Long-distance cycling touring is what I am doing. Mostly, I have been doing it on my own.
The solitary feeling of cycling with no one else through the endless roads has its perks. I am the most comfortable being alone, but even then it can from time to time feel incredibly lonely. So I have now tried for the first time to bike with a partner - my girlfriend. How is it exactly to spend every day, every hour and every second for 65 days, cycling together through everything from Cold rain to heatwaves? it is to say the least much more different than alone.
I guess you could say this is our story, rather than it being mine.
I had to Accept it is not always going to be my way
In my previous journeys, I was always controlling everything. How fast I would be cycling, when I would sleep, what I would eat, where I would go and pretty much everything else that requires a decision or action. I have always been used in my travels not to compromise anything since well, I traveled alone.
But suddenly I have this person besides my side, who also has a vision of her own on how she would like to travel. You would be amazed at what kind of things two people can end up disagreeing over. Especially in the beginning when we have not quite yet gotten to understand each other in this way before.
This went all the way down to putting up the tent. I have put up my tent hundreds of times. I know the best and fastest way to do it. My girlfriend, however, didn't have that knowledge but despite that, she still wanted to put up the tent. (understandably) Many times I interfered to show her how it was done, which despite my good intentions, might not have been the best way to approach it. Since she is the type of person who wants to learn by doing. After a few "arguments" I started understanding all she needed was a bit of patience to learn it on her own terms, letting her do the mistakes instead of preventing them. Sure it took her some time but she did indeed learn to put up the tent just fine without my help.
So disagreements would, of course, arise between us. In the beginning, it was a harsh reminder of how much easier it is to travel alone.
But does easier always mean better? no it does not. If that was the case, why would I choose to go the long way through muddy and difficult tracks and not the national roads that usually provides much better and direct roads to bike on? why would I even bike at all if this was the case? Because I know from experience that challenges are a reason to learn and live and apparently, taking a journey with another person can be a challenge in itself.
But I believe that is the beauty of traveling with another person. I would not always get it my way and that is okay since it did not destroy any part of the trip, in fact, it actually made it blossom. I realized quickly compromises are essential for healthy teamwork and if I have to be honest, my partners' idea would many times end up becoming cool experiences for us to remember.
Not having it my way while traveling was indeed hard to accept but actually ended up giving a much more enriching journey for the both of us.
Someone to share the moments with
How many experiences I have had through my journeys. But when traveling alone there's no one else to witness the moments with but myself. Sure I try to explain things to my families and friends of how it was. But it is hard to truly make them understand what happened throughout the whole journey. So most people would know "I have been biking from Denmark to Greece" But they don't know how it felt to see the Mediterranean coastline, they don't know about the people I met or the countless tough moments I encountered.
When I traveled with my girlfriend, it became apparent that traveling with somebody is empowering because I actually had somebody to share my story with. When things happened it was no longer needed to think inside myself "wow, that was cool!". Here I could just speak to the person right beside me and share and digest whatever happened together.
Even more, when coming home from such a trip I felt like the trip kind of remained with me at home. Not necessarily because we speak all the time about this trip, but more like the feeling I know I did this with that exact person, and she was with me on this journey.
Sharing the beauty of the world with somebody else is something, I kind of took for granted before. But it does indeed feel great to do now when I have tried it.
Building a team together
One thing I was the most impressed by was how we slowly became a team. In the beginning, things were a bit edgy. How we would do things, who would do them and when. It kind of felt like we had to fine-tune into each other's frequency but when we managed to achieve that, things went so naturally easy.
Some examples of this could be like I might have been used to cycle faster and many times it was hard for me to remember keeping a slower tempo. Eventually, we pretty much ended up cycling the same tempo and I barely had to look back to make sure she was still there. I knew she would always be just a meter behind me.
Another example could be when we would put up tent/camp for the night. Without saying a word I would start putting up the tent and making the "bed" ready for us so to say. I would also mostly be the one to take my little hand axe and split some wood for us to have some fire to cook on for the night (we were using a wood-stove for cooking).
Meanwhile, my girlfriend would attend to other tasks such as preparing the food we would have to cook or even stuff like hanging up some wet cloth we had washed in a like earlier that day.
Sometimes we mixed these tasks up but it was interesting to see how we naturally just took some tasks to do ourselves.
It was all the time throughout the day that teamwork was required in one way or another. It was really an experience to feel how well two people can work together.
Life is not meant to be lived alone
I believe the most valuable part I learned on our trip is life is meant to be shared. Having somebody beside you who you can learn and grow with and sharing a story with is not something anyone should take for granted. We managed on our trip to learn from each other in a totally different way than we had previously.
I am for sure in the future also gonna do trips alone, I still see much reason to do that. Being a person who enjoys his lone-time taking trips alone is a great way to get just that. But I think even when I am going alone, I will be bringing new habits I created from this trip that I together with my partner found to be amazing way to do a journey.
It is with certainty not the last time I will be heading out in the world with my "partner in crime". There's just too much beauty in this world to be experiencing it all alone.
Have a great day!