With three days to departure, I feel like I spend a good block of my days explaining our touring plans. Here’s a list of the most frequently asked (and mostly unanswered) questions about our tour:
Where are you going?
To Athens. From there, we’ll need to get to Finland by mid-August for our flight home.
But what do you intend to do in between?
In Greece we plan to sight see and work on our open water swimming skills. Then, we’ll head north. That’s about all know so far.
And you’re going to bike the whole way?
Probably not, but hopefully we’ll bike some long legs. I’ve got an injured hip and we need to stay connected for work, so we’ll travel in whatever way meets our needs at the time. Don’t be surprised if in addition to riding, we catch trains, rent cars, ride ferries, stay put for a long time, or a good mix of all of the above.
Where do you stay?
We almost always camp. Euoprean campgrounds are awesome with showers, dish facilities, swimming pools, and interesting people. When a campground isn’t available, we’ll find an out of the way place to toss down a tent or we’ll find inexpensive guesthouses or hotel. Last time, we camped all but six nights of our three month trip.
Don’t you get tired of sleeping in a tent?
Camping is one of my favorite parts of touring. I love the constant connection to the outdoors, I love meeting people in the campgrounds, and I love the convenience of having plenty of space to spread out, cook, read, do laundry, and enjoy the evenings. I love waking up every morning when the sun fills our tent. But yes,sometimes if it has been raining for days on end, living in a tent can be a real drag. Most of the time though, I really enjoy it.
But isn’t a trip like this expensive? How do you afford it?
Expense is all relative, but generally speaking, not really. We’ve found that the longer and slower we travel, the less it costs. Aside from the expense of getting to Europe in the first place, our main expenses include campground/lodging expenses, and food which we buy mostly at grocery stores and cook ourselves, just as we do at home. We do occasionally purchase train tickets or pay for tourist attractions, but neither of those items represents the lion share of our budget. We keep a flexible schedule and largely avoid expensive touristy places. It actually costs us less to live on the road than it does to stay at home.We aren’t sponsored and we pay for all of our own travel costs by saving carefully and spending less than we earn.
What do you eat?
Everything. Bike touring turns me into a ravenous teenage boy and I eat constantly. We shop at local grocery stores or street markets and try to buy what the locals eat to keep costs low. Usually that means we consume completely irrational amounts of pasta, bread, eggs, cheese, yogurt, fruits, and veggies. We also devour chocolate, ice cream, and pastries almost daily. Endless eating is another real upside to bike touring.
Don’t you guys have jobs? What about your house? How do you manage to be gone all the time?
I’m currently working freelance, which I can do from anywhere. Ben’s job has kindly agreed to let him work part time from the road. We’re committed to do good work for my clients and for Ben’s employer and will prioritize those commitments above everything else. We recognize that we’ve been incredibly lucky to have this kind of flexibility in our lives and try hard not to take it for granted.
My brother and his wife will be living in our house to keep an eye on things while we’re gone.
What kind of bikes do you ride? Do you take your bikes with you?
We ride Surly Travelers Checks that utilize S&S couplers. This allows them to break down to fit in an airline regulation sized box. We also take all our gear with us on the plane.
How far do you pedal every day?
Historically, we’ve gone 30-60 miles (48-80km) depending on the terrain. One time we did 100 miles in Hungary, just to say we did, and sometimes we clocked less than that if the day’s route was hilly or if our destination was simply not that far away. I have no idea how that will hold for this trip. We really don’t plan this stuff in advance.
Does your body get used to pedaling that much every day?
Kind of. My butt gets used to the saddle and my legs get stronger as we go. Still, no matter how in shape I get, persistent riding on a loaded bike wears me out like nothing I’ve ever done before. On the other hand, Ben seems like he was pretty much born to ride a bike. He rarely looks as exhausted as I do.
Don’t you start to annoy each other when you travel that long together?
Not usually, but sometimes. Ben’s style of riding and traveling (hardcore!) and mine (way less intense!) can often be at odds. I’m slow and require an awful lot of water and food just to keep moving. We’re constantly working to find an appropriate pace both on the bike and on the tour in general to make sure we’re both doing ok. We have noticed that on a bike tour in in marriage in general, things tend to go better when we act like we’re on the same team and use kindness and compromise when days are tough, which of course, is easier said than done. Like any marriage, traveling or not, some days are better than others and we’re learning as we go.
How’d you guys get into bike touring anyway?
When we were still dating we met a lady who had ridden the United States from the Canadian border to Mexico, which immediately struck me as something I wanted to do. A few years later, we followed the journeys of other amazing touring families online. Their detailed travel logs helped us sort out the logistics of actually going on tour ourselves. If you’re looking for really amazing tales of adventure, check out Going Slowly and Family on Bikes.
What about all the other languages? Do you guys speak anything besides English?
No, not really. I speak a little bit of Spanish and can read some signs in Italian, but mostly, we’re really good at smiling, nodding and playing charades. We do try to learn how to say “hello” and “thank you” wherever we go. We’ve never run into any problems that couldn’t be solved with some creativity and miming.
Are you going to have phones?
Probably not. We’ll work mostly by email or Skype. Feel free to contact us, email, or leave us a comment and we’ll try to get right back with you.
Since this is your second tour, the planning is much easier, right?
I don’t know how things will be once we get on the road, but at least in the planning, this time has been way more stressful. Instead of six months, we’ve put the whole thing together in just less than three weeks. Additionally, last time I was working under a veil of complete ignorance, imagining our summer would be full of sunny days and croissants. This time, we have a much better picture of what kinds of challenges we will inevitably face. For my personality, a nomadic lifestyle can be mentally challenging, so this time I’m more nervous about what we’re heading into, especially with an injury to look after.
Are you ready to go?
Not yet! We’re still yet to box up the bikes and most of our gear and also we’ve got major car repairs here that may be left undone until August. Regardless, we’ll get on the plane on Saturday and hope for the best!