The following writing has a short story of its own:
During the first year on the road, Marco wrote a monthly article for a publication called Bike Mag. While cleaning the gutter on his phone, he accidentally stumbled upon one of the first draft of this article and we decided to give it a good hand of polish, and a well deserved update, and share it with you all here.
Hope you enjoy it!
We are cycling around the world for charity and, honestly, since we started this amazing adventure, we haven’t once had any regrets or looked back at everything we left behind. However, whenever someone asks “why”, the first answer has always been “well, why not?!”
Back when we started, in 2018, bike travelling was still not very established and we used to get different reactions to our project, mostly depending on age and gender, but the most common was by far “you’re crazy!”
Just to set the record straight, once upon a time we were “normal” travellers; we booked tickets online, did some sightseeing, and even hired cars. Since we were city dwellers, at weekends we would always try to spend time outdoors. Aurelie was just a casual cyclist and mostly just used her old bicycle to move around the city. She did, however, love hiking. Marco,on the other hand, has always loved cycling. When we moved to Barcelona in Spain, Marco got a new bike for his 30th (thanks again to everyone who took part in that present) and started getting more “into it”. Slowly Aurelie also got interested too and bought herself a much better MTB.
Then, one day, we saw “that” documentary about someone cycling from Europe to India and something clicked. On our way back home (cycling of course) we talked about how romantic it sounds to ride across a continent on two wheels. Those conversations never stopped. Our dreamy chats quickly became plans. We started “testing ourselves” to see if we were mentally capable of such a huge endeavour. That’s how we started going on small bike rides at weekends when the weather was nice. Sunday rides turned into small bikepacking trips which then became week-long holidays.
Meanwhile, we realised that it was a good idea to save as much as possible before leaving so we continued working as hard as we could, moved into a cheaper flat, and stopped buying stuff… The next thing you know you’re assembling your bikes in the middle of Helsinki airport with a massive migraine caused by the stress of the previous 48 hours, trying to remember how to put the front carrier back on.
In reality it was much longer and much more complicated than that but, as always, the bad memories get thrown overboard and now it all seems like a million miles away and not so important.
A question that we have often ask ourselves is “why not earlier?” and the answer is simple; we just weren’t ready.
This bring us to the first real realization about everything in life; things always work out better when they are following some kind of natural order. We are always genuinely amazed when we meet incredibly young bike travellers as we cannot imagine ourselves having done this at that age. We firmly believe that if you follow your instincts you very rarely go wrong.
Let’s go back to the beginning though; not a single regret about having left behind almost everything (we have everything we need in our panniers), having sold most of our valuable belongings (every penny saved is a penny spent somewhere WOW, and what would we do with a toaster anyway?), and only seeing family and friends when the WiFi is decent. We have since learned that it’s impossible to see everything and go everywhere, so there’s no point in double guessing our way, similarly to the word “plan” which has become a synonym of “intention” rather than “arrangement”.
One of the best feeling you can have while touring is the realisation that you don’t have to, in fact, do anything; the world still goes round and all you can do is pedal… or not; doesn’t make a difference to it either way! To have and take the time to see, observe, learn, teach a little too, and let your body and soul take you to the next place is simply mind-blowing and we think that this is probably why more and more people are falling for it.
Lately the world feels faster and less personal and bikes of all sorts slow it down and bring it back closer to you. So close that you see it, feel it and sense it every minute of every day. When you travel by car, for example, it’s easy to forget about the importance of the tarmac and it never seems that dangerous. On your bicycle, when you look down, you are constantly reminded of its presence, importance and also of its lethality by being only a few centimetres away at all times.
As cyclists, we strive for that feeling of self-worth which can only be obtained with sweat and effort. Continuously we challenge ourselves subconsciously and only become aware of this once the summit is reached or the border crossed. The feeling of pedalling into four digits kilometres is indescribable, can you put into words crossing the 10,000 “line”?
As for the tourism side of it, well, when you travel this way you often feel privileged by getting to see lots of “behind the scenes” places and stumbling upon local spots that you would otherwise miss or oversee. We have the habit of overusing the expression “better than a 5 stars hotel” any time we found a tremendous spot for our tent (especially if it’s near a picnic table or a clean river!) or are being hosted by a fabulous stranger in an unselfish act of humanitarianism. Speaking to non-cyclists we frequently receive tips about such and such spot and, whenever possible, we try to follow them. However, over time, we have learned that these recommendations are seldom what we are really looking for and have since become aware of what they might lead to; mass tourism and huge disappointments.
Just like seeking owe in personal achievements; we often feel privileged by seeing beauty on the roadside or finding a particular stretch of road beautiful, hence the need to have the camera inside the handlebar bag; the view will never be the same again and it’s important to take the picture just after that road sign and not a second before. Another advantage of cycling; it’s so easy to just stop for a sec!
But, by far, the best aspect of dropping it all and just travel is having the time. The second great realization is that, in fact, that’s all we have in life; time, and when you don’t have to be back on Monday and the only alarms you have are those that you chose to set yourself, then even people watching becomes the greatest thing ever!
As we move through villages and towns we are seen and observed and we are aware of that. Perhaps this is why we subconsciously try to show the better side of ourselves; we are two-wheeled ambassadors of every single bike-traveller on earth and each and every time someone shows interest and greets us or asks a question we answer with pride and a smile as wide as the road itself.
For ages now bicycles have amazed people all over the world. It’s not the easiest way to travel but millions swear by it and it’s undeniably a fantastic way to see our planet and its inhabitants without filters; cyclists feel, see, and smell first hand their surroundings and wish for nothing more than a good wind and another day to wake up and do it all again.
So let me ask you again, why not?
Written somewhere in Iran in Novembre 2018
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