Reflections on Our Journey

Life is Fantastic.

Paul and I have thoroughly enjoyed our journey over the course of the past 16 months.  We have been grateful for your interest and contributions to the blog.  This has helped abate a sense of missing home, knowing that you were all following along.

We want to share with you some of our reflections of the impact this journey has had on us and our process of bringing it to an end.

Walking the beach at Mordor in Iceland.
Walking the beach at Mordor in Iceland.

As turning 50 often brings with it a heightened sense of aging and a desire to fulfill one’s dreams, we knew our dream of cycling at least part of the world for an extended period of time couldn’t be put on hold much longer.

We feel exhilarated, proud and satisfied with what we have accomplished.  It has been more than we could ever have imagined. A dream come true but we’d rather think of this as one instalment of the dream, rather than the end.

Panorama of Kerlingarfjšöll, Iceland.
Panorama of Kerlingarfjšöll, Iceland.

Sometimes being 50+ left us on the fringes of a pretty young community of cycle tourists, but we always found our way and enjoyed their young energy and outlooks on life.

The kids: Alba and GéŽrard on their first bike tour with us in Norway.
The kids: Alba and GéŽrard on their first bike tour with us in Norway.

We feel perpetually grateful for the time to travel and fortunate we are still healthy and fit enough to keep going, despite the hardships, lack of comforts and sometimes gruelling road conditions and weather.

Jan climbing Stalheim, 18 per cent, Norway's steepest road.
Jan climbing Stalheim, 18 per cent, Norway’s steepest road.

Cycle touring offers elements that no other means of travel offers: simplicity, rhythmical movement and ever changing newness. Moving and changing your rhythm in response to the landscape, the people and experiences you encounter along the way is what makes cycle touring so appealing. Life is simple, often driven by life’s basic desire for food, sleep and safety. You can be completely independent and not tied to any schedule.

Jan walking out to the beach on the Swedish west coast.
Jan walking out to the beach on the Swedish west coast.

What makes travelling in general so rich and rewarding is the people you meet along the way. These are the parts of the trip that are hard to imagine ahead of time, as every situation is spontaneous and unique.

Dinner with Jan and Helle at their home in Bergen. They were great hosts who took us in for three days. From left, clockwise: GéŽrard, Helle, Jan, Alba, Janice, Jim and Paul
Dinner with Jan and Helle at their home in Bergen. They were great hosts who took us in for three days. From left, clockwise: GéŽrard, Helle, Jan, Alba, Janice, Jim and Paul

This part of the trip has been so much more than I could have imagined. We have been very fortunate to meet many lovely, warm and generous people along the way that we have made a significant connection with and have begun lasting friendships. Travelling with others has enabled us to share the rhythm of the journey, the beauty of the landscape and the spontaneity of the cultural and social experiences with others.

On the road from Sucre: Marcin, Ellen, Jan, Myles and Elmar.
On the road from Sucre, Bolivia: Marcin, Ellen, Jan, Myles and Elmar.

I tried to manage my expectations of anything being permanent, enduring or predictable as we were always on the move. I trusted that there would be a way to reconnect in the future if these relationships remained mutually meaningful.

Jan and Ellen celebrate at the top of La Cumbre, 4,500 metres, in Bolivia.
Jan and Ellen celebrate at the top of La Cumbre, 4,500 metres, in Bolivia.

Mostly, I feel grateful for these special encounters with new friends and sharing the wonders of the journey. I will remember you all, no matter how short the interaction. Although meeting new people along the way has brought much joy and camaraderie into this journey, saying goodbye can be very hard. I miss our new friends and hope that we will see many of them in the near future as they come for a visit or we travel abroad for another adventure.

We were almost always well received by locals while travelling by bicycle. In most countries, people were often very eager to interact, cheer us on from the road or invite us into their homes for coffee or a meal and a few times for a bed.

Admiring the Alps near Pass Dal Fuorn, Switzerland.
Admiring the Alps near Pass Dal Fuorn, Switzerland.

At times, we were two of very few foreign tourists in some of the places we visited. Sometimes it made us feel like celebrities and other times it was unnerving being stared and laughed at because we looked different.

Looking to Suleymaniye Camii across the Golden Horn in Istanbul, Turkey.
Looking to Suleymaniye Camii across the Golden Horn in Istanbul, Turkey.

We always appreciated those who were brave and outgoing enough to approach the gringos and ask where we were from and where we were going. Had we had a better command of Spanish or another European language we would have likely had more in-depth and meaningful conversations with the locals.

Solving the world's problems in Muscat, Oman.
Solving the world’s problems in Muscat, Oman.

Each country has offered some special, unique gifts and memories. Our life over the past 16 months has been simple, exhilarating and rich with cultural experiences. It has offered us a sense of freedom and the liberty to make spontaneous decisions not tied to any particular outcome and to truly live in the moment.

