Day 156 – onwards.
Staying in London. A few days off.
We partied through into the night and the boys showed me some of the new extensions to the business they’d helped build as well as drowning me with alcohol.
The next day I’d agreed to meet Kit (the first host of the trip in Kent) on his radio show. I’d been to see him on the radio before I left, so we felt it was fitting that I see him again when I got back. Not only that, but it was his last show for this station (NTS) so we felt we couldn’t have tied it up better.
I cycled there from Hackney Wick and then we had a coffee and a catch up afterwards and talked about ideas how things had changed, what was going on in London and the things I’d experienced.
Being around english people and accents was still a novelty and I found it a hugely entertaining. As I walked around a bin man on the way there he said “Sorry guv’nah” for having caused an obstruction. I could’ve hugged him.
That night was a friends leaving do. She was leaving to go work in L.A. for a while and I had just got back, so it seemed fitting to combine the two things. I asked her before if she was okay with it and she said not to be silly. I caught up with my friends that I moved to London years ago, my core group if you like that I had known for about seven years. It was great to see them all again and debunk any myths about the trip and hear about what everyone was up to and their plans going into winter.
We went back to the bar I came into last night (Crate) as it was nearby and there were people to see there too, then onto a warehouse party nearby.
The rest of my time there was spent catching up with other friends, having coffee, breakfasts old friends, and more parties. I stayed with a friend in Hackney Wick for about five days in a messy transitional haze.
I caught up with other friends over pub lunches and friends from previous bars where they were working. There wasn’t enough time to do everything, but the five days I was there went by in a huge blur.
The one thing I did want to do while I was here and fit was the London to Brighton cycle. I’d tried to do it a few years ago with friend, but he got a flat a few miles out and we had to get the train in.
I had all the kit and was in good shape, so on the last day before leaving I set off around 2pm and was there by 8pm. Not the quickest time by any means, but I was glad I got to plug a gap in my cycling CV.
I’d learned a lot from the trip. Too much to try to put into words, but I knew I had matured, I’d learned to love England after falling out with it and I was back on track to start working. Although I had started planting seeds for other future trips in my head and had other ideas of what I might like to do when I’m older. I’ve always wanted to do some kind of sailing challenge, not that I knew anything about it.
I learned how to be self-reliant while I was away and that on this trip I was the boss of what I was doing. I never had a day where I had to do something I didn’t want to, or was being told to do something by someone else. In some way that’s one of the biggest things I valued. I thought that if I could keep that up, if I made sure I was in control of the situations I found myself in and if I had the commitment to change something if I didn’t it, then I would always (to some extent) be happy.
Other things the trip taught me was the value and power of friends. There were times when I was low and all I wanted to do was be in a familiar place (ideally a pub) with a good group of friends, dipping into the night in a drunken, chatty splendour. But in all seriousness, I knew that with the right group of friends behind you, you can get through anything. I knew that the friendships I had here, helped me get through the tough scenarios out there, bringing me back to them eventually.
I wanted to do Lands End to John O’Groats next year and having felt like I didn’t see enough of Italy, I promised myself I would go back there for at least four weeks with a bike some time soon.
This whole trip came from taking a risk on a whim, an idea. Something that I wanted to do, but wasn’t sure if I could or not. I left the contract on a good flat and a steady job, to learn more about myself, hopefully finding things that made me happy and content and going towards them and meeting some amazing people in the process and learning about them and their culture.
As I now head towards a professional life that I am both choosing and excited about, all I hope anyone who reads this would take away from it is to trust your instincts and to follow them, no matter where they take you. If we all do this we’ll live lives that are true to ourselves and achieve things we thought we weren’t capable of.
Some stats from the trip.
The overall mileage was 5,000 miles, which crosses over nicely to 8,000km.
To do a round the world trip, requires at least 18,000 miles I think. Maybe that’s the next plan.
The highest peak I got to was the entrance to Andorra, 2408m high.
Countries I visited came to 16, yet I only ever had my passport checked three times.
Here are the countries:
France, Spain, Andorra, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Holland, Belgium and England.
I spent at least one night in every country and about 9 weeks in France (the most time in one place).
I used a Garmin Edge 800. Ortlieb Panniers front and back. A second-hand Claude Butler bike that was put together by my friend Shaun Turnbull.
And thanks to all the people who made the trip possible that way it was.
All the folks that have built the community Warmshowers.org and all the incredible hosts that invited me to stay with them. And the friends I stayed with throughout the trip. Kit, Alain and his family, Rosemary and Bernard, Seb in Tours, Sebastien 2 and his family in Bordeaux, Bill, Nick Burke and Danny in Barcelona, Benoit and his family, Matt Lloyd, Luke Archer and his flatmates, Claudia Klat, Judith and Simon, Lisa Weiss and Raby, Sileno and Rita, Tina and the girls, Kurt, Gabi and Rainer and mum and dad for having the stomach to let me go.
And all my London people. Elaine, Ben Bam, Tom W, Ade, Chris Nieri, Joe Hinder, Jack Maxwell, Gabb, Cliff, Maz, TG and natalie. The list goes on.
Thanks to anyone who’s read anything I’ve written.
Now time for a stiff drink and a slap up meal.