It was quite difficult for me to step out of my everyday life in Rotterdam seven months ago, to start another life for almost a year.
A life on a bike.
My choice was to embrace a challenging journey to find out what exposure to extreme cold for an extended period of time would do to my body and mind.
This journey wasn’t planned because of an impactful event in my life that would give me every reason to flee from everyday life for some kind of a reset. This wasn’t the reason at all. I had a lovely girlfriend, a nice and comfortable life in Rotterdam, a job that gave me great satisfaction and I was connected to a group of beautiful people that I could call my friends. Also, I had long since given up on hating society. I had come to see everything as a constant change and became increasingly aware of what I was projecting onto the world, just because of persistent patterns from my childhood.
Insight meditation or vipassana has helped me a lot in this process.
Traveling can be liberating and discovering new cultures and people enriching. It enabled me to mirror myself to values other than the ones I grew up with and was often rebelling against. The liberation for me was mainly that I learned to get out of my head and dared to be vulnerable and thus better connect with myself and others through love. Constantly overthinking and mirroring myself to others took its toll from time to time. The accumulated emotions and my body’s reaction to them made me having depressed feelings.
In this perspective, being away from the Netherlands for a long time can be a relief. The journey from Rotterdam to Singapore was really that for me.
For this journey it felt slightly different because I had a little doubt. I felt that I was now much more connected to my life in the Netherlands and the disconnection was therefore much more difficult than six years ago.
My drive to learn to deal with adversity and the will to prove myself in this, brought me nonetheless on a plane to Fairbank in December last year.
Although rationally I had no doubts about wanting to do this, it was emotionally difficult to embrace all the changes. I arrived in Fairbanks and the time difference, climate and grocery prices in Alaska were a slap in the face. The impact of that change was emotionally tough. The outlook in the future was five months of being outside in these cold circumstances and that brought little relief of tension.
It became a rollercoaster ride where hospitality and generosity carried me through the cold. Most of all, I learned to have a routine that took me week after week over the frigid thousands of miles of remote northern highways. I didn’t really have the time and mental space to let the beauty of nature and people sink in and the days of rest were mostly about recovery and preparation for what was to come.
I was in a rollercoaster that took me from the arctic conditions to the hot desert. A 9000 kilometer bike ride from Fairbanks in Alaska to La Paz in Mexico.
After the United States crossing the border with Mexico, my perspective began to change. There was more time and space to experience the beauty of the environment, people and culture. The reason for this mainly had to do with culture and money. In Mexico I could afford to enjoy more, sleep more in a bed and worry less about daily expenses.
The deserts of Baja California were hot but beautiful. The journey from La Paz by boat to Mazatlán and from Mazatlán to Mexico City went reasonably well. I managed to arrive in Mexico City in time to prepare for Lisa’s arrival.
The day I arrived in Mexico City I met Ana.
Anna was spontaneous, sweet and super hospitable. Besides being a fanatical cyclist, she was part of the bike-polo community in Mexico City. She owned a bicycle repair shop named Origin Bike Lab with a friend Louis. I met her there in the more southern neighborhood of San José Insurgentes. It was about time to do another repair on my bike, because the rear axle was broken inside. On the way from the bus station to Ana, I managed to find a suitable axle at a bicycle shop in the Roma Sur district. I was then allowed to use Ana’s wheel straightener to replace the axle myself and readjust the wheel.
Ana was the perfect host. Ix Chel from Rosarito, forwarded her number to me. I texted her as I left Mazatlán on the bus to Mexico City to ask if she would host me the next day. The capital of Mexico is incredibly large, with about nine million inhabitants. It’s nice to have someone who could guide me a bit.
A lot happened on the day of arrival in Mexico City. I started adjusting the wheel in the afternoon and tried my first bike-polo training in the evening. When I arrived at her apartment I was surprised to find a large touring bicycle in her hallway.
“Don’t worry about that bike,” she said, “it belongs to a Canadian guy named Keifer, he just went back to Canada to buy lenses and will pick it up later.”
There were panniers everywhere. It quickly became clear to me that Ana was very free and just enjoyed having people and animals in her apartment. Ana had adopted a street cat with three kittens, who were hiding under her bed. She had also adopted a little black dog named Kalee a while ago. She called Kalee a heart thief because she was so very sweet.
The apartment had two rooms, a shower and a kitchen. There wasn’t much furniture except a double mattress on the floor that I was allowed to sleep on. She herself slept in the other room above the kittens.
The next day I worked on my bike and prepared for Lisa’s arrival. Lisa and I agreed to go cycling in Mexico together for two months and I was excited to meet her again after seven months. I booked an affordable Airbnb in the quiet neighborhood of Navarte Poniente and picked her up from the airport on July 1. It was very nice to see her again and we embraced each other tightly.
We left for the colorful city of Pachuca to the green Parque Nacional El Chico. We planned a loop through Mineral del Chico, Atotonilco de Grande, Huasca del Campo, Mineral del Monte and back to Pachuca.
Cycling together was finding a new balance in pace and distance. I was still a bit used to the somewhat rushed mentality of the past few months. While I wanted to take the time to enjoy myself more, it seemed I needed another person to actually achieve that.
What we agreed was to visit the beautiful places in Mexico. Not worrying that we had to cover a great distance through a very hot area.
The first few days of cycling were in the cool mountains. We climbed from Pachuca at 2200 meters to 2850 meters, a descent to 1750 meters and back to 2800 meters.
Even though those were sometimes tough days, it was nice to be connected again. To be able to share the day, support each other, set up camp, fall asleep and wake up together in the morning.
We have now traveled from Pachuca to Puebla. We both are a bit under the weather and require some resting and will continue cycling when we’re in full power again. We then head from Puebla to Oaxaca and towards the coastal town of Zipolite.