I am at Bari airport in Puglia, east Italy, during a 16 hour stop-over. Getting through the silence of the night on a bench in the main hall where your privacy is secured by armrests on both sides which makes sleeping in here almost impossible to do because you’d have to be able to bend your body in all kinds of ways. A night to contemplate and think about the last couple of months. A period filled with contrasts and it has been such a rollercoaster. Half a year, it has gone by so quickly.
It was sometime in April that I arrived on the small island of Elba after a long journey. After almost 7000 kilometres on my Santos bike, over mountains and through valleys not only literally but also emotionally and physically. Crossing the mountains of Northern Spain, Portugal, Spain, France and Italy and then, all of sudden there was Elba. I wrote about it earlier when another cyclist told me to not travel alongside the shore, but to cross all the islands. Those islands are beautiful. And that is how I came to read about Elba and about Elba travels. Hurray for the internet, I got in contact and planned to cycle to and on Elba and meet some people over there. I bought a ticket in Piombino, took the bike on the boat and with the wind in my hair I went to an island, that I didn’t know by then, would be my home for such a long time. Something already happened to me while I was at sea, somewhere off the coast of Italy, I could feel it happening. It is a remarkable place, in many ways, and to me it is a place where I’ve got to know myself even better. It is funny how you may think that you have it all figured out sometimes and then life happens and you are confronted with completely different things. Life is interesting at times.
At Elba, I started at Elba Travels and very soon I became location manager for this really great company with Dutch roots, specialized in holidays with a sportive touch.
That is when you notice what a job like that requires, as well as at the beginning of the season and of course during the season. It means having to get up early every day, going to bed really late, being surrounded by people, worry all the time, entertain the guests and taking care of all kinds of things. I was being lived by someone else the last five months. That doesn’t give much space or time for your own emotions and reflections. Of course, the guests are the most important and that lasts 24/7. It was quite an experience, a really wonderful experience and although it is pretty nice to not having to puzzle and think all the time, this was the complete opposite and you could lose yourself in this hectic life.
So after the most busy period I had the space and time and that means to me that all of sudden I just have to deal with everything at once. It is like some sort of an eruption. Elba does not have a volcano, but I almost was one. The tiredness, the emotions and thoughts were unstoppable and that in a period in which I didn’t have the time to take it on and try to solve it.
I decided to go to the Dolomites for a week. Time to be alone, to think, to get my thoughts in order and to think ahead. Not too far ahead, but sometime in the near future. The season came to its end, the tents were packed and “winter is coming”. What will I be doing?
It is still hard for me, I do not want to be stuck somewhere, but having all the freedom in the world without a goal doesn’t work for me either. The emotions came back, the thoughts were far from positive to be honest.
I didn’t really feel happy and subsequently I felt bad about not being happy. I didn’t have a good explanation at that moment. Was it the tiredness? Was it a piling of feelings and thoughts I had had over the last couple of months?
Maybe it is a mix of both.
Do I miss my ex-girlfriend, is she still in my system?
Do I want to continue cycling?
Where will I go?
Do I want some stability for now?
Long story short; it is an ocean of questions and I don’t have the answers. Emotions that accompanied these questions, I started fighting with them and then handle them with care. Sort my emotions in my head, live through them and rearrange them. The dolomites and the trips I made there were the perfect way of ‘walking it off’.
Allright, solving the questions, that is a whole different story. And actually, you don’t have to solve everything on the spot. It does help when those moments of standing still are followed by progress. Don’t linger in in those moments of standing still too long, that is what I was making clear to myself as well. Walking and climbing in those Dolomites was the perfect metaphor in order to get moving and especially in order to keep moving. You have to, there is no choice. Not even I can find answers to all my emotions and questions strait a way, I too need some time, but to linger in them isn’t good for me as well. It is a special feeling though, ignoring the emotions doesn’t work, you have to realise they are there, but they are not you. Especially in order to get to the real questions, the ones that are beneath the surface.
