this one was going along Loch Lomond, where I ended up spending one night
this one was going along Loch Lomond, where I ended up spending one night
I have never done any camping in my life. When I was young I spent all my summers and holidays, as well as weekends and long weekends, in my village. And we had a place to stay there, so I never needed to sleep outdoors.
Only a few years ago, I bought a tent thinking that one day I would do a long touring trip. The time is here and I still don’t have much experience pitching my tent.
I didn’t know how I would manage, it was one of the main uncertainties I had about this trip, but so far I am managing.
I think I’m getting the hang of it, although I must admit that every day I realise that there was something I was doing wrong.
Yet, that’s what this adventure is all about, getting out of my comfort zone and learning new things all the time.
I’m going to spend many hours everyday on the road, obviously. I intend to follow certain routes that, mostly, are in secondary and country roads. Less busy and smaller / narrower roads, I hope. But I also hope to get the chance to cycle on dedicated cycle paths and greenways. As I discover them I’ll be sharing some of my favourites in this series of posts.
The last few weeks in Cork were very strange, even though my routine didn’t change too much. I was still working, as I had decided to stay in Ireland until all my contracts ended. I was living with my friends Aodhán and Liz, who so kindly offered their spare room to me when I had to leave my house. I kept meeting with my friends every week and cycling almost daily, as usual…
There was something different, though. I didn’t expect it at all, but it happened several times with different people and groups. We were saying goodbye and I was telling then about my plans and the adventure ahead of me.
Yet, they were not only saying goodbye. They kept telling me all this good things about me… Like, how I had supported, helped, encouraged them, or even inspired them. They kept thanking me for my patience, dedication, passion…
I’ve never liked being the centre of attention or the target of praise, so all those reunions, gatherings, even speeches, felt a bit uncomfortable, to be honest.
The problem is that I don’t even know how to react or what to say. I really appreciate those words and gestures, of course! I’m just not used to people talking about me in such a way. So, I usually only said thank you back, or little more.
Nevertheless, I wanted to say something in reply to all those compliments:
First, that I still feel overwhelmed by all those kind words and gestures. I keep thinking of conversations and people while I pedal.
Second, that it makes me very happy to know I helped other people to be more independent and confident, or simply by supporting them and encouraging them to do their best. It just makes my day knowing that I managed to share an idea or skill with someone.
Third, that all I did these years in Cork, whether work or volunteering, was an absolute pleasure. I always looked forward to every single day, knowing that it would be different and challenging, but also enjoyable.
I’d like to believe that, hopefully, I contributed to making the world a better place for some people. The same people who made me feel so happy and loved these last few weeks.
I had never felt so loved by so many people in my life before. And that’s something I will never forget.
So, all I can say is:
thank you Cork, you and your people will always be in my heart
I’ve thought about how to start this blog a million times. This is the best I could come up with.
It’s been 17 years! Almost half of my life and most of my adult one. Although, to be fair, I wouldn’t call myself an adult. I keep saying that I’m 17 since I turned 13.
The real capital of Ireland, Cork, will always be in my heart. It’s been part of me, or rather I’ve been a tiny part of it, for some time. Either way, Cork was home to me.
It’s been a ball, that’s for sure. The person I was and the one I am today are very different in many ways, but I want to believe that my core principles and values had always been there. I’ve met wonderful people that have shared their knowledge and life experiences with me and who have, I hope, learned something from me too. I’m an educator after all. I’ve made great friends whom I leave behind now, but I’m sure I’ll see again somewhere.
It’s sad to say goodbye and difficult to change your whole life and routine. But that’s what life is, really. A constant flow of places, events, people, circumstances, moments, experiences… Because life is constantly changing. It’s a journey that takes you to places where you learn from others as you pass by and keep moving.
And that’s why I decided to take this trip. I want it to be a journey. I will have to make all the decisions for myself. Always following my gut. I am going to be on my own, outdoors, in nature, so I better learn how to survive. I want to enjoy the road and relish the path, whichever surface or conditions, as it changes from turn to turn, from town to town, from country to country. It’s a unique opportunity to do what I’ve been wanting to do for so long. A big adventure on my bicycle.
I had a great life in Cork. I loved my jobs working with people of all ages. I enjoyed going to class every day because I knew I was always going to encounter a new challenge. I was also involved with some charity organisations and community groups, which gave me the opportunity to work with and alongside great people. I travelled to, explored and experienced other places and cultures. I had, still have and will have for many years to come, very good and close friends. I was living in the north side of the city, I’m a Norrie after all, and it was just perfect.
But I had to leave the house and move on. After several months trying to find a solution to my situation, I decided that I was going to make the most of this opportunity. I was going to cycle from Cork to Madrí.
Why not? I cycle every day, mostly in the rain, carrying my stuff in my panniers. I don’t own a car, I just cycle everywhere. My bicycle is my vehicle. I have all the gear I’ll need for a trip like this as I’ve been planning it for a long time . I love being outdoors and as close as possible to nature. I live a frugal life and can get by with just the bare necessities. Therefore, I have some money saved to get me by for a good while, I think. I don’t have any attachments, commitments or debt. I have done a lot of research and tested my setup and overall plan on a regular basis for a long time. I am healthy and can take care of myself. And, I have the right mindset and approach one needs to do something like this.
I want to do this!
I can do this!
So, I’m going to get on my bicycle and start pedalling…
I know there are many aspects to consider when embarking on a journey like this. Believe me, I know, I did my research. (I’ll talk more a bout it in other blog posts during my journey.) So I’m going to do it my way. I was going to anyway, to be honest. See how it goes. And change anything that may need to be adjusted. Eventually, I’m sure I’ll manage to organise all my stuff and pitch my tent wherever looks most convenient. Every day is going to be a new road, a new place, new people, and a new bedroom. Sounds perfect to me!
I have an idea of the route I want to follow. Starting in Cork, Ireland, all the way to Madrid, Spain. With Athens as my ‘turning back’ point. I’ll be using several networks of cycle lanes and greenways across the European countries I visit. Yet, the route keeps changing. All the time. And that’s what I know it will happen once I’m on the road, anyway. Which way will I get there, or how long will it take me, no one knows. Not even me.The uncertainty and not knowing what’s going to happen are so exciting and nerve-racking at the same time… but I can’t wait to be on the road, on the move!
I know some people living in the continent, so I hope they’re home whenever I may happen to be around. I have family in a few places along the route, so I’ll definitely visit them. Some friends might join me as I pass by certain areas and even cycle with me! I’m sure I will also meet many good and interesting people every day.
So, after all these years I’m leaving Cork for good… It’s my time and I’m as ready as I could ever be. Life has offered me this chance and I’m going to take it!
As I advance in my journey, I’ll write any ideas that come to mind. I want to read a lot, all kinds of books that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time, and take many photos of the beautiful places I’ll se on my journey. I’ll be sharing thoughts, words and images in this blog on an ‘irregular basis.’