When I think about the first time I loaded a bicycle with panniers and peddled off to my first destination, alarms go off. I bought a bicycle and all the gear without having any prior knowledge or experience of bicycle touring. I had no idea, yet I still thought the idea of travelling by bicycle would be liberating, an experience I just had to have.
I bought a cheap bicycle in Korea just to get out and about. The idea of travelling by bicycle never crossed my mind. I did short distances, cycled around Bomun Lake, visited temples, ancient tombs and explored a few places off the beaten track. On my 26th birthday I had one goal in mind: to cycle 30km. I did it and felt a huge sense of accomplishment. 30km was a big “wow” – when I look back at it now; it was kindergarten.
I pimped my cheap bicycle out – I bought a plastic container, made holes in the bottom and tied it on the rack with cable ties. I put snacks and a few in-case-supplies in it. The bicycle was a superman-gypsy – a bit wannabe, a bit geeky. Then I did 50km and with an aching butt I got an idea: how cool would it be to travel this way?
I started to Google and was astonished when I found out that I’m not the only who had ideas like this. Thousands of people are doing it all over the world – some are even doing it for years at a time with no plan to stop. The stories I read was intriguing. A whole new world unfolded in front of me. I just had to do it.
I walked blindly into the whole bicycle touring thing. I only had a vision; no experience, no decent level of fitness and no knowledge.
After my time in South Korea came to an end in October 2012 I boarded a plane to Indonesia, bought my Surly Troll and Ortlieb panniers, ready for the journey of a lifetime… but I still had no idea what to expect.
I set off the first morning from Jimbaran to Sanur, my speed-o-meter read 0.00km. I was hooked. I still remember it took me about 3 days to figure out how to roll down the panniers before you clip them in. I learned a lot of things – nothing about fixing a bicycle – but about myself. I learned to trust strangers; they are not as bad as the world make them out to be. I learned that an early morning start will mean less hours in a merciless sun. I learned to observe. I learned that I have to spin the quick release exactly four times to get my front wheel off. I learned that you’ll always find something special at the top of a hill. I learned that it is okay to get off the bicycle and push. I learned about pushing myself beyond my own manmade limits. I learned about momentum and that you have to keep pedaling downhill to keep that momentum. I learned that less is really more. I learned that I’m extremely stubborn and if you tell me I can’t do something I’ll show you I can.
Travelling by bicycle is a special kind of special for me – sometimes I don’t even want to share it.
I have not figured it all out exactly. I’m still learning. I still don’t know the “why” of the question why I’m doing it – I can’t think of a better answer than: Because I want to, because I like it and because I can. I’m pretty sure seeking adventure on a bicycle is in my blood. The “what” will always be me and my lovely “Koos”; until death parts us. The future of the “where” and “when” will always be a mystery as long as I’m Going Somewhere Slowly.