I’ve been sitting here all day trying to think of what I can say to sum up my trip as it comes to an end. I still have a million more posts to write about our adventures; time just flew by. And yet here I am without words. All of the places and people and views and moments are flashing through my mind on a continuous reel forcing me to relive my time in Colombia.
Being on a bike tour and spending virtually all my time with the same two people is teaching me a lot more about myself than I expected. Bike touring is hard physically, yes, but also emotionally and psychologically.
Im learning that I like to keep things barried deep down, ignored, forgotten, and blissfully unaware of how what I do affects other people. And then when I’m told I’m not perfect it’s like, wait, WHAT?! How could that possibly be!
Turns out that at the ripe old age of 27 I still don’t know what I’m doing. About anything. Dealing with people, dealing with myself, dealing with people dealing with my self. It’s hard. And I give myself a hard time about it which probably makes me even harder to deal with.
I’m lucky to be traveling with two people that are patient, honest, open, and most importantly, caring. We hadn’t known each other for too long before we decided to take this trip together and it only hit how true that was once things started getting hard. And things have been harrrrd.
This whole trip has been a HUGE learning experience. After a long or hard or hot day of riding no one wants to do anything. I especially just feel like collapsing on the ground wherever I happen to end up. I want off my bike asap. But I can’t. We have to find a hotel or set up camp and start cooking and I have to try to not be a cranky child tagging along. We have to work hard all the time to basically fight our natural reactions in that exhausted state so we can work together to get whatever needs to be done, done.
I feel overwhelmed a lot of the time. It’s hard for me to process so much so quickly. Not only am I learning to deal with riding harder than I ever have before and finding that deep down whatever in me that believes I can even do what it is I’m doing, I am learning to have a more open communication about what I need/ want (something that is surprisingly difficult considering how much I like to talk), trying to be aware of my mood affecting others, I’m trying to learn Spanish, stay hydrated, apologize- a lot, save money, plan ahead, have opinions even when it’s too hot to think and of course, have fun. My brain is on overload.
I love Colombia. A lot. And we are already looking back at those moments that were tense and stressful for one- or all- of us and laughing. Ish. We’ve all had our moments. What we are learning is how to handle them within ourselves as well as what to do when it’s someone else. Do they want help? Do they want to be left alone? Do they just need some cookies to feel better?
A few days ago we started off riding as usual. The ride was decently beautiful and all was well. Early on in the day we had two options- go 2k, see the largest lake in South America and camp for the night possibly someplace really awesome, but then ride 110k the next day to get to our destination: Mompóz. Or, we could keep riding towards Mompóz and not camp near a lake.
We chose the lake. And it was not what we expected. We were told the water was not safe to swim in which was a huge let down. We went to the place we were told to camp and Sams bike got infested with red ants. We were hungry. It was a million degrees out. No one could decide what to do. We were biting heads off left and right. Food and cold drinks didn’t help this time. We decided to go find a different place to camp by the lake… Then we were going to leave town… Then we decided to stay.
We stayed. We sat in chairs by the water, still in bike clothes, drinking a beer and not talking to each other. But after we had cooled off a bit we started chatting with some locals and a young kid asked us randomly if we wanted a picture of all 3 of us by the lake. It turned into this mini photo shoot of us being silly having to act like we liked each other for the picture. And they ended up being the best pictures of our trip so far. We look so happy. And it perfectly depicts us at our best. Which at the time, we weren’t.
I’m not sure that that actually has a point, it’s just a moment that gave us perspective. In the time it took us to stand up and take those photos, we were right back to our usual bubbly, teasing selves. And now that horrible day is captured forever in a series of amazing pictures. I guess what I’m trying to say is Bike Terrr is serious business, but it’s also insanely awesome.
If someone had asked me a year ago what I would be doing now- I think I’d have said something like “I don’t know, maybe moving to Portland?” or “I don’t know, maybe going to travel Australia?” or “umm, I don’t know…” **awkwardly changes subject**
What I wouldn’t have said was “Bicycle touring around Colombia with 2 people I just met a few months ago who, like me, have never done anything like this before”.
