The freewheeling traveling of the past 50 days has been wonderful and certainly made for some memorable times and photos. But to get to this place in our lives has been a lot of work, sacrifice, and always living well within our means (including no car ownership for most of our lives..big money saver.).
In addition, the daily planing behind the scenes has been non-stop (as Cheryl has noted). So much in fact, that my contribution to the blog to date has been minimal. Endless hours on Booking, Trainline, Google Maps, Komoot, and Translate, as well as local and regional tourist sites and even some paper maps for broader planning …first making sure things are manageable, but keeping enough flexibility to see how the day unfolds first…is there a headwind, tailwind or lots of climbing? (the wind is sometimes a bigger deal than hills with 50+ lb and wide panniers!). Food, bakeries, supermarkets, water? Any contingencies with Trains? Did I build in enough time for Cheryl’s cat photo stops?!!
The usual pattern is to book a room around lunch time, so we have a good understanding of where we can get….but never trying for ridiculous miles, or really long days, as we always like to have some energy left for exploring the place we stay…we prefer slow-ish bike touring for sure….and always appreciate the luxury and privilege we had to travel this way. (Time, health, and resources, free movement…).
But I’m not looking for sympathy, as I LOVE to travel and route plan almost as much as I love to travel, and the endless unfolding of geography and new stimuli everyday is invigorating. (My Civil Engineering and Anthropology degrees merged perfectly-:). You are often asked, “if there was anything in the world you could today, what would it be?” My answer is exactly what we’ve been doing! (and with Cheryl of course).
We have covered almost 2000km by bike and passed through hundreds and hundreds of villages and cities, including staying in 40 places! Sounds crazy, but it really was slow travel. Off the bikes, our movement will be less, and we are looking forward to that, but there is not much more joy to me than heading out in the cool morning on a loaded bike, waiting to discover where the dirt, cobbled, and paved travel ways will take you that day.
We are now happily transitioning our travels from cycling to onward adventures in the beautiful early autumn of the Vallée Verte, combining some nesting, with relaxing hikes and walks in the surrounding lower alps. Despite our “home-free” status, it has been a joy to return to a familiar place for awhile and we are forever thankful to our friends for allowing us to use their beautiful historic home.
Cheryl also gets to apply her expertise building daily fires in both the kitchen/dining area and the upstairs parlor, which is providing our core heat for now, as the main pellet central system is waiting for a winter delivery next week. She loves it and she notes her life here parallels the downstairs lives of the servants of Downton Abbey! (Except she dines with the lord of the manor -;)
We have also been sorting and swapping our gear from our master cadre that we brought from San Francisco…again trying to guess what we might need for the next few months away, which includes big city exploring, fall/winter hiking, and likely travels to Morocco prior to seeing family and friends over the holidays in the UK. Most of the bike gear will be resting as we wait for spring in Europe, but we do plan on renting bikes and certainly using bike share in the cities. Ideally gear should be multi-purpose. For example, a rain jacket that is good for hiking and ok for cycling, including some reflective treatments or bright coloring. Waterproofness from head to toe will be key for fall/winter hiking in the UK, but to wear my pavement colored jacket cycling in the dark is not a good solution. We’ll be sure to share some of our favorite travel amd packing hacks as we move into our foot and train mode over the next few months.
Our last 7 weeks on the bike have made us reaffirm our mantra for light travels…only bringing what we really need, as well as picking up a few winter items in the UK. You can never have everything with you and you’ll never have the perfect clothes for every activity when traveling light, so you need to accept this, and make tough choices. Fashion usually suffers as well…but a few key purchases or swap outs can make you feel like you haven’t been wearing the same clothes for months. We specifically did NOT buy many new things for our travels, knowing that we may want or need to leave some things behind as we change continents, cultures, and climates. In our last global trip, we bought cold weather gear in Poland as fall approached and then left many of these items to (hopefully) those who needed them in Northern India, as we didn’t want to carry a thick sweater, heavy jacket, or scarf to Southeast Asia. If you do want to keep something that you really love but don’t want to carry, then mailing things back “home” has also worked well for us.
The great thing about continuous (“home-free”) travel is that you have the opportunity to continually reinvent yourself and when you get tired or a certain mode or place, switching can reset your mind, focus, and enthusiasm for new experiences. Luckily our minds are opening as the world slowly does too, and we are excited to explore further afield in the coming year! Peace.