Chapter 5: The End, a new beginning

All travels have an end. Known or unknown, there is always an end. It is easy to identify: it is what has changed when we are back.

Whatever you believe in, the goal has different shapes, smells, sensations… which depend in our personalities, the kind of person we are, and also the personal experience we pull out of the travel. The layout is different for everyone.

This travel, my travel, was a bunch of all kinds of events. I was happy to confirm that, when things don’t go according to plan, when they go wrong, when motivation drops, when it falls off, when thoughts about “giving up” appear, when concentration is wasted and the little of it focuses in the problem, when being along, resourceless, wrongly believing that all options are gone, then, just then, as always: keep on going forward.

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After some beautiful days and charged batteries, Amsterdam stayed behind and, once again, I was cycling South in the middle of a heatwave, blue skies and temperatures reaching 30ºC. This, on a bike for more than 5 hours is not ideal. But… keep on going forward.

Flatlands, few canals with trees to shelter and slow winds turned 100km in a crazy adventure. A spoke broke. Again. It’s the 5th this year in three different bikes. I fixed it and continued. I cycled off the urban roads into the nature where I found my last refuge for the night: a “public” hut by a river.

 

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The trip is near the end. I started naming “the last” whatever: dinner in the nature, camping, night into the wild, cycling day, everything… The body knows this and starts relaxing down. It’s fascinating how, as soon as we approach the end of something, our energy adapts to reach the goal and settle.

Two days before the end, I cycled through Breda, small town with kind people. It was one of the hottest days. However, I made to Simon’s in Antwerp. I was tired but happy to see a friend’s face. My brain was playing with me and I started recalling other cities while I crossed through Antwerp. When I arrived, Simon had prepared the national plate: mussels with fries. Yes. Real.

 

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Just as I said about the energies at the end. My final stage. Antwerp to Brussels. 50 Km. It was a neverending day. Still heatwave, clouds, dust… and knowing it was over. A rollercoaster in my head. I can’t describe how this countdown made me feel. Check the pics:

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And, finally, earlier than expected, I made it to Brussels.
I was tired, happy and proud. No matter how much imagination I had, I could have never guessed a travel like this.

In this picture here I had no clear idea of what I was feeling. Happines? Relief? Sadness? Melancholy?

Almost 2000km through 5 countries in 17 days on a bike. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular (except for, perhaps, the support in the crowdfunding campaign), but I found many things, mostly on the human side.

So, once in Brussels, first thing I did (after a shower) was to play basketball with some friends and ride the bike at “Massa Critique’s” monthly gathering to cycle around Brussels.

Then, shower again and the Belgian tradition: Beers and “frites”.

It felt good to be there, arrive at my friends’ house, tell some stories, relax and digest all I’d been through.

The day after, Saturday, Ilan and I went cycling a total of 25km in the “Foret de Soignes”, south of Brussels. Beautiful spot.  Then, we came back to eat by the EU Parliament.

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And it was right there, just in front of the EU Parliament, where my bike was stolen.

I don’t want to describe how I felt then, my thoughts or anything involving that event. It wasn’t very good, at first, but I applied as much resilience as I had. I believe it was such a symbol for the trip. After all, I suggested I’d finish at the EU Parliament!

Life went on. The days in Brussels were quite busy, not just meeting friends, but also holding meetings. Most interesting one was with GRACQ, the national – french-speaking – association for daily cyclists, a Lobby looking to improve infrastructures, policies and reduction of traffic (not so sure about this last one)

As I could understands, the major problems in Belgium and Spain are the same: people are scared to use the bike because they believe that it is dangerous. Associations and groups are working in ways to increase the number of urban cyclists and make the bike become a “normal” player on the streets. So, first things first: reduce the fear to use the bike, hence… make cycling safer.

So far, this is the end, dear friends. I’m now working with the footage from the trip, so hopefully soon I will release a video and some articles with stories from the road!

Thanks for coming along!

 

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