No flow this week – just random thoughts – small bits and pieces.
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40 days far from home. But now I am really into it – I don’t look back anymore.. Maybe I should start saying
410 days left to go back home. But, still, this is not sure..
6 weeks was enough time to give me an idea of what this 15 months may look like. I like it a lot – all this (almost everyday) change of habitat is intriguing and full of stimuli. But this trip is not vacations. There is next to no free time. One side of it is what you see: riding for so much time, camping, meeting people. Another side is what’s in my mind: so many possibilities while moving. So much inactive potential. Visiting places, meeting people, keeping it online, say some things about the churches, say some things about the rides, find a way to get into schools, record your feelings, send this email – send that email, make a song while riding, take pictures of Greek words and make a truly greeklish story, experiment with your camera, write an article in Greek………
I had mixed feelings this week. Everyday I wake up and I am very happy. I AM DOING IT – pause – LOOK AROUND – yes! But there are also some must-do’s in my head. I must be there by tomorrow, I must update my map online, I must send this damn email. And all these new things that I could do… There are a few times I feel overwhelmed – I feel all this is way too big to handle. I feel a pressure at my chest.
And then I answer to myself:
Man, you are a tiny small dot in this universe’s time and space. You are a next-to-nothing something that will die tomorrow ( I am ONE out of the 7 billion humans living currently on the planet out of the 100 billion humans ever lived on the planet. A planet aged 4.5 billion years in a 14 billion years aged universe). In this timeline I will die… tomorrow! I don’t have time to waste in being anxious, I have limited time to enjoy all this gift-present of now. I certainly don’t have time not to Live my trip, I don’t have time not to feel what you&you&you feel. So, relax man, and see the greater picture. This trip is not what it could be – this trip is not what it should be. This trip is this trip – embrace it as it is – “live it | love it” as you say. And this is how I relax and I am looking for alternatives in every problem. Relax – ask yourself what is the most important – ask yourself why are you doing this – find alternatives – CREATE alternatives.
However. All this theoretical positivish blabla above needs some serious realistic proposition in order to get me out of the feeling of a-bit-distanced-current-reality. (Paradoxically, this feeling coexists with a truly fulfilling feeling of living-in-the-moment. It’s possible, believe me.) Now, I need to put in order my everyday life. I need to set priorities. I need to get better organised. In order to be more safe, in order to save money, in order not to waste energy. I spent 4 hours at a cold Milanese night this week looking for a hostel. F O U R hours! I spent 3 hours in Venice, for the same reason, carrying the bike on my back. But there are so many things to do today that I forget about the essentials: Be sure about my route, for example. 20 rides so far and not even one of them was proper – “I’ ll go from A to B, this way”. I always improvise because my gps has been failing me repeatedly and even google maps make mistakes… So far, what I do is heading into the center of a city and asking for a hostel around. Just asking.
Riding to Verona – A getting-wiser moment
I slept in Venice on Sunday the 30th. I had this strong feeling that I described above: there-are-so-many-things-to-do-and-I-will-f*cking-do-everything-now – I’ll reach “NOW”, now! So, I had been doing stuff online all-night long, just slept for an hour and woke up to go to the Orthodox Cathedral of San Giorgio dei Greci in Venice.
After enjoying an Italian coffee (quick espresso) with the congregation, I packed my stuff and I was ready to leave from Venice. I put the bags on my shoulders and worked my way out of the old -island-town. (I was carrying my bike again).
On my way out of the complex of Venetian Isles I had to cross a 3 km bridge. When I was going to Venice I missed the entrance to the bike lane (which was next to, but clearly divided from, the road) and I was riding at the road, where I got a reprimand from the local police at the end of the bridge. Now, when I was leaving from Venice, and because it was common in some roads to keep both directions of the bike lanes in one side of the road, I went directly to the bike lane that I had missed when going to Venice (which was next to the, opposite for me, direction of the cars). (I just went there – it was an arbitrary, on the spot, spontaneous decision). I rode across the bridge, and at the end of it, I realised that there was no way to cross the road and go to the direction that was getting out of Venice. (See picture below). Oh! I should go back and follow the normal road that was heading out of Venice…..
