The Travel Chronicles, week 5


Thing is, lots of cycling days are quite uneventful. You get up, get out of zombie mode, fold your tent, get and eat some food,

Águilas – Puerto de Mazarrón, 58,7 km, 669m



stop for a drink, a coffee, a bathroom or for lunch, cycle some more, then

unfold and pitch your tent, wash yourself, your clothes, then find, cook and eat some food, and the day is pretty much gone.

Some days, you’re fixated on your goal.

Puerto de Mazarón – Cartagena, 35,5 km, 479m

Some days, you might stop for a bit of tourism, or to take a quick dip in the sea

– and some days, it might be the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen, and you may realise that it makes zero sense to keep pushing and tell yourself you’ll stop at he camping and go swimming afterwards,


Cartagena – San Javier, 51,9 km, 416m

because you’re hot and tired now, plus you’ll never know if there’ll be a storm by that time, or if the camping is even on the seaside, or if the pool everyone on google writes amazing reviews about will be closed (it will, of course).


San Javier – Murcia, 51km, 394m

Some days, you get soaked in the rain.

Ever since I’ve gotten that heat stroke (or what), I’ve been weak and prone to headaches, and for all I’m cutting my daily distances short and optimising for uphill meters, I’ve been exhausted. So I stopped for a rest day in Murcia – and spent my first night entirely unable to sleep due to creaking beds and snoring roommates, then walked about town on four hours of sleep and as much coffee, if measured in cups, plus a whole different sort of headache than the days before,

even as I did my best to enjoy the place.

Murcia – Guardamar del Segura, 58,4 km, 22m

Loneliness sets in, like the ever-repeating silent blocks of summery ghost-towns on the coast.

Company is largely up to good luck when travelling alone, not that I’m the best company myself, or have much patience for others, when exhausted and with a headache.

Guardamar del Segura – Elche – Alicante, 48,1 km, 230m

I have lots of friends in these regions, old and new, and they all have their own lives, as is normal, so I have no right or reason to be resentful when that means they can’t make time for me. Cycle travel is weirdly constraining, anyway: I’m in this place, now, for this long, and move fast, but can’t do a detour longer than 10-15 kms, and that’s pushing it.


As it turns out, all it takes to revive me is a good night’s sleep, a nice swim in the sea, and a horchata with just one friend who is willing, able  and happy to see me.

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Today marks a full year since I left Brussels to cycle around Europe.

To chase my dreams – some of which I’ve held on to for ten, twenty, twenty-five years or more.

To turn my life upside down –

and while few things have turned out as I planned or imagined, I’ve been undoubtedly successful at the latter.

Partly because I don’t really know what’s next.

I have precious few long-term plans, after a lifetime of always knowing where I wanted to go and what I would do next.

What do you do, after all, when you’ve realised your childhood dreams?

I have to consciously stop my mind, ever so eager to try to fill that void with all sorts of plans, projects and goals.

Because this adventure hasn’t ended yet.

Because this void is as exhilarating as it is scary.

Because for once, I could try and go with the flow and see where it takes me.




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The Travel Chronicles, weeks 3&4


Walking again, along the riverbed and up to Sacromonte, then back to meet and old friend.

He did his Erasmus at my faculty some 15 years ago – I’d just returned from my own Erasmus and made friends with many Spanish exchange students. We kept contact for a short while after they left, then slowly lost it. Except, when I visited Córdoba years later and told him I was in the region (not quite close, but a lot closer than normally), he travelled there to meet me.

And came to Málaga last year when I was there. And to Granada this time.

It’s always such a joy to see him.

I concluded the day with yet anoher walk through the Albaicín, a show at a Zambra and a drink with a family of Danes.


I seem to have found the best ever bike mechanic that exists. Not only did he do me a favour by taking up the work at all (they were full), he did the repairs from Thursday to Monday even as their current waiting time is at least ten days. On top of that, he looked over the bike and fixed a bunch of smaller issues beyond what I asked him to do.

Finally, I have a functional bicycle.

Málaga – Torrox, 49,3 km, 156 m.

Just to warm up.

Torrox – Playa Granada, 53,8 km, 577m.

I had to send a package home to make my luggage lighter. It included my dancewear, which feels like betraying myself, even though at this point it was more of a just-in-case  thing. I could still perform my Bike Song anyway.

Feelings of betrayal aside, those four kilograms make a huge difference when riding uphill.

Then I got to the camping, made dinner, half of which fell into my lap, then noticed I had a flat tyre.

Why would anything work, really.

Playa Granada – Castillo de Baños Abajo, 35,8 km, 382m.

I checked the tube three times under water, but couldn’t find the puncture. Naively, I put it back, thinking if it holds up for a while, it might be okay. It held up with only the luggage, but when I addded myself to the mix, it was flat in 2 meters. So I removed the wheel, checked the tube again, and found – and fixed – the puncture this time.

