A fellow cyclist in California once made a remarkable observation while we had dinner. He looked at the people around him with their huge camper vans, foldable showers, coolers, and grills and noticed that a campsite for them is the adventure – despite all their equipment and luxury. For us cyclists instead, the campsite is a refuge and the road is the adventure. On the road, it’s exhausting, it’s dusty, rainy, too hot or too cold, sometimes dangerous, often a bit longer than what you have wished for.
I believe that this observation gets to the very point of what cycling is about: you get into an adventure on the road that really challenges you during the day. At night, you end up somewhere where it’s still much different from what you’re used to from home: there are mosquitos, your food is half-cooked, it’s not as clean as you’d like, it’s again too hot or too cold.
And this is what I like about cycling. Some friends keep wondering why we’re doing such trips for “vacation” (as they use to call it). Obviously, these “adventure weeks” (as we like to call them) are not physical vacation. They are exhausting, challenging, too hot or too cold. But they are some sort of a mental vacation. They take you out of your routine and reduce your life to a bare minimum.
It starts in the early morning when we pack our 9 bags, free our shoes from ants, fill 4 water bottles and one water bag, take down our tent. Already that is more exhausting than the morning coffee we’re used to. We then start cyclin and keep cycling for often 5-8 hours a day. On the current trip, we like to start early (6.30) to make some progress before the heat (37 degrees today) kicks in. While cycling, we need to make sure that we drink enough and get access to more water, search for open restaurants or supermarkets for some groceries that don’t melt within 10 minutes. And we try to find a place for the night to sleep. All of that is particularly hard if you don’t have internet access. Once we’re at the campsite or hotel, we need to figure out dinner, fix bike stuff, find a shower, find a beer, and put up the tent.
Although all of this is physically exhausting, we enjoy this like some sort of retreat. It’s us and the nature, the roads, new villages – adventure. Because we’re in this mix of not thinking at all and thinking about the everyday essentials mentioned above, we don’t think about the “real” stuff like our jobs, income inequality, the Russian invasion, Sweden joining Nato, football results. We’re busy with our adventure, nature, new people, a new country – and are too tired to deal with anything else. We go to sleep around 9pm. It’s amazing.
Two milestones: 1. We’ve made it to Serbia today! The border official laughed when we told him that we’re cycling to Greece.
2. We made our crowdfunding goal of 1500€! Thank you so much for all your support, sharing, caring, and donating. Obviously, Scholars at Risk (SAR) has so much to offer for displaced or threatened scholars that they need any money they can get. Therefore, we’ve raised our donation goal and would appreciate any additional donations! Also, please share this with all academics and other people you know.