This trip has made the world feel more open, safe and more connected than I could ever have imagined. I feel very fortunate for having had such wonderful encounters with people from around the globe and creating the belief in a smaller, more intimate and caring global community. This is what feeds my soul that staying home can’t accomplish in the same way.

Mother and child in the Uros Islands, Lake Titicaca, Perú.
Mother and child in the Uros Islands, Lake Titicaca, Perú.

As a couple, being together 24/7 has its challenges. This intense time together can highlight flaws or quirks that were tolerable while at home and being occupied with our own responsibilities and interests.  However, we have gotten better at communicating our needs, what works and doesn’t work. This changed depending on who we were with as well as how our moods were affected by our energy levels throughout each day. It was an ongoing process of finding the right balance of sharing our thoughts and feelings, the joys and beauty and of respecting each other’s needs and desires as this journey together unfolded.

Jan cresting a hill with a great view of Fitzroy, Argentina.
Jan cresting a hill with a great view of Fitzroy, Argentina.

Overall, we both needed and enjoyed the space and the freedom to explore, think, experience all that we can, both together and, as needed, separately.  The beauty of cycle touring is that it offers some separation and some alone time that other forms of transportation and travelling may not.

Paul on the road to Virpazar.
Paul on the road to Virpazar, Montenegro.

We have lots of time on the bike to reflect on the multitude of sensory and cultural experiences we are exposed to each minute of the day. We are both often in our own “flow”, taking it all in, but on the edge of awareness where there is no space or need for dialogue. We have the freedom to share these experiences in the moment or at the end of the day. We have shared so much together over the course of this journey that we have deepened our relationship and enriched our lives and I am so grateful for this.Enjoying the sunset over the Salar D'Uyuni, Bolviia.

This trip has definitely been life changing, although it is difficult yet to say in what ways and to what degrees we have changed.  Hopefully, we are better at staying in the moment than we used to be and more spontaneous and less restricted by worries or fears or self-imposed constraints.

What has drawn us home in the end is the desire to see and connect with family and friends. We have missed you all! That is really the only part of home that we have missed.  It has not been the physical environment of “home” as we seemed to be able to create this wherever we were, even, and sometimes especially, when in our tent.

Camp site in the pass to Combarbal‡á.
Camp site in the pass to Combarbal‡á, Chile.

We know our transition home will have it’s challenges. We will miss being on the road, the freedom, spontaneity and the richness and uniqueness of all of the sensory, cultural and social experiences that offers. 

However, we really look forward to being with family and friends and feeling part of a larger community again, too. Although we are not looking forward to “work” we are looking forward to the rewards of contributing to something bigger than our own simple life on the road….although that has had it’s benefits as well.

Coffee time in San Marino with Ivona and Gary who joined us in Italy.
Coffee time in San Marino with Ivona and Gary who joined us in Italy.

And now for something completely different (not really):

Jan and I are at the end of a journey. As I’m sitting in Quito, sipping some excellent Ecuadorian coffee, it has finally dawned on me that we’re going home. The bicycles, packed in boxes, sit in a corner of the apartment we’ve rented and the bags are mostly packed.

Descending into Argentina from Paso Cardenal SamorŽé.
Descending Paso Cardenal SamorŽé, Argentina.

We have mixed feelings about going home. We are looking forward to reconnecting with friends and family. We have missed all of you. But there is a part of us that wishes we could stay on the road to cycle all the way back to Vancouver. But that would take another year and we committed to returning home at this time, so, that is what we will do.

Traffic is light on the Carretera Austral.
Traffic on the Carretera Austral, Chile.

We will miss the freedom of the road and our simple lifestyle. We have lived a pretty carefree life these last 16 months and have learned that we can live very well with very little, although we decided we did not want to live like cycling hobos and occasionally indulged in some 5-star luxury.

Making breakfast.
Making breakfast.

Not having to worry about all the trappings our lives inevitably come with has had an amazingly freeing effect. Perhaps we will find a way to hang on to that and bring it home. Life is not about working or money. It is about living.

Brian on the road to Puyuhuapi.
Brian Mussalo on the road to Puyuhuapi, Chile.

We have met some wonderful people along the way. If there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that people are the same the world over. We all have the same hopes and dreams, needs and desires. People have been willing to share and give with no expectation of getting something in return, other than making a connection.

We love Casa de Mario.
We love Casa de Mario.

If you think the world is like what some politicians and the news media would have us believe, we would never leave the couch. This is not an option for us. We have a need to explore and see the world, even more now than before this journey.

Admiring the view of Fitzroy in Los Glaciares National Park.
Admiring the view of Fitzroy in Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina.

We also made new friends along the way. We met many other cycling nomads and spent time together. Sometimes only a few minutes on the roadside as we exchanged information. And sometimes we spent days or weeks together on the road. We miss them as we get ready to return home but we have no doubt we will see each other in the future. We wish them all safe travels, where ever the road takes them.

New friends, from left: Henrik, Jan, Laura, Christoph and Paul.
New friends, from left: Henrik, Jan, Laura, Christoph and Paul.

