Wow. I cannot believe we have been gone a year! This time last year we were just arriving in Scotland, and I remember thinking to myself as we put our bicycles together in the airport, "what the hell have I gotten myself into?!"
A little later, as we rode away on the wrong side of the road, I was terrified of my gigantic bike, having never ridden it fully loaded (I purchased front panniers right before we left, in the dead of Minnesota winter). It felt awkward, heavy and unbalanced. I was feeling so excited but also very scared and vulnerable.
Now, all of that feels like ancient history. It almost seems as if the first year was just practice for the one before us. As we rode into Serbia yesterday, I was giddy and excited like the real adventure was just beginning! And, in a way, it is true. We finally feel like we know what we're doing. We are fit enough to cycle long distances if we choose to, and we know when we to push ourselves and when to give in. We know how we like to travel and what we want from our trip. Now we just need to pedal off into the wild blue yonder!
We've come a long way this year. Here are some highlights:
I GOT TO HOLD A LAMB!
We managed to make it out of England and into beautiful France where we felt like we were on vacation in comparison! It didn't rain every day! There was space for our bicycles on the roads and drivers took care going around us! And best of all, it wasn't so friggin' hilly! There were (almost) always several campsites within easy reach. We had Fresh baguettes delivered to our tent in the morning. Pretty swank. Oh and I climbed my first mountains!
Switzerland was expensive but we had loads of fun riding to Zermatt, and had a truly memorable ascent to Julierpass. We also got to float down a river in Bern with Bettina, and see our dear friends, Ingrid and Yves, again!
In Italy, I really felt like we came into our own. We free-camped nearly every night, enjoyed the ocean, and fell madly in love with all things Italian. We met some wonderful new friends, ate a ton of gelato, and sipped away on many a perfect cappuccino. Oh and the food!
Tunisia was a shock after our posh time in Italy. Though it was difficult in many ways, we ended up really enjoying ourselves. The best part was definitely when we bought Habib, our little scooter, and rode around the country. We also saw the festival of the Sahara!
Greece was really nice. We loved the wildness of Crete, as well as the music and friendly people. The flaky pastries sold everywhere were also really good!
And most recently, Macedonia. I knew nothing about it whatsoever, but I quickly fell for this little country. Really warm, friendly people, beautiful scenery, nice paved roads with very few cars, cheap delicious food, and a small, manageable size. I'd come back in a heartbeat.
And now we're in Serbia. I'm sure it will be as full of adventure as all the other places we've been.
Finally, in this little scrapbook entry of our first year, I want to include some things we may have neglected to write about over the last twelve months. I don't want them to get lost in the shuffle.
Odds n' Ends
We eat an entire chocolate bar every day, sometimes more than one.
We eat more butter than anyone probably should.
In Greece you put your used toilet paper in the garbage can instead of flushing it.
In Tunisia, there is no toilet paper, but there is always a little hose with a nozzle to spray your butt with.
We carry our garbage around with us in bags we save from when we go grocery shopping. It dangles from the rear end of Tyler's bike until we can find a garbage can.
In the hostel in Remla, Tunisia, Tyler went on a mosquito-killing spree, using a wad of balled-up socks to throw at the wall. The ball would bounce off the wall, and he'd catch it and throw it at the next one. It was hilarious and very sweet, as otherwise I would have been eaten alive during the night.
We now pick our socks based on feel—those that feel like socks instead of moccosins (from all the crust) are the ones we covet. Those that don't smell like cheetos and fresh parmesan cheese are even better!