Off I went to Decathlon for some air pressure, then for lunch. The moment I left he place it started raining – a slow, gentle rain, exactly what the earth needs, but heavy enough that I got drenched in five minutes and needed to take refuge in the nearest bar.

At 5:30 pm, I still had almost 30 kms ahead of me.

How wonderful it is though to cycle on the empty country road after the rain, suspended between the hills and the sea.

I even saw some deer.

Castillo de Baños Abajo – La Garrofa, 83,2 km, 500m.

Empty country roads, suspended between the hills and the sea. Pines, rosemary, thyme on the roadside. And heaps of trash, as well as the stink of chemicals between endless rows of greenhouses in what seems to be a desert.

The Dutch cyclist I met a couple days ago was already in the camping and lent me a hammer to help me with the tent. I still struggled: the earth is dry and hard-packed, so a motorcyclist lent me a heavier one.

“What’s wrong with my hammer?” he asks.

Am I really supposed to get into whose hammer is bigger, after having cycled over 80 kms??

Sunday was a day for rest and maintenance, though slow as I was I couldn’t finish it all. I went to Almería looking for a salsa night in the evening – I had fun, but of course you can’t build the same sort of trust in a few hours as you do over the course of several months.

I miss my dancers from Cádiz.

La Garrofa/Almería

And this is how I didn’t see much anything of Almería: the ain gods have finally taken pity on the place, if not on this lonely cyclist, and cried all their tears on the one day I wanted to look around here like there’s no tomorrow.

La Garrofa – Cabo de Gata, 35,4 km, 94 m.

I didn’t mind the late start – though the tent, technically, stayed dry over the Great Flood yesterday, most my stuff was damp and needed drying this morning.

I did mind the giant puddles and the deep sand.

For a long time I resisted going inside the nature reserve, opting for the paved road just outside of it, but then the temptation proved too great, so I ended up pushing the bike around said puddles – having cycled through the first ones and found them deep enough to get my sandals soaked.

Then I got to the river, and found the ford – the Ford. I never thought I’d use the word ford to talk about my life. Anyway, it was flooded – whether from the tide or from yesterday’s rain, I’ll never know.

Cue another long, long walk pushing the bike upstream in deep, pathless sand and mud.

I got lucky at the next one, and promptly got myself into the camping, for that I’d done such a short distance for the day.

Cabo de Gata – Los Escullos, 32,4 km, 434m.

Some days, I take the easy road: the one that’s shorter, better paved or less hilly.

Not today.

The climb was difficult even on foot as I did about 90% of it, but rewarded me with some ridiculously amazing views – and the instant appreciation of an Italian cyclist (who, by the way, cycled up all he way, maybe without luggage but also without much difficulty) and her partner, who later invited me for coffee when I caught up with them in the village where they were staying.

Los Escullos – Sopalmo, 54,4 km, 860m.

I would have chosen the easier road today, but there were none.

After the second climb, I was already feeling funny, after the third I was definitely feverish, and by the time I got to the camping it was quite clear I had a heat stroke, or whatever they are called when they don’t get you all the way to urgent care services.

Don’t ask why I didn’t stop earlier. I’ve been working on that shit ever since I burnt out at work a couple of years ago, but old habits die hard, I guess.

Sopalmo – Águilas, 51, 8 km, 338m.

Here’s the dilemma: you’re clearly sick and need rest; however, you also need food, and the nearest place you can get any of it is about 130 height meters downhill.

First conclusion: folding the tent is more restful than the return ride from said nearest place. If you’re going that far, you might as well stay downhill.

Now, you might just roll down to said nearest place and then to the closest camping, and that would probably be a wise choice.

Or, you could wait until after 4pm so as to avoid riding in the heat, give yourself an hour to test the waters, so to speak, reserve a place yet another 30 kms away;

and embrace your slowness, knowing with absolute certainty that you will arrive.

Second conclusion: I can do 45 kms on not-quite-flat ground after working hours. Even when I’m sick, weakened and have a strong headwind against me.

I might not enjoy it, and I probably shouldn’t, but I can.

Third conclusion: you should not mess with my stubborn ass.

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The Travel Chronicles, week 2

La Línea de La Concepción

I cycled to the village, and left the bike at the mechanic.

Then I realised I’d wanted to do a bunch of things, but left all at the camping. Even my book.

So I walked to Gibraltar, and climbed the rock. I even paid the entry fee (18 effing GBP!) to the nature park, mostly for the sake of the monkeys, as military installations and the like have never really interested me.

I’m glad I did.

La Línea de la Concepción – Estepona, 46,7km, 448 m.

I seemed to have underestimated the distance, or the difficulty, again.

