I have just finished packing my stuff. It feels a bit weird, packing your stuff in the middle of the travel (I have been asked a couple of times if it is “allowed” to make a break while traveling.. I don’t know – I just decided to have one). I’ve got this feeling that it is somehow the end of the first stage of this journey. I don’t really know what the next stages will be like – I thought that maybe after three months I will be somehow smarter about it, but not really. Well, of course, in some terms I am, e.g. I was able to select things I don’t really need for cycling (which means I’m going to take home two big bags full of stuff). I already know what not to take with me at all or what not to take so much of. Instead of two towels – one is enough. Since I was able to read a book on a computer, I don’t need an ipad. One pink nail polish is also enough (I wasn’t able to decide about the shade, so I took two..). Balaclava wasn’t useful so far (so I also hope it won’t be useful on a later stage..). And some more things, but it doesn’t make sense to name all of them here and now.

I’m writing now mainly to summarize a bit what I have learnt during those three months:

  • first of all and probably most important – I already know what bicycle touring is about and I know that I like it. I still don’t know though if I’m gonna like it when there will be more hills and mountains because the ones I already had on my way have beaten me a bit black and blue. Let’s see!
  • I know my pace and I know how much time I need to get from one place to another which makes me feel quite safe about distances;
  • I have learnt that many things are not possible to be planned (how surprising!) and I needed to learn to react to the unexpected. This is how it was with riding after the sunset. I remember when during the meeting with pupils in Tomaszow Mazowiecki, one of them asked me, if I’m gonna do it and I answered decidedly: “No, I’m not going to ride after the sunset”. Although I still try to avoid it (it’s not so much fun and you cannot really see the beauty around) but back in September I didn’t think that the day in December will be finishing at 4 pm and it will be only dark afterwards. Which is how I got convinced that a good light is definitely the basis of cycling!
  • riding 2000 Km took me 25 days of cycling. If I wanted to take the shortest way possible from Warsaw to Istanbul, with my slow and calm pace, resting 1:1, I would have been in Istanbul after 50 days from departure already – that is early November. Yet I have only reached Zagreb so far..

Those three months had three very distinct parts: first – when I was cycling from Warsaw to Vienna, it was sunny, everything was new and amazing and I was able to be happy about every single moment of the ride; second – when I volunteered at the refugee center in Vienna and listened to so many sad stories that I wasn’t able to write about them; third – on the way from Vienna to Zagreb, which was mainly about cycling in the late autumn / early winter while emotional being on the mend (but since everything was just grey and foggy during two weeks in Croatia and I haven’t seen the sun for a single day, it didn’t really help much to recover. This is when I decided that I needed a break).

I know how much now I miss “the known” instead of “the unknown” I’m surrounded by. Especially during those difficult, dark, winter days when I’m not cycling. When I cycle, my head is focused on cycling itself, on getting from point A to point B. When I don’t – like those last days in Zagreb, a lot of sadness appears. Cancelled skype calls and unanswered e-mails don’t help (yes, I know, Christmas is coming, so the shopping must be done).

Hey Poland, I’m coming soon.

Zagreb, 18 December 2015