Tag Archives: Try Something New

What I Learned from Traveling a Country by Bike

I learned that the physical act of riding my bicycle was only the beginning. It was hard, yes, but I was preparing for that. I knew I’d be slow and tired and then beyond tired…physically.

What I didn’t realize was how exhausted I would become mentally. And emotionally. Spending all day then all night camping with the same 2 people can really start to dig in. We got at each others throats, and usually not because they actually did anything bad or wrong. Usually it was each of us dealing with our own bodies pain and exhaustion and our patience was just worn out.

I became good at apologizing. And accepting apologies. We all learned how to talk through what we were going through in an open, supportive way. We learned we were %100 on a Character Building Tour. And I learned and grew SO much I can hardly believe it was only 3 months.

I learned how to get over my pride. Sometimes…

I didn’t know Spanish and was afraid of messing up…I was not a serious biker before this and was embarrassed at my lack of strength and know-how…I didn’t like being told I have qualities that are less than acceptable, and then having to apologize for acting out…but all of those things were overcome and worked through. I learned to laugh it off.

I learned that I still suck at packing. We all waaaay over packed.

I learned that I can do way more than I think I can.

And most importantly I learned that the occasional impromptu dance party can make the worst of days infinitely beautiful again.

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Bike Tour Complete: Check!

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.

It feels like a dream.
I can’t believe it happened.
I can’t believe the two people who I spent nearly every minute of everyday together for three months are got on planes the other day and I don’t know when I’ll see them again.
The trip was a whirlwind. Everything happened “about a week ago” and yet an eternity has passed. It’s a typical way for travelers to feel, I know that. But this trip was not just about seeing cool places. This trip was a game changer.
It changed forever the way I want to explore. It changed the way I view challenges. The way I handle things that seem scary. And most importantly, it changed the way I view myself.
I learned my worst habits are the words I use to describe myself and what I can and cannot do. I focus on the negative and create a vocabulary full of phrases like “I can’t” and “I’m not ____enough”. Strong enough. Fast enough. Smart enough. Good enough.
And I learned saying these things enough times is enough to piss off the people who do believe I am enough. This trip put me in a bad place mentally (at first)  because I told myself repeatedly I couldn’t do it. Everyday I’d struggle and think, I should just quit. And all the while my travel companions were pissed that I was pissed. They were pissed because I was bringing down the mood, and mostly they were pissed because they believed I could do it.
And then there was the hill two weeks in that made me %100 sure that it was going to be my last day riding. And then immediately after that was the most beautiful, wonderful, perfect ride through one of my favorite parts of Colombia and suddenly everything changed. Suddenly I was fully enjoying myself and wanting more of what I had just experienced. I wasn’t totally cured, but it made a huge difference in my thought process for riding every day.
That’s something you don’t learn sitting at home on your tush or in a therapy session. This tour became my therapy; and every step of the way was something to be learned. I was learning about myself, about my friends, about Colombians, about biking about nature, about everything!
.IMG_0026..all of that post was written a few days after arriving back in the states. It’s now almost a month later. I’m not sure what my point was there (as happens a lot with me), but take what you can from it. I watched a TedTalks on my flight and there was something he said that really stuck out to me: he said that confidence compounds. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything more true in my life. Surround yourself with the type of people you want to be like and learn from them. I did that this winter. And all I accomplished allows me to continue to compound my confidence, which I had little of beforehand.
Life is still happening and moving forward, though I wish I could be forever suspended in my Colombian Bike Tour. Now comes the fun part of figuring out how to put what I’ve learned into practice. Wish me luck!

New Ways of Adventuring: Cycle-Touring

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

GLbikeride

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!

 

BRbikerideyoga

Awkward Dance Party

A little view into my time in Europe this past year. It started about 3 months into the trip when I bought a new camera…next step: hire a camera man/woman.

These are a few of the people who made an impact on my trip. Friends visiting me from the US. Couch Surfing hosts. Hostel Friends. Random people I met in the city.

Enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsFzU7ZrVdc

https://vimeo.com/112664874

 

**sorry, it might not work in all European countries

Surfing: a Successful Mess

Despite having lived in California for 3 years, I never went surfing. It always sounded like a cool idea, but I just never got around to it. I finally got the opportunity in Portugal for a free half lesson. Apparently half lessons are a thing…

(In case you’re curious, this lesson came from a fair where I had to take a ‘surf quiz’ to try to ‘win’ a free lesson. I didn’t even know what the phrase ‘hang 10’ meant and received total score of 2/10. I still got the free lesson. They were giving them away)

I had the option to go early in the day with the kids, or to hang out for a few hours and go later with the adults. In a moment of panic I chose the kids.