A blog like this one, written at an airport in the south of Italy is my proof. I am moving again, I am on my way to new horizons. And even though I take a piece of all of the puzzles with me, I now know that after that half a year of working my ass off I need some time to be free again, relax and give myself some rest in order to work from there.
I fly to Crete, the famous Greek island
This is where I will be relaxing and regaining my energy to be myself again. Hitting the gym, eating healthy and building a new social life there will do me some good. Around the 18th of October I will travel to Asia and I’ll start in my beloved Thailand.
I am going to do a month-long hardcore boxing camp over there.
Work out over 5 hours a day with a balanced diet and the possibility to train the mind as well. I am really looking forward to it, I notice I need the physical challenges and those challenges help me strengthening the brain as well.
This means that I am offering ‘the Beast’, my bike, some rest as well. It needs a well-deserved rest and especially some fixing up. The choice was a difficult one to me, but it feels good now. ‘The Beast’ will be ready for new travels in the future, but for now I will not be cycling much in the near future. More than 10,000 kilometres have we done together, very much okay for now. The 40,000 kilometres I was trying to do don’t all have to be done right now. I can decide when and where I will continue. I did have to think about this choice, but this is it for real.
I am sitting next to a backpack, just hand luggage, actually everything I still own. Even less than when I still had my bike with me, just the basics; some underwear, socks, sweatpants, trousers, a shirt, some toiletries and a book. Simple really.
I bought a single ticket, so it is a completely open future, no clues as to what I will encounter and that feels good. It is exciting as well and that is exactly what I want.
Who knows what will happen. A year ago I could not have believed that I was going to slave away on the bike for 6 months and then work on one of the most beautiful islands of Europe in the same year.
The last year was also the time that I realised that I am pretty ambitious and I like that.
I probably do have the urge to take on a challenging position and focus on nice results. During my time in Elba I also realized that I when I am working, I like to organise, manage and get good results. Not just hanging around, but really go for it. One condition is that it has to fit me, it has to be some sort of passion to me. At Elba I got to do what I have always wanted and maybe I will get into another role like this or perhaps I will start my own company and organise wonderful journeys, trails and adventures, or who knows what my future will bring… I now use all the experiences that I gain and I notice how important that is.
Earning a steady income while cycling is something that I couldn’t achieve. Which meant that I needed to work for a period of time. Did I fail because it hadn’t worked out how I would have liked to?
Not to me, it doesn’t feel like failing, because it was another wonderful and informative year and I have done it in my own way. Experiences, events, I would like to write about it and make pictures and share them with everyone, but in the routine of meetings with companies that are willing to follow or sponsor me I did not (yet) wanted to write about it.
Not necessarily simpler, much more insecure, but still the pure, the core that is important to me. Honest and sincere.
I will never forget the months in winter when I was slaving away on the bike through Portugal, Spain and France as well as the realisation that cycling is a passion of mine. I am not going to choose to be alone for such a long period of time again, being the lonely biker, that is truly hard for me and I do not want to be that anymore. Of course, I did it myself with my small budget, my little tent and my own routes, but this is not how I am going to do it again. And still, who was the one that decided to do it like that? ‘you will see it when you catch on to it.’ he is right. It is about development, discovering and growth. Growing is painful sometimes, developing is a process. Sometimes a little bit more the hard way and sometimes the easy way, as if the wind is blowing you somewhere.
In the digital world it is no longer needed to ‘develop’ your photos, the younger generation will not exactly know what it means, but it is a good metaphor. You take a picture, many pictures and then you develop them and only then can you see what is real. Sometimes life is like that, even in our digital world, you take a lot of pictures, in real life, on your phone, your camera and in your mind and sometimes you have to develop them in order to know what is real again. This will lead to growing, moving and can be a stable base for the next steps. Well, I am right in the middle of it, I choose this.
The best thing is, I am moving on, in my way, on my route. Being and living pure and sincere.
 A quote of Johan Cruijff.