I started this in Rotterdam and finished in Gent, so some of the setting has changed.
I write to you from the 27th story of a Rotterdam skyline. I’ve only been in Holland for a few days and only in one day have I made a big trek across the country. In under thirteen hours, I arrived in Rotterdam from Amsterdam. That’s not supposed to sound impressive, as it wasn’t. I was told that ride can be done in five hours. Though I’m still scratching my head about the whole thing I can tell you I was not nearly prepared for navigation and traversing a landscape. So, I got lost a lot and had to do several repairs on my bike while I was at it. I was up until 2 in the morning, screaming in frustration, until I finally arrived at a KFC to search for directions using WiFi—thank god for American Fast Food.
Tomorrow I ride out to Antwerp in Belgium. It will be about a 100 km trip. This time I will cheat by having a map on my phone.
My adventures thus far have led me to quite an array of thoughts and experiences.
From Iceland I had a full 24 hours to soak up the deep cold winds. I laid out on a piece of greenery where a group of people played soccer as they waited for their planes to depart. Iceland, I hear, is magnificent, an adventurer’s paradise. The air from where I was carried the faint spoil of maritime shores, it was salty, but in a comforting way. What breathed out from the ocean also stirred a strange aluminum smell, something I can’t quite put my finger on, but perhaps the interception of airplane exhaust. Beyond those parking lot terminals, I imagined a world of bubbling waters whose steam just barely touches the bold mountains that stand guard over a mysterious, diverse landscape.
Originally, I was set to arrive in Amsterdam at three in the afternoon. The airline industry, however, is one of those professions where delays are expected. I arrived in Amsterdam sometime around 11pm. This would have unnerved me, if it weren’t for a few hours before my flight I met someone named Rose (from Appledorf, but had been living in the states). Her lavender hair and Doc Martens gave her away as someone I might as share a conversation with.Charmed, we talked for the full time waiting. She shared as much information as she could that helped me get a sense of what to expect and how to prepare. Beyond logistics we talked about where we were in life, thoughts on heavy shit, and P0kemon Go, sadly. Upon boarding we realized we assigned to sit next to each other, so we continued on with our talking, well, that is until we both past out from exhaustion.
When Rose and I stepped out from the plane she made a comment, in a tone that suggested disappointment, that the air did not smell of cow shit. Holland (Nederlands) apparently has some of the most CAFOs per land basis and because of which, it smells of cow shit. Supposedly, that smell is nostalgic for her. Later, upon biking through North Holland, I noticed this cow shit smell, but it was wonderful. North Holland smells of manure and sweet bread—I hope mensen van het noorden take it as a compliment. Fast forward to my time biking through Belgium, where sheep and horse shit infiltrates the air. The fragrance of air is so pungent that I feel it could make my nose bleed. Normally, I don’t react this way to manure, but whew-wee, phooweey! IT STANK!
Arriving in Amsterdam at 11pm was daunting, but like anything way over the top, I took it one step at a time. First step, to retrieve my luggage. Hauling a giant box with bike parts sticking out (by now the box carrying my bike, after three or four flights, has now been decimated into wrinkles and security tape) makes people raise their eyebrows in intrigue.
Rose and I part ways, wish each other well, and I step outside to feel a comforting air that ran cleaner and fresher than I expected for such a city with a vice-filled reputation. Sitting outside the Schipol airport, I got to work assembling my bicycle. Part-by-part, it did take a while. Once finished up I realized that not having a map, nor phone service, and limited wifi from the airport, I had no idea how to get around. So, naturally, I asked around.
I began talking with a couple next to me who were chatting, laughing, flirting, and scowling at each other. The one, who’s name now has blanked from my memory, stared at me with wide eyes after I mentioned I was bike touring solo. She exclaimed, “are you crazy!?” I froze, to be honest. While I know she did not mean this in a serious way, I’ve been told I’ve been crazy for doing this trip for weeks before by my dad and that statement has really started to cut deep. I took a breath and firmly said “no, no I am not crazy for doing this.”
For some reason, life does call me here. When I first agreed to go on this trip, I read my tarot and pulled The Fool, a character that describes the process of blind faith or stupidity. Even now, I still feel this way. Surely, as I venture farther and farther into Europe I continue to ask myself this question. “Why am I doing this,” has become less of a critique of self-evaluation and now a mantra to open my self-awareness. It is easy to travel and be lost by the stimulation of a new space, but allowing myself to be overwhelmed or absorbed by everything is not where I want to be. I want my heart to be open, but not so fixated to objects of distraction. This is to say, yes, I acknowledge that Europe and its cobbleroads and brick buildings are beautiful, its wind turbines and clean energy are inspiring, and its air is refreshing, but that’s not what I’m trying to focus on.
Everyday I wake up and feel a sensation of what’s to come. Friday, a friend had posted photos of herself with a caption, post five photos that make you feel beautiful. Feeling in the depths of my uninvented self, I later was asked to have a photoshoot of myself, in the nude. Or, that person Rose that I mentioned, an hour before then I made some wish to find a comforting companion. The thing about these sensational inclinations, and sometimes wishes, is that they unfold over time. Still, time is young, and that is the most humbling matter for me. I may never know what every event, that I had some influence over, later manifests into; and for that reason I stay grounded to expect such unexpected results.
This trip is time to revel in magic, or rather redefining what magic feels like in my life. What do I mean by this? Well, take these steps to understand:
Mid-day, if you are tired, do take fifeteen minutes to find a spot on the grass. The sky should be somewhat sunny at least–enough to cover you in the afternoon honey casted by time slowly creeping to a halt. As you lie down, take a moment to remember the colors and sounds around you. The sky is blue, there’s some grass that pricks and pushes under you. The sound of a car every now and again passes. Now, close your eyes, drift off. As you awake or open your eyes, what is the color of the sky? What is the feeling of the grass underneath you? How does the sound of passing cars now make you feel?
Magic is the word people place to disguise or deny the idea of truth, the wholeness of being and purity of beauty. When those eyes open, is the sky a deeper blue? Is the grass now as familiar to you as your family? Do the sounds of cars passing project the sound of the ocean? For that first moment, under the sky, relish in the idea that everything is everything. Even if you recognize that the ocean is hundreds of miles away from you, truth tells you that it is all one, at least at some point, and can still carry the sound of the tide with it anywhere it may come from.