I was nervous and alone and just wanted to go and get it done with. However,  if I had known the coach was going to make us run and warm up on the beach and that all of the kids’ (about 8-12 yrs old by the way) parents were going to be watching, maaayyybe I would have chosen to wait.

Now let’s keep in mind that despite years of ballet training, I am as awkward and clumsy with the best of them when it comes to day to day life. Step 1: put on a wet suit. Step 2: Carry a long surf board across an extremely long and extremely windy beach and get it in the water past all the huge waves crashing into shore? haha riiiight.

I am surprised there is even an ocean left considering how much of it I swallowed or inhaled that day. Sometimes, it was not even because I fell off my board. Sometimes, it was because I was waiting for a wave to pass and it ended up being more massive than I expected and so it tried to drown me. I felt like an idiot. A lot.

I did however actually manage to stand up a few times. I get it now. Surfing is addicting. I always wanted one more wave no matter how tired my muscles were.

After a few more hours (and a slightly less awkward than I expected experience of taking off my wetsuit), the surf company dropped me back at a bus stop so I could catch a ride back to Lagos. And me being my awesome self forgot it was Sunday and that buses don’t run as often sooo I ended up waiting 3 hours by the side of the road…

It was cold and while I was listening to my ipod I started dancing to stay warm. Sometimes I was doing the lip sync for a music video. Sometimes it was contemporary modern. The cars driving by were not impressed.

Overall it was a good day. I want to go surfing again with out a doubt. If anything I have to get one of those mandatory ‘Look at Me Next to a Surf Board’ pictures that I didn’t get my first time around because I was too embarrassed to ask.

IMG_2638

Swing Dancing at Madame Moustache, Brussels

Making plans to use Couch-Surfing in Brussels for a few nights, there were not a large pool to choose from, but the message I got back from one guy had me sold:

“Hi Caitlin, I can only host you for 1 night because I am going out of town, but Tuesday is my swing dancing night is that ok?”

Swing dance in Belgium? Sure!

I left the train station and headed towards Madame Moustachesomeplace I recommend anyone to visit just for the atmosphere. It’s designed like an antique circus, freak show acts not included. A room was sectioned off with glass doors for smoking and there was a large wooden floor just for dancing.

My new host immediately bought me a nice beer and then led me out onto the dance floor. Did I mention there was a live swing band? Because there was, and it was wonderful. My host stayed with me for the first few songs to teach me the basic steps gradually getting a bit more advanced. Since I have been dancing since I was 8, I consider myself pretty musical and a fairly quick learner. However, it didn’t hurt that he was also a really good leader so I had to do was basically keep moving my feet…

There were all types of people there; old and young, beginner and very advanced. And for each song everyone changed partners. The young and advanced danced with the old; women danced with women; people who were very serious with people just there to have a good time. I always had a new partner and each time I clarified “I’m a beginner”, although I did have a few steps under my belt. There was no pressure. No embarrassment for mistakes. No time to rest. And no cares in the world.

Dancing like this, for fun, with no pressure and not trying to impress anyone doesn’t happen too often in the world of dance I grew up in. I’m used to the idea of competing with others around me, or trying to impress the teacher whether in class or auditions. This night I was free. It was bliss. I never wanted this night to end.

At one point in the night I did stop twirling to enjoy a beer so I could stand back and take it all in. Moments like these are not only the things I enjoy about traveling, but life in general.

How to Live in a Beach Town, Part 2

Whether you are there short term or long-term, to live or to vacay, please, PLEASE avoid these things:

1. No posting pictures of any of these things:

a- your feet in the sand
b- your hot-dog legs on the beach
c- a picture of yourself taken while lying down so no one can see your face
d- sunsets
e- your fruity drink with a sunset in the background. or just, at all

Why, you ask?

a- feet are gross. sand is sand. done and done.
b- stupid
c- stupid and narcissistic
d- **unless you can light it properly
e- a mojito is a mojito everywhere. it only looks worse with a horribly lit sunset in the back

To put it simply- no one cares.

2. Don’t wear the same sandals everyday. Tan lines, hellooooo

3. DON’T stand in the middle of the sidewalk. Ever. As a tourist and as a human on planet Earth. Move. To. The.  Side.

4. Don’t forget to eat ice-cream at least once a day

5. Don’t judge me for eating so much ice-cream. It’s summer and I’m on holiday.  Seriously.

Now check out the things you SHOULD do🙂