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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…