Without fail, the worst part of any of my adventures is the pre-journey jitters. I become so stressed out, anxious, filled with self-doubt and downright scared of what I am about to embark upon.
This upcoming cross-Europe bicycle trip is no different as I am slowly turning into a nervous wreck, wondering if it will go as planned, if I will gather enough funds to cover my expenses, if I will raise enough funds for World Bicycle Relief, if I will manage to navigate the language barriers in countries where English and French are not readily spoken, if I am fit for it, if my bike and equipment are in top-notch condition and so much more that I hesitate to list here because it will merely exacerbate those fears.
On paper, this should be my easiest ride. On paper.
My first ride across Canada in mainly winter on a fixed-gear bike will forever be the most challenging as it was the first adventure in my life; the winter seasons were brutal and the bicycle with only one gear made matters even more challenging.
The second ride across Canada in 2020 was easy from a pedalling perspective as I was a now seasoned cyclist and I had a bike with plenty of gears but logistically it was tedious as the lockdown made finding accommodation difficult.
Most establishments had been forced to remain shut due to a lack of travellers and the few available ones were all booked, not merely because of the shortage of supply but due to increased activity as some provinces used that slowdown to repair some highways. Consequently, all the construction workers, who hailed from far, booked all the available rooms for months.
The trip around the USA in 2022, my most recent one, was comfortable to ride except in truly windy segments; since the country is populated, it was not a challenge to find accommodation and financially it was rather affordable. My only issues there were minor, mainly related to some motorists not in the mood to share the roads that I was legally allowed to ride on.
This North Cape, Norway to Tarifa, Spain, odyssey is a very popular journey worldwide and it has been accomplished by a number of riders. Europe is more bicycle friendly which means that I should be safe being on roadways with motor vehicle traffic and most countries have a high density which means that I will never feel in the middle of nowhere as there will always be a community within 100 km (62 miles) even in the Northern regions which are less populated.
So what is causing me so much angst?
I believe it is the fear of the unknown and financial stability. I have read countless journals of previous travellers to those parts and it does not seem bad at all but it appears that I only trust my own observations. Therefore, only when I start pedalling will I have a clear idea and good or bad, I will feel much better because I will be in control… so perhaps control is the issue. Once I am in contact with potential obstacles then I will be able to work on them!
The financial aspects always make me nervous because so many things can go wrong, and despite reading that in most countries I will be more than fine except the Northern ones, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark, where accommodation and food can be quite costly.
As I write this, I realise that it is Northern Europe that is giving me pre-journey jitters, so putting them on paper just shed light on my fears and perhaps I can address them better now that I can identify them. So, thank goodness for me wanting to write this blog post for those who are not on social media or who are not fans of Instagram and Facebook, the platforms I am most active on!
That is quite an epiphany, upon reflection.
Once I ride past the four Northern European countries and get into Germany, heading all the way to Spain, I have enough family members, friends and fans to turn to should things go awry. I also know that their cities and towns are so close to each other that I do not have to pedal 100 km (62 miles) if I am not feeling up to it to reach the next community. The maps show that there are always reasonably sized communities every 50 km (31 miles) or so!
So I suppose that now I have figured out what is gnawing at me, I can focus on the part of the trip which is causing the most stress, North Cape, Norway to Copenhagen, Denmark, which according to my planning should take me 20 days, including rest and recovery ones.
It is also the weather there that is puzzling me. It will be summer, but in Northern Europe, which is close to the Arctic, it means 12°C (54°F) which can be warm or cold depending on humidity and wind and as I travel south things will warm up but again it will vary.
That means that packing for such weather whilst trying to be as nimble and light as possible, because all that weight slows down in the wind and on the climbs, is a challenge. However, I believe that I will just be crafty about it in a post that I will share in another article, not to clutter up this one.
Now that I know what is stressing me out, it is time to start stressing about how to stop stressing about what is stressing me out.
This is a post by JaBig, a Canadian DJ who is about to cycle across Europe from North Cape, Norway to Tarifa to raise funds for World Bicycle Relief, in addition to embarking on a dream adventure of a lifetime.