Yes my last post is from just the outskirts of Crespina, Italy.
Yes a lot has happened since then
Yes I will write about it.
But, SPOILER ALERT! We made it to Croatia. Actually, we’ve made it out of Croatia.
However I want to write this now while it still feels very current.
You see if you had asked me after THAT DAY if I would be writing from a pension in Mostar, Bosnia after riding across Italy, up and over to Croatia and down Croatia I would have laughed. Yet here I am in Bosnia. To write this makes me feel accomplished in some way. Glad I didn’t give up and amazed that I moved my ass all those miles.
Yet here I am in Bosnia, with a troubled heart. You see now I am beginning to realize that just that sense of accomplishment is not enough. I am struggling with falling in love with this adventure as we stand. I have ridden close to 1000 miles now (Jonathan is over 1000 miles now. spoiler alert: I took a train in Italy. J)
My saddle is well worn in and I know that I can ride up a 6% incline hill... it will be hard but I have done it. Anything past that, most likely I am pushing good ol’ Carl (my bike) up that hill. I have slept on bumpy grounds and have the packing and unpacking of my panniers to a science. We still take too long to pack up camp but at least I know the order of things. We have a rhythm to those days now. I know what to get to set up my “bed.” My mattress pad is a familiar comfort after long days and the mosquito bites just a constant in my life.
We move and we pass town after little town with the same architecture. Don’t get me wrong they are beautifully quaint and picture perfect. These are the scenes I would lust over as I sat in my desk at my job in Los Angeles. Yet I actually told my sister “I longed to see a stop light.” I know it sounds silly but I miss in a sense, the fact that a “village” should be more than 3 houses. I come from a 7 million people city. Went to school in San Francisco. Lived in Los Angeles for 5 years and coming to these villages still amazes me in the fact that THEY ARE VILLAGES!!!! My sense of the world is much different than the one I am exploring.
We keep making jokes about how we assume simple things like a Tourist Information center having information. Silly us thinking it would. All these false assumptions of how the world should work. All these assumptions of how my world USED to work. All part of travel, right? Left is right and wrong is right and we are the ones constantly trying to figure it all out. I can deal with all of this in a way yet, I am struggling a bit.
The heat has been record breaking, 40 degrees Celsius days that don’t let up until 9 pm to a low 30. We are hot and sticky ALL THE TIME. We took some time in Split and rented an apartment for 5 days. Five days of not moving. Five days of air-conditioning and shelter from the sun and heat. Five days of morning coffee and breakfast conversation with friends. Five days of cold showers any time I wanted. Five days of not having to worry if we have enough water or stocked panniers with two days worth of food. Five days of the closest thing to a “normal” life. They were heavenly. They were eye opening for me.
Those five days were followed by the realization that if we need to ride 7 am is too late to start. Hell even 6 am is pushing it. 5 am gives us 5 hours to ride and that last hour between 9 and 10 am is dangerously reaching the limits of what we can handle. We wake up too late and we are not moving for the day. We still have so much more to go and I can’t seem to put my heart back into it.
Yesterday we stopped at a restaurant to eat and ride out the heat. We arrived there at 11 am. We wouldn’t dare to move till at least 6 pm. The two nights before had been too hot to sleep and we had woken up before dawn. After eating, all our bodies wanted was to sleep, but what to do? We have so many hours to go and setting up the tent in the heat is like laying in a sauna. Now away from the coast, going to a beach to let the hours go by is not an option. We sat there. Jonathan asked the owner if we could take a nap. I haven’t felt so homeless as I did that moment. Begrudgingly, he actually allowed it if we went inside to the back of the restaurant, hidden from plain sight. Also hidden from any fleeting breeze or wind that could come and offer some relief from hot stagnant air.
We sat there and tried to nap. Beads of sweat literally dripping down my face. I was so tired that I succumbed to exhaustion for a little bit. After a bit Jonathan got up and just lay on the floor. After that I couldn’t go to sleep so I just sat there, in the heat, in the dark, slowly melting.
I heard him snore and that at least made me happy one of us was able to sleep. The owner and his wife would periodically walk by and give me a snarky look here and there. Three pm, still had three more hours to go.
This is where I am struggling with now. Is this what we have in store for the next two months? 4 am wake up calls preceded by a restless hot nights. Ride till 10 am and then try to find some reprieve from the heat where we are. Wait for 7 to 8 hours to find camp where it will unavoidably be hot and sticky and filled with mosquitoes? Debbie downer of here, am I right?
Don’t get me wrong there are moments that still take my breath away. The amazing views we have seen as we climb, the turquoise colors of the water below, the vision of those Dalmatian mountains in the sunrise glow. All these things are moments I KNOW I wouldn’t have if I had simply ridden a bus here. Yet sitting in the restaurant melting away for 7 hours because literally the options are so few is not something I had worked into the equation of this adventure.
