On December 20, 2022, exactly one year ago, I stood at -30°F with a packed bicycle at the Coldfoot Camp truck stop on the Dalton Highway in northern Alaska. I cycled away somewhat awkwardly and clumsily, watched by the American truckers who shook their heads side to side with probably a deep sigh, wondering what that poor guy was going to do to himself.
I was dropped off by Sharon, who I met through the Warmshowers cycling network. She drove me, out of charity, 250 miles north of Fairbanks to make it possible to take on this icy challenge above the Arctic Circle. By Christmas Eve, four days later, I had already spend a very special few days. It was an extremely cold week, even for Alaska, and I was barely prepared and accustomed to these extreme conditions. Fortunately, during the holidays, Sharon allowed me to sleep in her cabin on the Eliot Highway just above Fairbanks, and I celebrated Christmas together with her mother. It was an incredibly special start to my journey that would last another ten months and has now been history for already a few months.
Sharon was one of the many people who gave me a warm feeling of home in the vast nothingness of Alaska and Canada. The loneliness and suffering would have otherwise become too much for me. The warm welcomes, help and kind words were absolutely necessary to continue cycling south into the white, cold world of the Arctic north.
It was not only people along the way who supported me immensely in the months that were to follow. This blog and the newsletter that I kept sending over the months were also an opening for many warm conversations. To this day, I meet people who have enthusiastically followed my stories, photos and videos of this incredible journey from Alaska to Mexico and I’m grateful for that.
With these holidays I especially want to celebrate all the kindness that I have received from so many (unknown) people over the last year. To this day, I still receive occasional messages from people who have enjoyed following the experience. I also hear every now and then that readers resonate with a personal story I published a while ago. This piece of text was written in collaboration with illustrator Tegan Phillips and is entitled the boy who cycled away.
Now that I have become more in touch with my personality over the years, which is incorporated into this story, I regularly discuss this one-on-one with people. If you would like to have a conversation or invite me for coffee to talk about cycling or other topics I write about, please contact me via a message on this page.
After one of the last conversations, I received a wonderful quote from Giorgio Bettinelli who drove from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego on a Vespa. A wording that, despite the hardships of the past year, resonated strongly with me and to me also touches the core of being human:
“I felt very happy for a handful of seconds, just for no reason, with goosebumps on my arms. Not more than a few seconds, but it was enough to make this life worth living.”
These handful of seconds translate for me to the moments where I was alone, but the situation suddenly changed with a connection, in kindness and support, of suddenly realizing that I’m never really alone, wherever I go.
Hopefully I have been able to inspire you over the past year.
I wish you a happy new year.