Or the time it takes to navigate left and right around a highway that’s both a highway and isn’t and that I wanted to avoid as much as possible, even as I later learnt that the Eurovelo8, the international cycle road, officially goes on it. At least, the speed limit is 80 km/h most of the way, not 130.

On the hilltop, there was a burning sun, but you could see the clouds rolling underneath; down the coast, I cycled by endless housing blocks, probably turistical, some fancy-looking, some less so, all half-obscured by the fog; and long beaches without sea, the waters swallowed by the clouds.

The proper cycle road starts in Estepona.

And then, that dreaded sound.

A spoke.


At least it happened before I got out of the city.


I stayed two nights in Estepona, as none of the local bike shops could take on the work to repair my bike, and my first try to to get transport to Málaga fell through.

The hostel there was excellent though, and I wouldn’t have minded staying there for another while: just the right mix of privacy: built bunk beds, thick curtains, strict silence and lights-off policy after 11pm; and community, with a arge kitchen and dining area, living room / library / workspace on the first floor and a beautiful rooftop with a bar ad a pool. I wish I could say the same of the other hostels I’ve stayed in.

By the time I got to Málaga, I was ready to accept whatever life threw at me, even staying in Estepona for the 10-12 days one of the mechanics told me it would take him to do the work.

Honestly, I probably could have used the rest.

But I got here, booked myself a weekend in Granada – with tickets to the Alhambra that you usually need to book some two weeks in advance! – and by the time I’m back, my bike will probably be ready.


Within an hour of ariving to the hostel, I was out with a roommate for a flamenco show – because you can never get enough of flamenco. The harmonies just a slight bit darker than, and the rhythms, of course, different from those I most often heard in Cádiz, it was one of the best shows I’ve seen so far.

I blocked out the whole day of Saturday for the Alhambra, and did well to do so. Though the official website says the averagevisit lasts about three hours, I spent almost as much just in the Nasrid palaces, then proceeded to walk every path and look at every building, ruin or garden where I was allowed.

And this after I told myself that I was saturated of old stones.

Granada has an undeniable magic for the outsider, and if there’s one thing I regret, if slightly, it’s not being able to go out and experience Saturday night in the city – alone and after over nine hour of walking, all I wanted was to sleep.

I did some more tourism on Sunday, visiting the Cathedral and the Capilla Real, but my feet didn’t want to walk, nor my eyes to see any more.

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Laments from the Road, Part 2 – Carrión de los Condes

The plains are silent as we cycle through them,
and it’s almost a desert:

the endless, barren fields – harvested or burnt out – are the same pale, yellowish-brown as the old, quiet stones of the occasional (old, quiet) village we cross;

the sun’s beating down on us as if it were August instead of October;

the lines and shapes of the land are blurred in the haze.

It could almost be a movie scene –

and suddenly, for a moment, the tractor that turned onto the road right in front of me, breaking the silence, turns into a – pale, yellowish-brown – death machine sent by some nameless, dystopian empire

and the wind that whistles in my ear becomes a sentient, malicious force sapping away my strength as I push against it.

I’m almost afraid, in this liminal place.

Yet, I am not.

Because I am the wind.
Because if the wings on my back were real (and not just true), they would span the entire horizon.

Because this soundless almost-desert, bereft of colours, is but a weak, real-life reflection

of my inner landscape of grief.



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My bike, loaded for travel, in front of the café where I would meet my friends

The Travel Chronicles – week 1

Cádiz – La Oliva (Vejer), 77,5 km, 393m.

Never thought so many of my friends would show up at 10AM on a bank holiday to say goodbye.

I had invited all of them to meet up for coffee in the morning, and to join me for a bike ride – as far as they were okay with. They turned back, one by one, so by Chiclana I was alone, moved and heartbroken at the same time.

The cycling went well until, as usual, it was 2 pm and I still had more than 30 kms to go. Then I got stuck in deep sand, lost my way several times, and took what my host named  “the scenic road” up and across the hill, arriving several hours later than I thought.

Maybe close to 80 kms on a first day is slightly over the top, especially while sick and on a heavily loaded bike with a messed-up transmission.

I did have lots of fun with the local members of the Write Stuff group and their friends.

La Oliva (Vejer) – Tarifa

It should have been about 50 kms. Except my host and his friends were right, you don’t mess with the Levante wind. I never admitted it to him, nor was I willing to take him up on his offer to drive me back in case I was blocked. There’s no going back, ever.

The problem with a 40 km/h wind isn’t simple that it slows you down – that might have been manageable. It also pushes you sideways repeatedly yet unexpectedly, so you enver know when you end up under a car.

So when I saw another cyclist by the road, I stopped, and he was  kind enough to include me in his hitchhiking attempts. I’ve never hitchhiked before, definitely not alone, definitely not with the bike. We got lucky: the driver of a small van stopped in less than half an hour after I arrived, and came back for both of us after he unloaded. He was only going to drop us at the nearet village, but after some deliberation, he offered to take us to Tarifa – I still have the impression we paid him at least twice if not three times the price for gas, but I’ll call it compensation for his time and be very glad I got there.


