Why did I make this trip?
Pure madness, a desire for adventure, a sporting challenge... but where did this idea come from? ?
It all started 2 years ago, during a conference by Mathieu Tordert, a French adventurer, who told the story of his expedition at the age of 26 in the Antarctic Circle. What struck me most during his presentation: the story of the birth of his passion for travel. At the age of 18, during the summer holidays, he set off from Paris to Istanbul by bike, without any training or knowledge of motivation as his only driving force.
At that moment the spark of my journey was born, to take shape definitively in September 2019. It was decided, the summer of 2020 would be the beginning of my trip.
All year long I thought about it without really doing any research, then the quarantine began. During this period, my dream of adventure fell flat and was tinged with disappointment. But to my great relief, the quarantine became lighter and my project was back on track. In the meantime, I made arrangements with my company to take a month's leave. The adventure could finally begin!
The challenge of traveling alone
Going alone does not mean staying alone during your trip.
The advantage of a solo trip is that it pushes us to get out of our comfort zone, to reach out to each other and to connect more quickly. A life experience, which I can only encourage you to live. Between inspirations and motivations, I had the chance to exchange with people of all ages and backgrounds.
My first night in a youth hostel, the one that officially launched my trip, was surprising. It was going to reflect, without knowing it at the time, the kindness of the meetings that I would later make. In one evening, I chatted with people of 4 different nationalities: French, Germans, Austrians and Slovakians. The evening was rich in emotions: discoveries, varied discussions and exchanges over a beer. It is also with an Austrian that I created the beginning of my road map for the coming days. Afterwards, I met a lot of people: in campsites where groups of friends welcomed me, at the bend in the road, during my breaks, my lunches, my nights at local's houses.
My only moments of solitude were those on my bike, or lost in faraway places. Away from everything, far from the usual urban bustle, I took the time to reflect, enjoy the silence and learn more about myself.
On the whole, I was really surprised by the human quality of peoples. A feeling of kindness, curiosity and slight admiration emanated from the people who were interested in my adventure. Contrary to the general mistrust of those closest to me, I did not feel a single ounce of danger or malevolence during my trip.
Getting ready for adventure
Key steps before leaving: from learning to preparation
Such a trip is complicated to improvise; especially the first time. Two months of preparation of all kinds were necessary. But above all I spent quite a lot of time, almost a good month, discovering, listening to and learning from the experiences of my predecessors, whether via videos, blogs or podcasts.
- Bike front bag - Bike rear bag - Fanny pack - 1 air mattress - 1 sleeping bag - 1 tent - 1 campingaz + driver - 1 saucepan - 1 opinel - 1 lighter - 1 multifunction tool - 2 air chambers - Patches - 1 string - 3 tyre changers - 10 deers - 1 U lock
- 1 cycling outfit (shorts + t-shirt) - 1 fluorescent bracelet - 2 pairs of socks - 1 windbreaker - 1 jacket - 1 jumper - 1 legging leg + top - 1 pair of gloves - 1 helmet - 1 pair of flip-flop - 1 pair of bike shoes - 2 pants - 1 pair of sports glasses - 1 book (around the world in 80 days) - 1 pen - 1 small A4 sheet
- 1 external rechargeable battery - 1 canon camera - 1 Usb cable - 1 wallet (credit card + cash) - headphones - 1 tote bag - 1 sun cream - 1 toothbrush - 1 toothpaste - 1 towel - 1 organic soap - 1 lip stick - 1 pair of ear plugs
2. Body condition
I wasn't physically prepared at all.
My basic physical condition is correct: I am used to running and cycling. Before leaving, I only did 2 outings: one of 20km and one of 30km, to test my new bike, with the adapted equipment (bags and shoes). If you are going to ride through mountainous landscapes, you should wear running shoes. It is essential, without these adapted shoes, I would still be in the Alps at the moment.
During the first kilometres, before I completely mastered the unclipping of these shoes, I fell down quite a few times at the stop! For the anecdote, I managed to fall in front of the Vienna Opera, which I was able to appreciate from another angle...
3. Road map
The least prepared point of the trip.
I knew that I was leaving from point A to go to point B (Vienna - Paris), but I didn't really know which path I was going to take. On my first evening in Vienna I met an Austrian. He advised me a way by showing me a large green space on Google Maps, (well afterwards I was a bit disenchanted). The next day I was on my way, but this famous green space turned out to be... the Alps. A reorientation was necessary. So I set off again, in the direction of less steep slopes and gentler height differences.
After 2-3 nationals with trucks going at 110km/h, I told myself that this was clearly not a good solution. A bit lost, in the evening, by chance I slept in the house of a couple of bike travelers, who had cycled around the world on their bikes! They recommended the Bikemap application, which helped me for the rest of the trip.
4. But where to sleep?
- 4 nights wilderness camping- 3 nights camping- 6 nights in a youth hostel- 3 nights in a private home- 1 night in a hotel
In the big cities I slept in youth hostels. There were not many people with the Covid. At least it gave me a good night's sleep and a chance to rest my aching knees.
The campsite was also a good compromise to rest, have a hot shower and some electricity. Another cool experience to make is wild camping, especially in the Austrian mountains. Having done this many times with my parents during my childhood, I already knew what to look out for. If you want to do some, you have to be organised and know a few essentials: Anticipate your evening and next morning meal, camp near a water point (stream, river,...) so that you can wash yourself, do your dishes or laundry, and sit in a corner with an eastern exposure to dry your tent naturally in the early morning.
The must is to sleep in the local's home, but with the Covid people were more reluctant to welcome foreigners, especially in Germany. I was still able to experiment with nights at local people's homes thanks to a rather nice application: Warmshower.
Feedback from experience
What I enjoyed
A city that was a favourite: Salzburg. A magnificent cultural metropolis steeped in history, whose wide white streets are lulled by the classical music of the man they saw being born: the famous Mozart. Surrounded by cliffs and the Alps, in the heart of the city stands an ancient medieval fortress which allows you to appreciate all the beauty of this city. Amazed by the wide open spaces and the mountains, some places like the Austrian Alps, the Vosges or the Black Forest, were incredible moments.
Points I liked less
Germany in general. The Covid didn't help, a slightly dehumanised and strict atmosphere prevailed in the places I passed through. And mutual help was clearly not on the agenda.
Most memorable memory
I thought the highlight of my trip would be arriving in Paris, but it turned out differently. Often the moments we don't expect are the ones that leave the greatest traces in our memories.
For this trip, it was the crossing of the French border, near Colmar. At the sight of this sign, which announced my return to France. Suddenly, without warning, all the pressure I had put on myself went down. I would soon reach the end of my journey, and start to find all the little things I was beginning to miss. During this short time I experienced intense emotions that were still unknown to me. For this unique moment, I don't regret this trip in any way.