We are lucky and fortunate to have been able to undertake this journey and will continue to explore our world, both close to home and far away. We don’t necessarily have a bucket list. The truth is, there isn’t a bucket big enough. Perhaps, in the not too distant future, we will return to South America to finish what we started there. Or perhaps we will cycle south from Vancouver to Quito. Or we will go back to Istanbul and cycle east along the Silk Road. Or to the Balkans and explore those countries. Or we go to Southeast Asia, or Mongolia, or… well, you see what I mean about the bucket? For now, a new adventure awaits: home.

Panorama of Meteorea, Greece.
Panorama of Meteorea, Greece.

Thank you for reading the blog and all your comments and emails. It’s been a pleasure to tell you about our journey. We hope we have inspired you to explore the world both near and far. Stay tuned…

Life on the road can be a dirty business.
Life on the road can be a dirty business.
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23 thoughts on “Reflections on Our Journey

  1. Thank you very much for the 16 months of * wow moments * sitting behind my desk in Holland. I’ll have to go back to work from now on 😉
    What an amazing trip you guys had. Have a save trip home and see you. Christian Doolaard

  2. I have truly enjoyed reading bout your adventure. And, of those photographs! Absolutely beautiful. I wish you well. Coming home will be an adjustment. I am also in Vancouver. If you ever do a talk/presentation on your trip please let us know.

  3. Hey you guys, what a fantastic adventure. As I have read your blog and seen pictures of your journey it has stirred up many emotions and thoughts for me. Everything from wishing I could be there with you and share in even a leg of this adventure, to my God these people are nuts and how the comforts of home have never felt so good. I look forward to seeing you both back here in Vancouver this part of the world has missed the spirit in which you live your life. And if I know you the way I think I do, this is only one more life experience with many many more to come.

    Congrats on this tremendous accomplishment see you soon

  4. What a fitting finale! Great tribute to your trip, the people you met, and yourselves. I’ve enjoyed reading along the way and experiencing things vicariously. Safe travels home, Maryanne  

  5. It was all great what we experienced through your blog, it was almost we were there. We missed you both too and cannot wait to see you next week. Have a safe trip home. Dad

  6. Wow, such a cool journey. Though I haven’t traveled much in the last 15 years, your adventure has definitely made me want to get out there again. Can’t wait to see you at the airport tomorrow! Yippee!

  7. Wow, what an epic trip, guys. I’m going to miss your posts, especially as winter is encroaching on Copenhagen and your blog always brought a ray of sunshine into my day.

    Well, Vancouver, not a bad place to be going back to! Here’s some Vancouver bike porn to check out what local adventures you have to look forward to (just add beer): http://www.vancouverobserver.com/news/seacycles-aerial-video-vancouver-bike-lanes

    Have a good trip back, and a smooth transition into domestic mode. Hope to see you guys on the road in the near future.

    hej hej
    Lindsay xo

  8. Beautifully written. The journey continues upon your return, learning new values which bear greater import now than from before.

  9. Thank you for sharing your adventures and travels with us. I have looked forward to the emails, pictures and videos. Have safe travels home and hope to see you again soon.
    Much love and cheers.
    Nicole.

  10. Life is certainly fantastic! Cycling too! Great following you along the road after we met up in Oslo. Best wishes for you both ‘off piste’ but if you decide to pass by say the word. Tharan & Øyvind

  11. You summarized your experiences beautifully. How lucky you were to experience everything first-hand and how lucky your followers have been to experience the trip vicariously. I hope your transition back to Vancouver and the coming winter is a smooth one. I wish I could be there to welcome you home. All the best always, Norman

  12. Dear Jan And Paul:
    Thank You for all your blogs, we have enjoyed them very much. And happy to know that you are safe and will be coming home soon. We look forward to seeing you and hearing more about your journeys.
    Aunt Marlene & Uncle Walt

  13. I can’t believe you’re coming home!!!!
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s been wonderful knowing where you are and what you’re doing while you’re away but we can’t wait to see you…
    sam dave maya

  14. Thanks for sharing your life on the road! It’s been an eye opening experience-the places, the people, the beer… Looking forward to seeing you in Vancouver and hearing the plan for part deux!
    Cathy&Walt

  15. We have followed your blog since we met you in Iceland. Even though our chat was brief you made a big impact. Since then we were in Italy, Slovenia, Austria and Germany last summer. We thought of you slogging up steep grades while we enjoyed air conditioned comfort in our rental car. We did make up for that by going on hikes in some obscure places.

    We were delighted to see your blogs on Galapagos and Quito. We are going on a one-week Galapagos cruise after Christmas. I though to extend by going to Macchu Pichu but decided it was too expensive and too ambitious. So we will stay in Quito and environs instead. Adventuring friends from Seattle tipped on an outfit that runs tours to the Ecuadorean jungle: http://www.napowildlifecenter.com. Perhaps you will try them when you return to Quito to continue your journey.

    Happy Trails to You….
    David & Lynn Williams
    Boston

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