I met a young Scottish woman, Tara, on the ferry: she lost her father last August, like me, and part of her motivation to travel was to honour his memory as a traveller and adventurous spirit. The same way I cycled through the North of Spain last Autumn thinking about how much my dad would have loved to bike on those mountains. The same way I keep thinking about him on pretty much every uphill slope – the last time we cycled together, in 2018, he could still cycle up with more ease than I ever will.

I spent two and a half days in Tanger with my partner’s sister, who’s been living there for over twenty years. She showed me around all the cool parts of town: the old city centre, cafés both hip and traditional, the chic brunch place and the beautiful, almost entire untouched beaches jut outside the city, through the neighbourhoods of the the super-rich.

If it weren’t for how people dress – and the language of public signs and ads – you could never tell it’s on the other side of the Mediterranean.


On Friday, I took the ferry back to Tarifa. I’m afraid the castle was closed by the time I got there, but I did walk around a bit, and it’s a beauiful old town.

I’d heard a lot about it being a surfers’ paradise, and for all I never went to the beaches around, it shows: the town is full of shops selling surfing gear, and even more of concept stores and hipser coffee places. The fact that I reserved the night in a digital nomads’ hostel and co-working place that, coincidentally, had it’s 9th birthday celebration with a live concert on the rooftop, didn’t help to dispel the stereotype.

(Also, the party was a lot of fun.)

Tarifa – La Línea de la Concepción, 67,1 km, 582 m.

Any experienced biker would tell me I should go over the mountains: less traffic, better views and everything. Except, between my physical condition, my load and my bike, even discounting the problems it has, I simply cannot. So I keep the sea close to my right for the most part.

Even so, I did cross the hill with relative ease – only to find myself on the almost literal highway just out of Algeciras, on a bridge with no other on within a distance of 10-15 kms. I pushed the bike through the narrow walkway-of-sorts between two barriers, having to unload it at a certain point so it would fit through next to a lamppost, carrying the luggage after the bike; then continued on the outside of the barrier until a roundabout where the road, technically, wasn’t the highway anymore, unloaded and lifted the bike over, cycled to a train station that theoretically didn’t have an entry on my side bit that did have an opening on the fence, crossed the railways there and managed ton avoid the highway until the next bridge. That one had a proper walkway though.

The cable car in Gibraltar was closed – whether truly because of the strong winds, as they said, or because of the coronation, we’ll never know, so instead of climbing the rock, I cycled around it (which, in hindsight, was probably at least as exhausting but nevermind).

And then I heard the sound of a spoke breaking – I know it well, I lost a bunch of them in Portugal.

La Línea / Gibraltar

Nothing happens in a village like La Línea on Sunday, and it turns out that I lost ntwo spokes, not one, and I lost or forgot the spoke wrench tht was supposed to be in my toolbox.

I met my tent-neighbour, a young guy who was really nice and very helpful, yet gave me the absolute creeps, for reasons I can only partly explain.

So I was somwhat relieved when I got another neighbour, an Italian man on hist first, but rather long and quite adventurous cycle trip.

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Here’s to the beauty of heartbreak

I left Cádiz on Monday, a place where I felt more vibrant, more myself than I’d felt for a long, long time.

As I counted the days remaining, things of mine kept breaking every day – my saddle, my phone screen, you name it, up to the point where on the day after I left, the East wind arrived, at 40 km/h, almost flying me back to the city. The signs are all there, I’d say, if I were superstitious: Cádiz doesn’t want to let me go.

Not  that I wanted to leave.

I was surprised by how many goodbyes I had to say; even more by how very difficult many of them proved to be.

And while I’ve managed to get most, if not all, of the broken things fixed, there’s one that – obviously – has no quick fix, and I can only hope that the coming two months and a half of cycling adventure will serve to heal it, or at least provide a distraction.

That said, not even the prospect of adventure could give me enthusiasm. I want to do this, I want to finish this trip I’ve been dreaming and planning for over twelve years, but right now, I couldn’t care less. If it weren’t for some common sense and a great deal of stubbornness to finish what I started, to keep to plan, I might have stayed. For a while at least.

Better leave while I don’t want to.

Now, do I realise that, however painful it was to say goodbye, I’ll probably lose contact with many of these folks?


Is it clear that the few months I spent in the city were prety much the “honeymoon phase” of living in a new place?

Also yes.

Am I aware that the very transience of this setup is a great part of the magic?

Of course.

Still, I spent five months of my life there.

I shed the armour of numbness that I’d been wearing for longer than I care to recall.

I became, however fleetingly, part of the place. A small and insignificant part, but a part nonetheless.