But hey, life is full of surprises! In less than 2 days I will be off to South America to explore Colombia, Ecuador and Peru by bike for 3 months. Things I’m feeling right now: excited, nervous, ready, unprepared, pumped up, freaking out, scared, and SO HAPPY.
Since I have the “I Want To Go Everywhere” version of wanderlust, South America was of course included in my To-Do List. But seeing it by bike? Not even on my radar. Not until my friend essentially told me that’s what we were going to do and I surprisingly agreed.
After 2 months of planning and researching and purchasing, I have my bike (a Surly Long Haul Trucker) all supped up with racks and panniers, loads of new gear including SheBeest cycle shorts (the best most comfortable shorts ever), and for the first time ever bike shoes with clip pedals. And yes, I did fall once while clipped in. And yes, it was near a busy intersection where plenty of people got to watch. #winning
It was difficult for me at first to fully commit to doing a bike tour. I am used to traveling by bus/train/plane and living out of a backpack ready to move and adventure at a moments notice. Adding a bike to the mix complicates things. What if I want to go on a trekking tour for example, where do I leave my bike? I don’t want to miss out on the experiences I am used to having…
…On the flip side, there is a whole new world opened up to me by traveling by bike. All of those little villages and towns my train zooms past are now available to explore at my leisure. All of the beautiful nature I miss by being in a plane? Now I will be right in the thick of it! And all of the locals I’ll get to meet by camping out in farms, or fire stations or having to ask for directions..they will surely add to my positive experience!
And that’s basically as far as my thought process has taken me. There’s only so much reading other people’s blogs and looking at maps can do until I am actually down there. The plan is to stop someplace after a while to find a farm or school or hostel to work in, partly as a cultural experience and partly as a rest for our bums.
So cheers to new adventures!
**wish us luck!
I’m going to make a huge generalization here, so bare with me. I think there are 2 types of people in this world:
Group People and Solo People.
Group People need to have someone with them to go grocery shopping. They’ve probably always had a ‘core’ group of friends from high school and college. The group parties together. Hangs out every day together. Went on “Spring Break 2010 wooooo!!” together.
Solo People go to dinner and a movie by themselves just for fun. They have friends, but none of them are connected to each other. They hang out, just the 2 or 3 of them, when their schedules match up. Solo people can be quite introverted, but are not always.
Now, I realize that everyone has their days/weeks/years in the opposite group, but I think you are basically one or the other. One is not better or worse, it just affects how you are going to travel.
I travel to experience the culture of the country and to connect with the people I meet, be them locals or travelers like myself. My whole life I’ve been surrounded by people from school and work and just pick out 1 or 2 as friends. And once I’ve found you, that’s it, we’re friends for life. No matter how many miles separate us or how long it’s been since we’ve met, why would travel be any different for me?
I was once told, by a group person in reference to me taking a solo trip to Europe, that fun is only real when shared. Meaning, why take a huge trip like that alone? When I come back I will have no one to share those memories with and then…what’s the point?
UM NO. No. At the time it just brushed over me. But now it really bothers me. I am clearly a Solo Person. I’ll admit it took some time to accept, I mean, having a constant group of friends around my life sounds great, but it’s not me. But just because I start a trip alone doesn’t mean it will end that way.
I will always enjoy those single-serve-we-stayed-in-the-same-hostel friends; they are great fun. But along the way I have also found some really special people I consider true friends. I have met them all when I was on my own; making those close connections becomes much harder when you are already with some one (though not impossible). To me, it doesn’t matter if we live in the same city or country, they are the people I share these memories with.
So no, when I go back to the US I won’t have someone to call up to reminisce about our time together in Europe. But who’s to say I will end up in the US anyways? I’m used to having a scattering of friends around the world, why put off taking a trip just because I can’t find someone to go with me?
So for the Group People out there, I hope that someday you can find the courage to take even the smallest of trips on your own to see what you can learn about yourself and the world around you. Your group will be there for you when you return.
**Side note: I have taken planned trips with friends before and have loved EVERY minute of them. I am not against people traveling with friends, I’m just saying it’s ok and wonderful and fantastic and thrilling to venture out alone as well and see where life takes you.