed awesome!
As soon as the usual insecurities would show their face, I would squat them (and a few billion mosquitoes – they were so plentiful that I swallowed many in the process!)
It may sound weird but despite my general sense of misdirection, I knew which turns to take. I knew which houses to stop at for water or which barns to try and pitch my replacement (non-waterproof) tent in. Every day was lined with the people I had to meet and joy flooded my days and my paths.
The cycle tracks that were paved with thick beach sand making them un-pedal-able started to make me smile instead of curse. Even the people that tried to run me off the road left a smile on my face because I was so happy that nothing could possibly steal my joy! Not a wet tent, not an over-charged supermarket bill, not a broken bike (because even that was miraculously fixed for free by a friendly polish man with a hammer).
To anybody else, I was simply a dirty smelly unkept woman cycling about on a crappy bike with a dingy teddy bear, but I wouldn’t have traded my life for anything!
(Just a few of the MANY!!!!)
The plentitude of people that gave me more in love (and showers) than I could have ever dreamed of was exceptional!
I was adopted by entire families and couples and even security guards!
And on days when I was completely alone, I had random people joining my journey!
Friends I hadn’t spoken to in years suddenly popped back into my life and people I hardly knew suddenly became almost soulmates.
Every tiny detail of my life was taken care of.
One day I needed to fix a bunch of broken things and didn’t know how. Would you believe a whole roll of duct tape (the good stuff) lay on the road in perfect condition just waiting for me to cycle past and pick it up? What more could you possibly need to fix EVERYTHING and ANYTHING!
Every day was an adventure. Every day I had exactly what I needed – more even!
Russia was closed so I had cycle around it but that was seemingly predestined too. Eventually, I opted to skip Finland (almost 3000 km of pedalling in a month is really quite enough) and rather explore some Estonian islands and well …
On Tuesday I arrived in Sweden. On Wednesday I crossed into Gavle and had a party of note. The start of many that culminated in the most beautiful exchange of love! It didn’t even matter that I don’t speak Swedish. It was perfect! Too perfect!
So anyway, for anyone who is still confused, I am still on my way to Portugal to start up “that thing,” I just had to slay a few dragons first. I haven’t quite worked out how I’m getting to the other side of Europe, but that’s okay. I’m still on that adventure with God and His timing and plans are so much better than my own!