Of course it broke my heart to leave.

But heartbreak is beautiful if you embrace transience, if you can appreciate the bittersweet flavour of change.

Better leave while you don’t want to.

Give up your darkness

Give your darkness to the Ocean.

Your freefall. Your broken glass.

You’ll get little pebbles, no longer transparent nor sharp at the edges, but colourful and smooth, to embellish your stories.

You’ll get rocked to sleep by the waves so you can dream about falling – or flying, if you so wish.

And the darkness?

All that beautiful, warm, impenetrable darkness, enough to erase the entire midnight horizon?

Surrender it, too.

The sky is always full of light.

When your armour crumbles

Never noticed how numb I’d gotten until I started to feel again.

I’d put on layers upon layers upon layers of caution, compliance and cynicism, thick and drab and shapeless, not quite like clothing nor exactly part of me.

It took two months in a port city, two months alone in this place before cracks started to appear in this armour, thick and drab and cold and constricting;
it took but a few days from that point until it all crumbled into dust.

My skin feels all new and raw underneath.

It burns and chafes and stings under the sun and in the sand and the saltwater 
as I wade into the sea, life-giving once more, to swim beyond the breaking waves and the boats and the fortress that still protects me,
floating, unknowing what sort of water stings my eyes.

My soul is laid bare before the ocean and filled with songs again,
laments though most of them be.

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Greetings from Cádiz

I wish I could have told you all that happened while on the road, but my voice faded and I never found the right words to share with you.

I did write down and photograph and record all of it, yet the memories feel cold and grey and distant, and I can only hope to have, with time, enough warmth to bring some of them back to life.

I wish I could have told you all that happened while on the road, but travel’s hardly glorious or glam, most of the time, even as many cities and even more landscapes are.

I wish I could have told you all that’s happened while on the road, or since, but I convinced myself the no-one would ever want to hear about grief,

or the logistics of getting from Budapest to Bruxelles to Málaga to Cádiz within less than a week from having talked myself out of the hospital, with a luggage I couldn’t lift as I struggled to breathe through the worst asthma crisis of my life and had to quite literally crawl up to my third-floor  flat on all fours at least once.

Or the fact that seasonal depression, at least in my case, is as likely to be a vitamin D and/or iron deficiency as anything else.

I wish I could have told you all that happened while on the road – or since.

Yet here I am, living in  port city once more, and the parallel lines of my life are finally meeting again.



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Let go of the ballast

Do you know that feeling when you plan something amazing for months, even years, do all the planning and all the prep work

– and by the time you actually get to do The Thing, you’re so exhausted and overwhelmed that the stuff you used to dream of feels like just another chore that needs to be done?

This is how this trip felt to me when we left.

All the small things

There were some craft projects I wanted to finish before leaving, though I realised quite quickly that that wasn’t going to happen. Then the shopping – which, to be very clear, is anything but fun. Especially when it comes to clothes: it’s never been easy to dress myself as a fat woman, but sportswear? AND personal preferences? Forget it.

Eventually I managed to get everything I needed, plus most of the common necessities, so I could busy myself with the admin.

Oh, the admin. The endless admin. Set up my new phone, get a new health insurance, renew my Belgian residence permit less than a week before departure.

In the meantime, we also had to move our personal items into the spare room so that the tenants could move in, and it took quite a bit of discipline NOT to try to sort each and every thing I own, take desicions about them and try to execute said decisions.

I was exhausted before we even left.

Perfectionism is portable

Once on the road, it was other things, making content for my socials, setting up this blog, taking pictures and sharing them, keeping contact with friends and family – nevermind that I was biking more daily, and on heavier ground, than ever before.

I should do this, do that, write that post, make those videos, bike that far, see that sight.

And that pattern of thought is a recipe for disaster.

More precisely, it’s a recipe for burnout.

And when I started having a burning pain in my left elbow (of all things), and then fell over one of the tent ropes, I knew I couldn’t keep on like this.

Managing resources

These last three years, most of my burnout recovery has mostly consisted of resource management. Still want to do All The Things? Still want to do them well? One trick that might help is to take a very honest look at your own resources – time, energy, money, whatever – before  committing to them.

Re-learning that lesson meant taking two unplanned rest days, recalculating our distances (with a lower daily average), and ultimately cutting out 200 kilometres to be sure we can catch our train at the end of July to Gennetines.

It also means a commitment to taking everything slower, and doing only what I both can and want to. A surprisingly difficult task if your general method of dealing with things is doing them, no questions asked – it means asking questions about the consequences of doing, rather than those of not doing.

It means letting go of the dead weight of my own expectations.

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In Medias Res

It’s been twelve days since I’m on the road.

I left Brussels on Monday last week, with a simple plan: go to Oostende (done), turn right (done), keep the sea to my right (ongoing). 

