Two weeks ago we set off from Dartford to cross the Kent countryside on our way to Dover, Dunkirk and beyond. We are currently relaxing in a campsite just outside of Arnhem in the Netherlands and hope to be crossing the border into Germany tomorrow. It feels like pretty good progress so far and our legs are gradually gathering the necessary strength needed to power through the kilometres
In reality, our progress in terms of distance covered is nowhere near what it could be if we really got our heads down and rode hard every day. Initially this bothered us. Sometimes we have decided to stop cycling three or four hours before sunset and find a campsite to enjoy the evening sunshine and other times we have woken up and decided spontaneously on a rest day when the open road is there begging to be explored. Were we being lazy? Were we too slow? Were we having too many ‘rest days’?
Gradually we are coming to terms with the fact that this trip is not just an ‘A to B’ journey, this is a new lifestyle; a way of living that strips away many of the unnecessary distractions of modern life. We are not in a race, we don’t have to set any land speed records here and we don’t have to be rushing. This is an unfortunate symptom of city life: rushing. Day-to-day lives are played out at a hundred miles an hour with constant stimulation and a neglect of simple down time.
From the vantage point of a saddle the world goes by slowly. There is time to take in our surroundings, breath in the air, pay attention to the scents of a country, the warmth of the sun, the coldness of the nights, the damp freshness of mornings; time to notice the landscapes morph from cityscapes to farmland to forest and back again. To this end, our ‘rest days’ are a vital aspect of our trip, allowing time to just be. Sit on the grass with a book, start a diary, maybe take some photos, simply sit back and listen to the wind rustling the leaves or, in my case, make a coffee!
Slowing down has become an important part of our lifestyle on this journey and is certainly a lesson that we hope to take into our normal lives once we return home. Our riding could be faster, our distances could be greater, but part of this simplified life is the ability to enjoy quietness and stillness, to slow down and pay attention to where you are and appreciate this amazing opportunity we have given ourselves to cycle to Estonia.