We recently wrote about some things we’ve missed about home since we’ve been away. The first comment we received was from Dorothee Fleck, veteran long distance cyclist, who warned us not to be too anxious to get home. She pointed out that, once home, she missed things about being on the road far more.
This got me thinking. As we enter our last month of cycling before we fly home, a feeling of panic occasionally threatens to engulf me. We have had a blast over the last few months. Even the times we found difficult are now the subject of fond reminiscing and the thought of going back to normal life is a daunting one.
Past experience of returning home after a long time abroad has taught me to expect an anti-climax. Even if I feel I’ve changed because of this journey, very little at home will have changed: I’ll make the same old jokes with my friends and get told off for the same things by my Mum. That familiarity is the beauty of home and exactly what I miss, but it does mean this cycling life will soon feel a world away.
Dorothee is right. We need to treasure these last few weeks. So, in no particular order, here are some of the things we’re already getting nostalgic about.
1) The routine
Stopping cycling as the sun sets, finding a place to camp, downing a pint of tea/soup/chocolate milk in our battered plastic mugs, pitching the tent, lighting the stove. Tim blows the sleeping mats up while I get dinner on. Write diaries, read for as long as our eyes stay open, sleep.
We’ve done this almost every night for well over a year and it’s as familiar as our old routines back in London. I’ll miss the simplicity and the sheer fact we spend so much time outside.
2) Our tent
It’s home. Sure, it’s small but we’ve spent countless nights in it. There’s a rhythm to setting it up and putting it away and, once inside, everything has its place.
Having such a small house also means we have no housework to do, save for shaking the tent out on occasion. Sure, we have to wash the dishes, but even then spoons are often just licked clean – with only us using them, it doesn’t seem to matter.
3) Having so few possessions
This makes life so easy. We have everything we need to be self sufficient and everything has its place in the panniers. Best of all, I never have to spend ages choosing what to wear. We know exactly where things are and things rarely get lost.
We don’t have many possessions at home to be honest – our entire life fits into the corner of my parents’ garage – but doing a trip like this certainly shows you how little stuff you need.
4) The luxury of time together, away from responsibility
We have been each other’s sole support systems over the last sixteen months. With no-one else around, we’ve each had to rely on the other for entertainment, comfort, friendship, reassurance and love. If one of us is having a bad day, the other has to absorb the blows. If one of us is tired, the other picks up the slack. If one of us gets sick, the other has to act as nurse. If we both get sick, we both wallow in mutual self pity and our own filth.
This could have been a disaster, but it has been just the opposite. For sure, we’re both looking forward to being around more than just one other person, but how often, in normal life, can you spend so much time with your best mate and spouse?
5) Meeting new people
Constantly meeting new people can be tiring, but it’s also been the unexpected highlight of our journey. Some days it’s just a short conversation with a stranger outside a petrol station but other days we spend a whole evening, sharing a meal and getting to know new friends. There’s a whole other blog post in this but, needless to say, the people are what have made this trip.
6) Time to think, talk, plan and learn new things
We have several hours a day in the saddle. Sometimes we talk, sometimes we think, sometimes we plan for the future and sometimes we listen to podcasts. I’ve learned more over this last few months than I have done for ages – about all sorts of topics. I’ve discovered new interests and explored existing ones. The luxury of time has meant a freedom to experiment. Formal education and work-induced fatigue can be a constraint but the world of podcasts and audiobooks, along with plenty of time when there’s nothing better to do, has opened up a whole world. Surprisingly, I’m very rarely bored on the bike.
7) Being so cycling-fit
Cycling for between 5 and 7 hours a day means we’re now pretty fit. Our legs are super strong, as with one side of our upper bodies (because we only ever lift our bikes on one side due to an annoyingly placed metal peg). If we try and run anywhere, we’re rubbish, but put us on a bike and we feel like machines.
These are all things we’ve come to treasure over the last few months but the end of the cycling adventure doesn’t have to mean they finish. Most of them can be modified in some way to carry on at home, so that’s what we plan to do. It might not be exactly the same, but it’ll be the next best thing.