After the first five-ish days of heavy headwinds and rain, we’re now riding into summer. I even started getting up earlier so as to avoid cycling in the midday sun.

The trip itself, it’s been twelve years in the making.

In some way, even more.

Longing for the Sea

First, it was my childhood fascination wth the sea and port cities. I’ll never forget the moment I first smelled that warm, salty tang of the Mediterranean – I was eight, and hadn’t even seen the waters yet, but that single moment keeps rippling through my life almost 30 years later.


Then, there was the wanderlust, of course. By now, I’ve moved abroad three times (and only moved back twice), and I’m reluctant to put down roots. I crave the freedom that comes with being a (digital) nomad, I want to see places and meet people and know ever more of this world I call home.

In  short, I wanted to travel, but at a human pace, and with as small an ecological impact as possible.


There’s also the desire to stretch my concept of “enough”. One reason I’m no doing this tour on foot is that I know that what I can carry isn’t enough for me – for survival, maybe, but not for comfort and wellbeing.

I call myself a practical minimalist: I’m not someone who counts her possessions or who passionately declutters her home, only to get rid of things I might very well need to replace a few months later. I’m merely careful of what objects I let into my life, and try to limit my (over)consumption. As careful as I am, though, stuff tends to multiply at home in a way it cannot on the bike.

I’d very much like to see what I truly need, how much is enough.

The dream – and the plan

Between all this, and a series of rather mundane coincidences, finally, a dream coalesced: to spend a year cycling around the coasts of Europe, spending the winter in Andalucía.

So I started planning. And asking myself questions. Where exactly? How far a day? What to carry? Where to sleep? How about my chronic illness? Money? Time? Is it even safe to do alone, for a woman?

With these questions came the self-doubt, too.Aren’t I too fat or this? Shouldn’t I be fitter? Can I afford to not work? Would I be able to make money while on the road? Do I even dare try?

In the meantime, I graduated, did some more studies in another field, started working, got a Dream Job (TM) (not my dream job, mind you, but a Dream Job nonetheless), met my partner, had a burnout, moved in with my partner

– and somehow, it was never the right time to leave.

I would do it once I graduated. No, when I finished my other studies. I don’t know. After two years at the Dream Job. Once I turn 30. No, next year. Next year. Maybe.

Even now, I have a number of quite weighty reasons to not be here, writing from a lush campsite behind the cliffs of Normandie.

But there was a point when I knew it was time. That I was ready. Of course, I also knew that if I postponed doing this once more, I’d never believe myself when I set the next deadline.

Do it when it’s time

The people who tell us to “do the thing before we feel ready” have a point. You should never let your ever-present fear of the unknown keep you from shaping your life.

But they also miss a crucial point: that you construct your own certainty. That if you keep truly preparing, if you actually answer your own questions, you will know when it’s time, even if you don’t feel ready. Even if your legs are shaking as you walk out of the door, not knowing where the road will take you.

The fine line, of course, lies in knowing the difference between real preparation and the procrastination that looks almost exactly like it. You haven’t answered your doubt if you keep coming back to it; you’ve answered it when you decide to accept your own answer. You’ll never have all the information, but it is in your power to take what you have and declare it enough.

Do I wish I left on this trip a long time ago? Yes, except for having my partner’s company. A lot of my delay stemmed from fear and procrastination.

Have I also found answers to all my questions and doubts? Also yes. I’m not any less fat or chronically ill, but I have my certainty about these questions, and all others. I even managed to help my partner answer enough of his own questions to have him with me on the road, at least for the first seven months.

It’s been twelve days since I’m on the road.

I’ve cycled through worse headwinds and tougher uphill roads, and with more luggage to carry, than ever before. I’m seeing the land from up close, drinking in the beauty of it.I’m weighing my things, my habits and my ideas, trying to decide which ones I need and which ones I could do without, to have just enough.

And I’ve barely even started the journey.

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Momentos 16-30. 04. 2022

04. 16. Saturday

I wasn’t quite awake yet, but I dragged myself out of bed – and on the couch in the living room, full of sunlight. It’s been since forever that I last saw such a light, full daylight but still tinted rose, a promise of a beautiful day. We lay on the couch, cuddling, for a beautiful eternity of ten minutes.

04. 17. Sunday

“When the band plays the next Scottish, I’ll wait for you”, he said. I had invited him to dance previously, so this was nice, until he added,

“If you can find me”.

“How about you find me, then?”

You invited me, so…”

“Do you truly want to turn it into a power game?”

We did not dance, in the end.

04. 18. Monday

I should know better by now than to try and solve problems when as groggy and sleep-deprived as today. All I achieve is a giant headache and a sense of frustration, while the problems remain unsolved.

I should have gone to the park 5 hours earlier.

