This title feels like the one that fits the most. As it reflects what happened to me internally. If I labeled it “what I learned” it would be a totally different article. But this isn’t focusing on me ‘learning’ in the academic way. And some things I already was (kind of) aware of. What didn’t change at all is that I still strongly advocate solo-traveling! Hope you enjoy reading the article – please let me know what insights you gained from traveling!
moving vs being stationary
I always loved to be on the move. Once, I took two trains from Melbourne via Sydney to Brisbane with an estimated travel time of about 24 hours instead of simply taking a plane for a couple of hours as I was going to enjoy the time on the train. Of course cycling is taking this to an extreme but this is whatI love about bike touring. Moving! But if you are always on the move, especially by your own body power, there are some disadvantages as well.
traveling vs arriving
I groan. The road is closed. I am tired. All I want for today is to arrive. I am tired of traveling. Of sleeping in different places. Of finding my way. Of the cars and trucks that are passing me way to close on these narrow, winding roads in the mountains of Yunnan. Just tired of traveling, desperate to arrive.
It got dark. So I sucked it up. Put up my tent. Went to sleep. Put down my tent. And cycled the last bit – the very last bit I would spent cycling during these five months. With this thought in my head – and two hard-boiled eggs in my tummy – my whole attitude changed. I enjoyed them. I dreaded my arrival. I stopped by the side of the road. To take in the view. To nudge some more moments out of the traveling part, before I had to arrive.
This night and this morning exemplify how I feel about being on the move and arriving at a place.
I love both. And at times, I dread one or the other. Inevitably both are part of bike touring. As are so many other things.
Cycling ensures so much – I am physically active, I see new things, I come across surprised people and maybe even some wildlife I never ever dreamed of meeting in their natural habitat, I love all the food I’ll be eating, I take a wrong turn. I sleep at a strange, new place I don’t know anything about yet, not even where it is.
Arriving, or rather staying at a place, ensures different things. I don’t have to wonder where to sleep. There’s no need to be active. I know where I get food. I meet the same people more than once, can have deeper conversations, we can agree on doing stuff together. If I stay long enough friendships can form.
And I have more energy for other things. Like staying in touch. Like learning a language. Like climbing. Like writing. These are things that are really hard on a cycling day as so much energy has been spend on – of course – cycling. But besides that, there is also the mental energy that I use in a way I don’t need to do it at home.
At home, I just go over to my bed – I don’t cover 15km cycling, looking for a camp site which I deem safe or put up a tent. I go over to the kitchen and grab a bite when I am hungry. I don’t have to scan my surroundings for restaurants or the tiny hints that give a rural grocery store away. One cycling night, I was so out of energy, I simply fell asleep over putting on my pants to go have dinner…
building bonds and friendships
I arrived in a new-to-me place when I arrived in Kunming. I hadn’t been there before, never met a person living there – but a friend picked me up from the metro station after a 52 hr journey, walked me to her place, fed me dinner and gave me a bed.
I was going to live at Vera’s place for the next two months. We were going to go to the massage and sauna together. She was not only introducing me to her favorite restaurants and cafés, but also to her friends and her other roommates who also just got to Kunming. We would have great conversations how our love of bicycle touring and China affected our lives.
I settled in. I lived in Kunming, I built bonds, friendships and found climbing partners. It was an awesome, empowering feeling – being able to start anew in a far away place, and have a lovely farewell dinner with the people I grew closest too in my time there.
being able to make something with my hands
Same with the clothes – I didn’t expect I would miss this so much. I never considered myself a handy or even crafty person, but on the other hand I like to make stuff with my hands. I enjoy sewing as much as building furniture or putting up some lamps on the wall. Or even cutting and laminating teaching material. Like, working physically with my hands and have something to show for it. It gives me a sense of achievement that writing – even with a pen – or taking pictures with my camera just can’t provide.
It didn’t occur to me how important this is for me on any of my other trips. Looking back, during that time, I was busy with other things – like being in China for the very first time, being on my very first bicycle tour and even on this one – it only got really evident once I wasn’t traveling anymore, but living in Kunming. Mind you, I wasn’t bored. I studied Chinese, learned taichi, did yoga, went climbing, made new friends and met old ones. Busy, fulfilled – and yet I missed this so badly that one of the first things I did back home, was taking t-shirts apart to sew pillow cases.
So much for now – Part II is about the influence my travel(s) had on my friend- and relationships and how staying in touch works. Especially when you are sometimes so tired you fall asleep while putting on pants….