For 21 days, I travelled through 5 countries, with empathy in mind and untrained legs (and bottom), I got on my bicycle to meet strangers, unusual pets and interesting locations.
In this article, I’d like to summarise my experiences and would like to share with you the current situation of my charity activity.
This article contains:
- Travel adventures about a cycling tour
- Charity activity
- Travel photos
Facts about the Journey
21 days of travel time
Approximate 850 miles
64 people (interesting encounters and conversations)
A lot of experience on and off the track
- Tubes and tyres replaced
- Break pads replaced
- Saddle broken
People, Interests and Topics
It’s great to be home again, although I already miss the long time on my bicycle. I love the time being alone. Letting thoughts wander and putting myself in a mental state that could be described as trance. I find it very valuable, especially nowadays, because a daily routine can be overwhelming.
But that wasn’t everything on my tour. I have spent plenty of time with different people too.
For example, I met Banjo Nick on the first day, a street performer. We had a jam session in his home together. We played the Bread Song Blues because I brought him a freshly home-baked loaf of bread. Of course, he felt the need to sing a song about that stranger, who was giving it to him.
I spent a lot of time with some people. Michael Bonke, who hosts the podcast Sunpod, should be mentioned here. He extensively informed me about the Ökotop Heerdt. After our meeting, I was overloaded with information and inspiration in a very positive way.
Usually, I find it quite difficult to initiate conversations with strangers, but the journey was an excellent springboard to force me to do it anyway. It was also vital to raise money for the charities Your Little Planet and the Chellington Centre.
I met people who had different interest as others who were interested in similar things.
Like Martin from Norway. He was also on a cycling tour, but already on his journey since March. He was cycling through Europe for six months and had much less luggage than me for the three weeks. That guy really was a minimalist in terms of travelling.
He saw himself as a rather introverted personality and said that travelling makes it easier for him to get in touch with strangers. What do you think about this? Have you experienced the same?
Something that came up for me was: How can we use that for everyday challenges?
However, we had a great time philosophising. I loved his reply to one of my questions. I asked him what he thinks is his purpose.
“Killing time until time is killing you.”co creation Martin and me in a discussion about the meaning of life
Altogether I encountered 64 people, all with different backgrounds — those with similar interests or lifestyles as well as those who are different. I’m happy that I was even able to be of help for some of them. But I wasn’t only beneficial for others. I received a lot of support as well.
Give and Take
I want to mention all my hosts as I never had to pay for lodging on the whole tour, except one night on a campsite near Amsterdam. Many times, I just found a great spot in nature to pitch my tent. I slept under clear starry skies on beaches, next to a river while enjoying beautiful sunsets, on a field or in a forest. But there were exceptions.
Some stories are unforgettable. For example, when I asked a dog walker in the Netherlands where I could pitch my tent. Eventually, he invited me to his house, where I enjoyed a shower, supper, my own room with a comfortable bed and breakfast the next day. Not to forget, we had wonderful conversations.
Other great places have been the Bivakzones in Belgium. There are all free of charge, but some are privately owned. So, whenever you travel through Belgium, watch out for those places.
The third thing I wanted to do was using the platform www.warmshowers.org, which is a community of bicycle tourists and those who support them.
I had the opportunity to stay for a night in London on the last day. My host Paddy was great. We had a fantastic time and exchanged stories, thoughts and gave each other recommendations.
Oh, and not to forget, there was also that event that I co-organised and moderated. We donated the profit to Your Little Planet.
Apart from the long and profound meetings, I had also beautiful shorter conversations, including some of a peculiar or unusual kind.
Want some examples?
- Sitting by the fire with a couple in Belgium who had a colossal rabbit as a pet. His name was Herbert, just like my grandpa’s name.
- A conversation with Youtuber Heroes_Asahi on the ferry to the Netherlands, who cycles through Europe for three months.
- A chat with a teacher in the Netherlands. He invited me for a coffee and biscuit when I wanted to visit an institution next to his house. Unfortunately, it was closed due to holidays that day. But I didn’t find it that unfortunate in the end, as we had a fantastic dialogue about empathy in teaching.
- A conversation around empathy, the life as a journeyman as well as “mind- and handwork” with Cees Van Soestbergen. He is a woodcarver and shipbuilder with huge enthusiasm for his profession.
That was just a small selection. I will go into one or the other conversation in future stories.
“I haven’t regretted a single day in my career.”Cees Van Soestbergen, shipbuilder
Not only people were important and surprising, but also many locations. Especially those I didn’t plan to visit.
Particularly the Netherlands, country of bicycles, impressed me. I loved the different atmosphere, the distinctive infrastructure and nature, not to forget these delicious “frietjes”.
Here are some interesting places I found:
Sustainability and Social Projects I visited:
The Ökotop in Heerdt, Germany – a holistic, ecological and social pilot project for living in the city. It is conceptualized by citizens with expert help and mainly realised in voluntary work.
The Empathic Home at HAN, Netherlands – an Experiment of the University in Arnhem to provide a better life for the elderly.
From local people suggested places:
Restaurant Le 65 Degrés, Belgium – a restaurant in Brussels run by the physically disabled.
Make TADA. Belgium – An initiative for vulnerable young people to strengthen and socially integrate them.
Or places I’ve stumbled upon, like:
Beauforthuis, Belgium – A restaurant and venue for the art of all kinds, also developed and ran as a joint initiative.
The Bunk, Netherlands – Hotel in Utrecht – A converted church that is described as a place of feel-good food (I can confirm ?), art and design, community experience, super-fast internet and a lot of love.
My Happy End had a slight limp
On the second last day, I, unfortunately, suffered a foot injury. I changed my shoes, which turned out to be unwise and contracted an inflammation in my Achilles verse. Nevertheless, I managed to get home and spent the first days keeping my foot still.
What about the fundraiser? Read in the next article why there is no end yet.