I shut down all parallel brain activities for 10 seconds and focused. At that time, all the pieces of a logical puzzle came together into my mind to form a more rational-realistic picture of my reality. It was 15:00 o clock – I had 130 km in front of me – I had slept for only one hour – I remembered a message I received the previous night by Katia (mother of a good friend) that moved me, and she was advising me not to ride at night. And then it kind of took flesh and blood this phrase that ranks first on my receiving-wishes-phrasebook: “να προσέχεις” (take care of your self). Na proseheis, na proseheis, na proseheis.. [So far, when I was reading all these wishes I was saying to my self: ok, ok I will take care, I do take care, what does it mean to “take care” in such a dynamic and uncertain environment – It seemed to me such a general and all-encompassing-so-nothing-revealing phrase that I was mocking it.]
However, at that point I said “man, here it is: “take care” is not to ride for 7 hours in the dark, for 130 km, having slept only for one hour, without being sure of your route. This is what taking care of yourself means! It is so simple – open your eyes!” (This kept less than 10 seconds) I turned around, heading back to Venice again – I said “f*ck it, I’ ll take the train” and went back to Venice’s Train Station. Met Jack, another cyclist traveler and had a long talk before I went to the train station and buy a ticket to Milan (20€ for me and 3€ for the bike, 267 km and 2 ride-days less).
This was a getting-wiser moment for me, although I guess a wise person wouldn’t proclaim his wisdom growing. However, I am not wise – I just fought with my ego these 10 seconds of realism at that end of the bridge.
I went to Milan. I was looking for a hostel for 4 hours. I was feeling cold. I went to more than 10 hostels. Some were very expensive (20 euros or more, some were full, some were not there, and one while telling me that there is a free bed, didn’t let me into the hostel!!) I found a guest house for 15euros/night where I had a 14 hour long proper sleep.
I didn’t really see Milan. What I saw in both Venice and Milan, though, was the 2 sides of the capitalistic coin. On the one side you could see all the Italian high class style on the way people were dressed (extravagant clothes, fancy hats etc.), in the way the streets and the shops looked like and of course on the high prices. On the other side of the coin, I saw many many non-Italians, immigrants. And I saw some really sad faces of people from Bangladesh on the streets that were selling (trying to, actually) the typical cheap tourist-like or seasoned stuff. A note here: The hostel in Venice was run by a 3 below 25 yo persons from Bangladesh, Turkey and China. The Hostel in Milan, from 3 below 25 persons from Philippines, Ecuador and China.
Enjoy the jaw-dropping beauty of Venice!
And now, get ready for the longest and most tiring riding day so far… 170 km and 2.464 m total elevation gain – getting into the Alps by bike? – 5.000 kcal needed! Enjoy!
I forgot all of my physical exhaustion right away when I found my camping spot, some hundred meters after Airolo. So magical was that place that my psychology went from the sense-of-achievement paradise to the seventh heaven of camping-by-a-small-river-and-under-the-stars-all-alone.. Oh, definitely worth the effort!
Now I was about to write in regard to the next day, Thursday the 3rd, when I rode to Zurich… But, I forgot to mention, that that day begun, actually, one day earlier. Upon my arrival in Airolo (which is an Italian-speaking village) I met 2 guys on the street that started talking to me in Italian and I was responding in Spanish. They pointed a bar to me saying that the owner speaks Spanish. So, I just went there to change clothes and charge (I didn’t have time for the second as they closde at 20:00). The good thing was, that after some time talking with the owner, he let me know that I cannot go to Zurich by bike straight from Airolo as some roads later on the mountain were closed due to Winter weather!!! He told me that the only way was to take the train to the next village (at the other side of the mountain) and get from there to Zurich.. So, on Thursday the 3rd of December, I took the train to Goschenen (paying 6 Swiss franks for me and 6 for the bike, approx 11 euros) and rode 116 km, without batteries charged, to Zurich.. (How naive I was – I thought it would be an extremely easy ride, because I had climbed so much the previous day…. NOT)
Ah, on my way to Zurich I was stopped by the Police for being extremely cool and beautiful with my undercover e-bike… Well, not exactly like this, I was stopped by the police because I rode for 10 seconds on the left side of the road! One of the two cops took my passport and was trying for 5 minutes (making phonecalls) to write me a fine, while the other cop was kind of mocking me.. No fine, finally 😀
Now, I would really like to thank Eleanna and Panagiotis (my bro) for hosting me here in Zurich and taking care of me so much (feeling like a king :D)
Enjoy the rest of the pictures! Next week Paris, France to celebrate my Birthday with super lovely friends!! Yihaaaaaa!! Have an AWESOME week you people!