04. 19. Tuesday

I had put the box with the cycle-to-charge in my bag some 3 days ago, to be sure I wouldn’t forget it when I arrive to the bikeshop. Once there,  I explained I wanted the piece installed, so he opened the box to have a look – but of course it was the other box, empty since my partner had it installed on his bike last week.

04. 20. Wednesday

Strange to recall how much I loved flying when I was a kid. I detest it now. True, back then, I only had the opportunity every few years, and it was always for holidays to interesting pieces. Now it’s pretty much the only reasonable way to come home and see my family, since there still aren’t reliable train connections. 

At least I got some work done on the plane.

04. 21. Thursday 

Spent the day about: rent a bike for my stay, back home for some work, then to the seamstress to try my new costume, then up the hill to my parents’. Not sure if it’s the biking around that makes me so tired or the pretending to ignore all the things that are wrong.

04. 22. Friday

Nope, not today.

04. 23. Saturday

There’s absolutely nothing like the feeling of swinging a 5k hammer to bring a brick wall down. 

04. 24. Sunday

Spent the afternoon trying to decide on a tablet for the trip. Will this one be good enough to work on? Is that one in a good enough state? Do I trust that 2nd hand seller to begin with? 

At 10pm, I gave up. 

04. 25. Monday

Ran an errand for my parents across town, and as I drove over the bridge, I suddenyl found myself yearning for the city. To walk her streets, and meet friends in the coffeehouses, to cycle along the Danube in the sun. 

Not sure I like the way my life revolves around my home these days. 

04. 26. Tuesday

Spent the day working, trying to get everything done today and tomorrow to have a few non-working days while with my family. I even did some housework and exercised a bit, and was pretty proud of myself – until I relised, at 8pm, that I did not practice for next Sunday’s show after all.

04. 27. Wednesday 

Struggling to find a way to write about private things. I may share some of my own stuff with the internet, but I refuse to expose anyone else. 

04. 28. Thursday 

Got some family affairs done after a long process. It’s a relief, but the finality of it has me worried. If things are neatly arranged, what comes next? 

04. 29. Friday 

I feel incompetent in the face of aging and sickness. Guilty for not doing more, for not being here most of the time, for not putting my life on hold to help.

Of course it’s irrational. But not less real. 

04. 30. Saturday 

When I say I’m burnt out, I don’t mean fed up. I mean I’ve been slowly recovering for almost 3 years now, and  some days, after 8 full hours of sleep I still feel I had only 4 or so, joint pains, headache, asthma flare-up included. 

Momentos 02-15 04 2022

04. 02. Saturday

Decision fatigue is definitely a thing. I’ve scoured the whole Europen internet for the fabric, came up with 20 candidates – any of which would be okay but none really what I wanted – and you’re telling me I’ll have to pick one now? 

04. 03 Sunday

When I moved to Brussels the coffee truck was my only place to chat with someone – Alfio’s Italian, and I didn’t speak French yet. Over time, I often ran into friends who lived nearby, and even more often made friends (of sorts) with other market-goers over coffee. In the last two years, it was our only social life, Sunday  coffee strictly outdoors, in groups (not-so-)strictly limited at 4 people. 

It’s a regular meetup now – if you want to find me in Brussels, Sunday 11.30 AM at Alfio’s coffee truck is the place. Remember to bring your own cup!

04. 04. Monday

Waking up early – by which I mean, to an alarm, earlier than usual – is painful enough that I wonder if any time I gained may be lost in productivity. With interest. My sleep cycle has been all over the place, though, so I’m not ready to abandon this experiment after the first day, tempted as I am to do so.

04. 05. Tuesday

Activities are on Easter break, so we had friends over for dinner. L. cooked 2 kilos of carbonnades with fries, acting as if he does it every day, and the friends brought the wine. Good, simple fun, good food, good company. 

04. 06. Wednesday

I’m sore, tired and sleep-deprived, and technically, I have less than two hours to record a bunch of videos that I will obviously not do today. Again. 

I sort of regret accepting the couchsurfer who arrives this afternoon. I’ll need to tell him to be gone from here tomorrow during the day so we both can work (and I can record), and reasonable as this request is, it makes me uncomfortable to have to make it.

04. 07. Thursday

I always plan more to film than I actually can. It makes sense: the setup is half the work, so I want to do as much as possible in a single session. But it’s also frustrating, because I always keep on until I’m exhausted, and still I know, every single time, that I haven’t done all I wanted.

04. 08. Friday

Scrambling the whole morning to somehow correct a tech issue. I set up an alternative link and reached out as far as I could to make sure anyone who tried the wrong one would get it, but I’m unsure if people who got discouraged from signing up once can be persuaded again.

04. 09 Saturday

I’ve been wondering if I’m too burnt out to ever enjoy any sort of work again. But here I go, all energised (though not less tired for it) after 10 hours of almost non-stop work.

