The gist of it is this: I realised – more like I feel – that for me, the trip length of 4-6 months seems to be just right.
In the first few days – maybe a week – is suitable to get used to continuous cycling itself, and then for me it took about a month to let the workdays and ordinary life go. After that, it was only us, the bikes and the road.
To get used to nomadic cycling lifestyle itself wasn’t a problem at all. The only concern was Black Shirley itself, but nothing way too serious: it was wobbly, the Altura bags broke off twice, was too tall, it just wasn’t comfortable. Camping, cooking in the morning and evening, the free nature of this way of traveling, waking up at sunrise and going to ‘bed’ / mattress at sunset was really likeable and I truly loved every minute of it.
Istanbul was definitely a halfway mark for me. We’ve spent about three weeks there, family visited us, I had my 30. birthday, celebrated it twice, maybe even three times. Just before the Taksim May the 1st riots, walking with a beer and cashews in my hands amongst water cannons and policemen, within safe distance of the hostel, I realised the sudden change from cycling lifestyle and I missed sitting on the saddle.
It took about a week after the Turkish capital to get used to it again, this time sitting on Brown Shirley, the VFX TX400 terminator-codenamed machine, which I fell in love with on the first few kilometres and after about two weeks of adjustments I was absolutely in sync with it in central Turkey. The new bike was primarily required due to frame size and frame geometry reasons. For me, the Surly LHT was tall and long, wobbly, just didn’t feel right. The VFX was perfect from the first minute, felt absolutely effortless to ride it. I honestly hope that changing the handlebars and swapping the tyres could transform it to a perfect commuter bike.
For the last three thousand kilometres we’ve had everything that forms a vital part in cycle touring: seaside, borders, visa hunts, awesome hills, sweating, endless downhills, massive grins, swimming in cold streams and couchsurfing. As for me, the top experience was getting to Iran, where we visited a desert, ate when no one else did, ate even more with others, we didn’t cycle much but were sweating a lot more, looked puzzled a lot, tried to haggle every day and were amazed throughout our entire visit.
After the fifth month and the fifth thousand, we both had the feeling that the trip, as a whole, was brilliant, but just enough. We weren’t fed up with anything or anyone (including each other), especially not cycling, but it felt like we’re ready to go back to ‘normal life’, with the priceless knowledge that a this sort of time interval is just enough for a single trip. We were mentally, but not physically tired, somehow, oddly enough, traveling itself got a bit of a regular, ordinary, repetitive taste to it. Obviously, we missed family and friends, the western lifestyle, and for us, the most interesting aspect: the working days and fix things.
I’ve traveled before with a car several times, a few coach trips, with airplane, but quoting Zsofi, the best way to travel is by doing it on a bicycle. The speed is constant, just ideal to get a good look of the world around you. You’re your own boss, you do what you want to and when you want to, except when a few countries decide to act like a grumpy kindergarten kiddo and re-routes you a bit.
You have a tent, a small kitchen, petrol for the cooking due to the worldwide availability of cars, and since everyone has to eat something, you find food ingredients every day. The weather is not jolly good everywhere, but to be frank, no one collapsed from a chilly early March rain before. I’ve got to admit that I’ve never cycled in extreme cold weather for an extended period of time, my experiences only cover a relatively small spectrum of proper bicycle touring.
All in all, after five months I was in a difficult situation when it came to making a decision and I honestly hope that I won’t regret picking this option, putting the bike on the plane now, heading back home and not months or a year later. What makes me relaxed and content about this, is that I absolutely have the option later to make trips of few-thousand-kilometres and those can add up quite well to see the world.
To sum it up, I am flying home and Zsofi keeps on pedalling. She’ll continue from 13th August through Turkmenistan, following the original planned route. She’ll explain the details soon herself!
I hope she’ll have backwind, wide roads, great home-stays with even better food, a sense of safety and just enough physical challenges, these really make the whole effort worthwhile, makes you truly enjoy the evening meals, the views, the sunsets, stars, soothing songs of muezzins and tales of barking dogs, chirping crickets and singing birds.
It was an unforgettable five months and I hope you enjoyed it as well!