I hit the road in August 2022 for what would be one of my most memorable journeys on a bicycle. Even before I set my foot on the pedal, I knew I would want to write about it after I got back.
But then, suddenly, I lost my ability to write for a couple of months. Daily life became silent and unresponsive; time – a skilled medic, capable of drawing stark lines between before and after – gave no respite. Days were passing by, turning into weeks and months. And still no words.
Finally, after a time of reset, on one crisp morning the inspiration came again.
For me, writing is a profoundly personal act. My ability to find words to put on paper depends on how I am with myself, with those around me, with my work. I always write from the same place – that of awe for life and gratitude for being able to live it. This does not mean I am always in that place to begin with: I am human, with my own set of emotions, difficulties and fears – like anyone else. But when I write, it is from a place of love and fullness. I do not need anything, nor am I asking for anything, when I write. I create for the precious, fleeting instant a breath goes into the lungs and out again.
Germany was a treat. I took the road after several years of hiatus imposed by my entrepreneurial passions. But it was time to pause: the activity of problem-solving.rocks had continued to double nearly every year since its founding, and after some time, I was ready to take a break. So I headed to the beautiful region of Hesse, and more precisely to Frankfurt. From there I headed north for over 1,000 km.
Germany is not foreign to me. Some of my best friends live there, and I’ve had numerous opportunities to visit and to cycle there – check out the amazing itineraries along the Elbe and Rhine rivers, for instance. But the explorer experience is always unique, even if some things never change, like the fact that the most important items you carry on your bike are a water bottle and a charged phone.
The country is a paradise for cyclers. The infrastructure is world class, with cycling paths in perfect condition stretching for kilometres on end. There are cute guest houses every several kilometres where you can have a cup of coffee and catch your breath. People are friendly and helpful, offering greetings and smiles. Drivers are civil, taking precautions when passing by.
Road cycling is special, as those who ride know. When I am on the road, I slow down, falling into the essential pattern of sleep, shower, eat, ride. The effort takes its rhythm from the cycle of light and darkness that is older than the world itself. When it is day, I ride, and I need to be in a shelter before dark. There is no other urgency or priority, just getting on the road when the light rises and getting off the road before darkness.
A strenuous activity at first, especially after a long pause, cycling becomes easier as days go by and automatic after a few weeks. I always look forward to the moment in the journey when cycling feels more natural than walking. And then, if I go long enough, the body becomes a machine, burning through everything it can get hold of: food, its own fat, memories and emotions, until there is nothing left but pure energy, moving forward.
The road is full of unexpected, beautiful situations.
It was getting late in the afternoon and I was still many kilometres from the guest house I was staying at that night. I was pedalling through what looked like a beautiful middle of nowhere, with picturesque fields stretching on both sides of the cycling path. I was looking down, through the handlebars, focused on the metres ahead. When I looked up, I saw a car parked in front of me. As I got closer, I saw an elderly man inside, looking over the fields. I looked to my right and saw a woman. She was leaning over a small wooden cross planted in the ground. There was a narrow stretch of white sand around the cross, with tiny seashells scattered on it. The cross had the name ‘Christian’ carved on it. The woman spoke to it softly, her hand touching the shells.
Time stood still around them.
I slowed, fighting off tears. I did not stop. That space was hers.
I did not know who Christian was to her, but I kept seeing them in my mind for many days after.
The road is calling again. I will be leaving soon for the Netherlands. I long to be whizzing along the coast, the vast sea to my right and the beautiful countryside to my left, breathing the salt air into wide open lungs.