It helps that I did some 6 different jobs during those hours.

04. 10. Sunday

I prepared everything: recorded, edited, wrote emails and captions, all ready to go tomorrow morning. and THEN I realised I complicated it way too much, that I assumed my audience was as much into this as I was. That I’m trying to communicate so much that my main point will likely be missed entirely. 

I’m glad I have no way to remake it, because if I did, I probably would.

04. 11. Monday

I spent most of the day scouring the entire European Internet to find functional, decent-looking clothing for my cycle trip, and came up mostly empty-handed.

I know clothing isn’t a right, but can I cycle around Europe in my undies then? Because apparently I’m way too fat to be clothed in the outdoors. 

04. 12. Tuesday

This one was lost.

04. 13. Wednesday

You know what happens when you try to fix problems in a hurry? You make even more mistakes. Rinse, repeat, until everything falls apart.

I’ve been sleeping badly, eating whatever and trying to get stuff done non-stop for the last 4 days. Even after I cleared out anything I could from my list. 

I’m still convinced it isn’t that I have objectively more things to do than others, it’s merely a personality trait.

04. 14. Thursday 

Something about inspiration. About needing to be prepared to welcome it. About how rusty the door to that particular space of mine is. Because I’m unprepared these days. 

Or because the pressure to create something amazing is too big, and not yet compensated by the growing pressure of the upcoming deadline. 

04. 15. Friday 

Today’s margin was missing my gym class, which I tell myself is okay because of how much I’ve cycled around. It was good biking, too. 

I’m worried one of these days I won’t be able to get my schedule right by just missing class, and my plans will collapse upon me like a house of cards.

Momentos 03.21 – 04.01.2022

Momentos are small, personal journal entries I write every day (well, mostly). The name and the format are from Niall Doherty, and used with his permission.

The weird date formats are intentional .

03. 21. Monday

Cardio targets are rarely accessible, and progress in the gym difficult to measure – we rarely repeat workouts. Each time I skip a few weeks, like now, it feels I’ve lost all I’d gained the months before. 

And then I go to the gym, still under the cold that kept me away and heavily medicated to keep the corresponding asthma flare-up at bay – and do the 1k row in 4:45, comfortably under the 5-minute target. Twice.

03. 22. Tuesday

I used to enjoy arguing with people about their nonsensical stances, be it about the “female principle” or whether certain kinds of salt are better than others. In hindsight, I think I was naive enough to think I could convince them. 

I pick my battles a lot more carefully these days.

It makes my life easier, but it makes it a lot more difficult to connect to others, too.

03. 23. Wednesday

Nope, not today.

03. 24. Thursday

Not today, either. I never realised the enormity of a task that, no matter how small in itself, has to be repeated EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. 

I might have copied the format, but I already see I need to create a better system for myself. Even if I do manage to build the habit.

03. 25. Friday

Technology tested, slides ready, playlist made, notes finished. Not entirely sure I’ll be able to sleep tonight – more often than not, I can’t when stressed -, but I’m as prepared as can be. 

It feels strange no to be in a last-minute rush.

03. 26. Saturday

My brain tells me my success wasn’t really, that I didn’t really reach my goal, that it should have been better.

But, for once, I disagree with it. I feel elated. I want to celebrate.

So I called a couple of friends,and my partner, and we went out to eat the best shrimp croquettes in town. 

Life is good today.

03. 27. Sunday

She’s often made it clear that she thinks I’m a weirdo. And yet, I wanted to make friends with her – but our conversation often felt awkward and forced to me.

Figure my surprise when, just the two of us at our regular friend-group hangout, we chatted easily for almost two hours.

03. 28. Monday

I have both not that much and an ovewhelming amount of things to do. At the same time. I’m paralysed.

03. 29. Tuesday

I don’t think I’ll ever undersand why a man from the US would think it appropriate to explain, not just once but several fucking times, that “the Arabs ruled the Iberian peninsula until 1492” – to a bunch of Spanish women.

03. 30. Wednesday

I wrote out all the thing I need to get done before leaving for Hungary, and nicely scheduled each item. On paper, it almost looks feasible.

If only I didn’t know that my whole schedule will go off the rails right away tomorrow morning.

03. 31. Thursday

Let’s put those potatoes into the oven now, they take a while.

Well, if I still want to go out, we have to eat something else, there’s not enough time.

By the time dinner’s ready, I will be super late.

Surely I’m not going to bike across town, in this miserable weather, without having dinner, to be late for a meetup? 

Noone will miss me anyways.

04. 01. Friday

There’s something about having a friend who can come over lunch and comfortably stay for the afternoon while we both have to work. 

I kept excusing myself, of course – the plan had been to actively spend the afternoon with my friend, not just have him here while I do my stuff. 

We did have time to make some cookies together, though.