Half time. Better, a little bit more than half time: we’ve been on the road for six of the eleven months we gave ourselves for this trip. It’s easier for us to count time instead of distance: we don’t know if we are half way to Mongolia and we don’t know if we are going to get there in the end or if we will pack our bikes to come back to Europe somewhere else. As we said from the beginning, it’s not so important. Our route is made of detours (Rotte distratte), improvisation and plans that change. It’s enough to take a look at our GPS track to understand that straight lines are not for us!
If in the first weeks we were asking ourselves “is there a right way to do it?”, after a while we’ve found ours: we follow the flow, we adapt to each other’s rhythm (as you know, Mery’s day on the bike and mine can be really different!), we trust our instinct and people’s suggestions (if they are cyclist it’s better) and we just go.
To miss (or not to miss)
Winter was sometimes hard for the mood even if we looked for warm shelters for the night (and we took some shortcuts). And that was also the time when we felt we missed friends and families more. We are used not to have all our friends and families close to us so there’s always someone whom we miss, wherever we are. In the last six months this feeling has been more intense, sometimes.
The constant feeling of depaysement, that goes with the kind of travel we chose, is something that we had to learn to deal with. After a while I, Roberto, felt I needed something familiar: like entering a café and know what to find, speak the same language and get back a little bit to the comfort zone. The most intense experience of this feeling was in the country we knew less about, Azerbaijan. Maybe it was not a coincidence.
Speaking about something familiar, among the things we missed there are also places, like our favorite piadina restaurant, L’Italienne au chapeau rouge, that has become a second home for us in Avignon: not just for the food and wine but for the pleasant and friendly atmosphere. Maria Luisa and Pierre: be ready for when we come back!
But “to miss” has also another meaning on this trip: there is so much to experience (places to see, people to meet, cultures to know…) that every time we choose a route we miss something. It’s obvious, but sometimes it’s hard to accept: Mery is always like “I want to do this and that”, even if in between this and that there are thousands of kilometers!
About time (again)
The time of everyday life is mainly the rhythm of habits and, again, Mery and I had very different rhythms so it was normal to have different reactions to the time of travel. I’d like to have more time to read – when we camp and we are not too tired we read aloud before sleeping, but my books wish list keeps getting longer and longer (winter, I am thinking of you!).
The time of travel is different and the feeling is that it’s more full: we are always doing something, seeing new places and landscapes, meeting new people, trying to learn new words.
And the time of travel raises at least one question: for how long will we feel OK riding our bikes? I realized that I do feel these six nomad months more than Mery does, even if they passed fast, like it could be long enough for me but I am curious about how I will feel in the weeks and months to come, if I’ll get tired of this constant moving around or not.
Riding, social life, visiting (and sleeping, cooking and managing all the little everyday things): in all these nice activities I feel I’d like to have more time to write, to create podcasts more often. With longer daylight and warmer weather maybe I’ll find the time for it.
Kindness and friendship across countries and kilometers
We just celebrated Nowruz, the Persian New Year’s Day, so our wishes for “our” new year came to mind. Again, the kindness and generosity and helpfulness we’ve found on our route are impressive, overwhelming: thank you in all the languages we learnt would not be enough. We will do our best to be as generous and helpful and kind as the people we met so far because it just feels like the right thing.
We tend, as human beings, to be biased towards what we don’t know. These biases are boosted everyday by media and politics: we should learn to open ourselves more and give ourselves more chances to meet the others, to listen to their life experience. And we should never mistake a people by its government (this is a good rule for every country: otherwise for us, Italians, it will be really bad).
So… on we go!
6 months, 12 countries, about 7.500 km by bike (and some other 2.000 or more by bus, train and ferry), 3 seasons, 5 alphabets and a few detours: we are ready for some more!