A short cycle through western Europe (part 8)…


It was really strange when we arrived back in England. I stopped into Lidl to buy some sandwiches and everyone was speaking, English. It sounded so strange, so painfully familiar. It hit me hard. We were back, the trip was over. It was so sad. It had only been 3 months, and I guess we weren’t ready to come back. We caught a train up to London and spent a couple of days with our mate Andy, which soon had us back in good spirits. And then, a couple of mornings after, we dashed over to King’s cross without a minute to spare, to catch our train up north.

Getting to Edinburgh was nice. It’s a nice place to return to. It’s very welcoming. Especially if you’ve got a pal to meet you with a hug and a beer at the train station. We hadn’t planned on going back there, so it was a surprise for everyone involved; but a pleasant surprise, I think. And eventually we would settle back in.

We had a fair few stories to tell people, a few tales, a few anecdotes. It had been a good adventure; we’d seen lot. It perhaps didn’t last as long as we’d hoped it would; our travels usually stretched at least 6 months and became a way of life, rather than just a single trip. But it had been enjoyable and we’d visited a lot of different places.

It had been different to our usual travel experiences in many other ways too. This is good, this is what you want, a bit of variety. But I guess we just didn’t know how to not “hobo” it. It was the first time we’d ever travelled with money. We’d usually start with nothing and just do lots of busking. It was strange having access to so much cash, and we found it difficult trying to ration it all out. This actually became a source of great frustration for me; I was worrying about it too much, using the steady depletion as some kind of measure to the trips’ remaining life.

Staying in camp sites had been quite different too; that was something we hadn’t really done much either. We always wild-camped, that was a kind of rule. But here, on this trip, we’d stayed in camp sites nearly every night. And it was pretty nice, if I’m honest. Not every day, it’s best to spend most of your time alone with a patch of nature; but certainly after a few days roughing it. Having access to showers, plugs, toilets, it can be quite refreshing. And not having to stealth-camp in places where you fear for your safety, well, that’s always good too.

We’d been a bit more organised on the whole I guess. We didn’t know exactly what route we were going to take, and we didn’t have any map books; but we had plenty of tools and provisions. I think being prepared perhaps takes a little away from the tales you create, you don’t end up finding yourself in such ridiculous situations as you would on a complete whim. But it depends on what kind of trip you want. If you want some wild adventure, some tale to tell, you’re probably better off moving short distances and indulging in the details. Climb a mountain. Swim a river. Crawl through a sewer. Learn all about the intricacies and let every moment move you. But if you want to see different lands, to catch a glimpse of different peoples, different places, before moving on to the next one, well, something like this would probably suit. We were getting older. We’d done more than our fair share of chancing it. Besides, this was our honeymoon, so we wanted to move in some amount of comfort; despite how strange traversing in this way had been for us.

It had been a great trip on the whole. We’d seen a lot. It was both of our first proper trek through the continent, even though it was quite short. And the cultures were very, very similar to that of Britain. But the small, quirky details; the slightly different shades of light; the subtle changes in tones; it was all quite impressionable. We’d had a good slow ride, pedalling about 700km in total, 435 miles. And as always, it was the natural landscapes which we had enjoyed the most. But the towns, the cities, the people, they too had left their mark; especially once we continued on the trains.

For people who’ve been around the world, seen vast differences in lifestyles, climates, terrain, this trip might seem rather tame, even insignificant. But for me and Adri, and Rags, we’d returned home feeling a slight more cultured. And it would keep our wandering hearts satisfied, for a while at least…

Enjoy this story? Then you might like my book, ‘At Home in the Bushes’. It’s about a year I spent cycling, wild-camping & busking around Britain. You can order your copy for £10 now!


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