Follow the Red Brick Road.
Bicycling in The Netherlands is very user friendly. It’s like the MacBook of cycling! It’s as easy as riding a bike! …ohh.
It is difficult to get lost. I just keep my compass handy and follow the signs East.
Two things about The Netherlands:
1. The whole country is very legally and literally a well-marked bike path. It’s like a red carpet laid out in front of me everywhere I go. Just beautiful.
2. This country is very Canal (water) retentive.
What city was this photo taken in? Doesn’t matter. They all look like this…and it’s wonderful!!
It’s been a hard few days warming up again to life on a bicycle. But today, just 10 kilometers into my short ride from Rotterdam to Den Haag in The Netherlands, I stumbled across this little town Delft. I was instantly reminded of why I chose to ride a bicycle around Europe instead of taking a train.
Everyone says that the hardest part of travel or bike touring is just stepping out of the door and starting -and I agree. That is totally true. Stepping into the unknown is intimidating and scary. But I have also learned that once you are out there and doing it -living it, the intimidating activity becomes normal and isn’t scary anymore -it’s just life.
This is my third time beginning a bike tour. And even though I have done it, loved it, and survived it all before, I am still procrastinating on the first and most important step -just going.
The first time I began a tour, in Britain, I was scared shitless. Of everything. Before I left, I read blogs and went to stores. I tried to absorb and learn all that I could. I was procrastinating. Then I finally realized that the only way to really get over my fears was to just do it and face it all head on.
Once I was out there, it was great. I felt free and happy. I had challenges but I overcame them. I survived.
After my tour across Britain, when I returned to London, I found myself procrastinating on starting my European tour, yet again.
I was afraid all over again, even though I knew I could do it.
When I finally began my “long term” bike tour in Belgium, I quickly fell into sync. I was loving it and it felt comfortable. But then it was disrupted by the news that I had been accepted to move to Madagascar in February with the Peace Corps (yadiyada I have written about this so many times). It’s my dream come true but it required me to go home for two weeks to do some prep.
I was really upset about the idea of going home to California because I knew I would have to do the hardest part of a bike tour: starting, all over again when I returned to Europe.
My two weeks in America were difficult. After a year of living a frugal traveler’s life in Europe, it was hard to adjust to the lifestyle there and I had difficulty relating to some of my closest friends.
Eventually I managed to feel comfortable. It was so nice to be surrounded by people that I knew, after a year of strangers. Oh my goodness there is no way to describe how amazing it is to talk to people you know, after a year of being a robot, telling the same stories over and over, and meeting and saying good bye to new people everyday.
It was nice, but I wasn’t ready to do that. I am not done traveling. I didn’t want to go home and adjust -just to leave again. I had never planned on going home so soon.
It felt fake in a way. I saw everyone that I loved for a few hours. I filled my schedule with “friend appointments.” I saw the people who mattered, we chatted and then once again we said a “big” goodbye. I hate that. It’s not fair to anyone. I feel like I take everyone for granted and I’m always leaving.
All of this made coming back to Europe this time around so much more difficult.
It was a very long and painful flight across the Atlantic. My confidence was shattered. I was afraid of everything all over again. I was afraid of being alone all of the time; I was afraid of not knowing where I would be sleeping everyday; I was intimidated by the unknown.
Mostly I was afraid of the changing seasons. It’s September. It’s getting cold and rainy. And I will be living on a bicycle…
When I arrived in Brussels, I took the train to Rotterdam in The Netherlands because I had spent way too much time in Belgium and I just wanted a head start.
But here in Rotterdam, I find myself procrastinating again. Have I already begun my bike tour? I mean I am out here, with all of my luggage attached to a bicycle, I have an idea of the routes I will be taking for the next 1,500 km towards Berlin, but I still feel like I have yet to walk out the door.
Yesterday at the hostel in Rotterdam, all I wanted to do was sleep. Maybe it was the jet-lag, all of my fears, my lack of confidence, the exhaustion from a pub crawl I shouldn’t have gone to, or the heartbreak of leaving everyone I love again -but I just felt so shitty.
I tried to sleep for a bit, but nothing makes me feel shittier than sleeping in a hostel dorm with the sun shining through the windows. So I forced myself to get up. I spent the day on a very melancholy walk around Rotterdam.
At the end of the day I was still feeling lame. I had some bike maintenance to do, so I went on YouTube, learned some stuff and successfully lubed my chain and cleaned some parts. This made me feel better, but after an hour of trial and error, I could not figure out why my back brake was dragging.
I took my bike to a bike shop this morning and it turns out that I have a broken spoke. I don’t know how I missed that. I feel like an idiot.
Bike touring is so humbling. I have always hated being wrong and making mistakes. But on a bike tour I am constantly slapped in the face with the reality that I am not all-knowing. I don’t know the languages of the countries I am in and I just don’t know that much about bicycle mechanics. It often takes me a few minutes to figure out how to flush the toilet! I am the underdog all of the time now.
But learning and facing my fears is the whole point. I have never put so much effort into something that has not come naturally to me. I know that I need to do this. So here we go. I’m going.
I’m positive that after a few days on the road, I will adapt and all will be well. There is probably no point in writing this or even publishing it for others to see. But I guess I can use it as a marker in the future to remember how I felt. Whoever takes the time to read this will truly be following me on this journey because you have no idea what’s coming and neither do I.
So I am just going to list my fears, today, on September 11, 2014 and we will see how I feel in a week, and then in a few months.
I am afraid of:
-where I will be sleeping
-nighttime in general
-that I will make mistakes
-that I will miss people
Well that’s a pretty short list. Why is it crippling me?
I just have to do it.
While I was home these past two weeks, I drove about 1500 miles all over California from San Francisco to Los Angeles, past beaches, through the desert, in forests etc to visit some of the people I love most in this world!
Traveling long term can get really lonely, so I am just going to look at this post every time I miss people from back home. I love them all SO MUCH.
And my goodness, California is the most beautiful place. It’s funny to think how wonderful my life is here, yet I am constantly running away from it.
Well, I guess I am just running towards other things. New things. I like to keep it fresh!
It is always hard to say good bye. I am heading back to Europe tomorrow. It will all be another gigantic lifestyle and mindset change, once again. I’ll be back to being a hobo on a bicycle after two weeks of American comfort. But I know Europe is exactly where I belong right now!!!!