On top of it all I am getting tired. Physically tired. My legs feel much heavier after just once day of riding. The hills, as before they felt as little accomplishments and growth now feel just a bit tedious. The down hills are always just too short to feel the payoff. I am struggling, mentally. As I sat there in that restaurant I kept asking myself WHY?
Why am I in this restaurant? Melting away.
Is this what I wanted? It is general consensus I had no clue what I wanted when I said, “let’s bike there” all those months ago.
Yet I had no idea back then. I had no idea what it really meant to do that.
Lately I feel I do know a little more of what that entails, and honestly I am struggling to keep going.
Yet I am not alone. Jonathan asked me what I wanted. In a make believe world if I were alone, I would probably buy a backpack, ship my bike back, go to Greece, secure myself some AMAZING accommodation, spend a few days there, go to Istanbul for a bit, go home and then follow in my friends footsteps and go spend 2 weeks in Bali in some Yoga retreat. Yes, ironic right? I would go from one hot place to another. Yet I am not alone.
I shared a dream with Jonathan and it has become his. He is a superhero. This is his mantra. Like we say in Spanish “Este es su mero mole” Sorry no translation. Yes he is hot and yes he gets tired but he wants it. He wants it bad. He wants to ride all the way to Istanbul and have that under his belt. He wants to EARN his arrival. He inspires me and drives me.
You see my “earnings” have always been of the “mental” kind. I was rewarded for my brain not my brawn. Earning something has always been something I have done outsmarting my challenges. This whole physically EARNING something is a whole new concept for me. Honestly, it is a concept that I am not quite in love with. He keeps telling me a cold coke tastes so much better after riding in the heat. Maybe I am blind but a cold coke tastes amazing no matter IF I’ve been riding or not. It is cold and I am hot and it is a little amazingness in a bottle. There is the crux of where we differ.
Here is my Everest. To find love in earning my cold cokes...
I already told him that I want to splurge in a fancy hotel in Greece for my 30th birthday. I will most likely pick a place WAY too expensive. Jonathan will most likely complain of how expensive it is and I will enjoy every minute of that fluffy pillow and infinity pool. (Yes, there MUST be an infinity pool) If we were to just magically arrive in this magical hotel right now, say via a plane, or motorized transportation he wouldn’t have earned it. I wouldn’t have earned it. Therefore I wouldn’t enjoy it as much as if I had ridden to it. I beg to differ. I would enjoy the HELL out of it and in a way I earned the money paying for it so in a different way I did earn it. Even if the money fell from the sky and paid for the whole thing. I hate/love to admit that I WOULD ENJOY IT JUST AS MUCH! If not more because it would be free... but that is another thing.
Anyways, back to the hot restaurant. I am venting but the reality is that I am still in Bosnia. The heat is still going strong. Greece is many miles away. The road is still there and the climbs are higher than we have done thus far. This is where I am and I am struggling. That day in Italy I didn’t KNOW if I could physically do this. Now I have a better idea that I can.
Yes, there is the devils advocate point in a sense that I have NOT accomplished my goal, which was to reach Greece by bike. Therefore I really don’t KNOW for sure if I can. Yes I have not but I have a good idea that I could. It is now a matter of choice. A more educated one in a way. Before if I had given up so early I wouldn’t have known I can ride these amount of miles. I wouldn’t have known that a 6% hill is my limit and that I can withstand up to 4 days without a shower and knotted hair. I know this now. I know that climbing 400 m is hard work and I have done it. I know a lot of things now that I didn’t know back then.
To digress even a little further:
I have been thinking about a moment I had couple years ago. I went to NYC and went to the Moma museum. I wanted to go see Monet’s Water Lillies. They are showcased against a stark white wall, perfectly lit with a single bench right in the middle. I sat there and I was immersed. All three large canvases literally glowing in front of me. The layers of paint coming up behind one another. The thick apparent brushstrokes dancing up and down the huge canvas. Trust me, if you are ever in NYC please go see this. I sat there for about an hour alone, amazed and awestruck by these three pieces of canvas with paint. I am yearning to find my water lilies on a bike.
So now what right?
I am not alone. Jonathan wants to keep going this way. Which is totally okay. This was the original plan we made together. I am the only one having second thoughts in the matter. We value different things. I am beginning to realize a lot of things about myself and honestly of the things that TRULY move me. Honestly as funny as it sounds but what does “travel” mean to me.
The romantic notion of a true bona fide adventure is maybe not what I TRULY enjoy. Maybe I am just a certified hedonist. I like art and theater. I like fashion and textiles. I like pretty shinny things. I like good meals and fluffy pillows. I have Museums and Operas to see in my life Bucket list. I like physical comfort. Yes, yes I do. So why the HELL did I say those words?
To challenge myself.
Challenge I have. So now I keep going.