that’s six months we spent on the back of our bicycles according to WHO’s global average life expectancy. Half a year of meeting strangers and having hours of conversation about life, happiness and office jobs that prevent us from having either. Traveling is a great way of being reminded what’s important in life. And most surprisingly: How little. For me it’s water (yes the one that comes in ubiquitous amounts, drinkable from the tap for most of you but as a patch of blue colour on the GPS for us 🙂 ), a bit of sunshine over the course of the day (to dry the tent and dance around a bit) and the incredible luck to have a fantastic partner on my side. How do I love when we argue and yell at one another because somebody caught us steal an orange from a farm tree or the paranoid German in me perceives every truck driver’s honk as a threat to Nastyas life, only to find out at the next stop that the drivers gave her a thumbs up. Rightly so!
I’m thinking a lot why it is that most people are scared to wander off into the unknown, thinking you need a lot of money to travel. Well, that may be true if you need to be a tourist and maintain a nice bubble that doesn’t make you leave behind the comforts you know from back home. Its worth giving them up though, as there is so much to discover if you let it happen. A lot of the younger hosts we met plan on doing just that. They tell us how inspiring we are and how they cannot wait to get on the road themselves. Just like us a year ago, when we hosted cycling grandmothers or families of five with their youngest daughter being just one year old. Our hosts parents though wondering, taking us aside and asking questions around how much money we must have made in Prague that we can afford doing this. A lot of questions circle around poor and rich. I knew from my earlier trips that when going East, best not to mention the amount of money being paid to unemployed in Germany. It’s easily more than double a local salary and takes hours to explain the differences in price levels (though a shocking amount of products is much cheaper in Germany).
Well, it’s not about the money. I made it through half a year with 10 items of clothing. Of course you feel slightly out of place when you attend a wedding in flip flops, but trust me, this feeling wears off after 10 minutes if it’s a good wedding. Carrying gigantic suitcases over bumpy asphalt would only prevent us from submerging into the local culture and having a good time. It’s not about the things you own (and carry). It’s the invisible things we received so often, the love, the generosity of people taking you into their homes, the great advice and lot’s of laughs. That truly made us rich. And the food – we’re definitely good at turning that invisible 😀
This is nothing new of course – more and more people follow “the cult of less” these days and declutter their lives. I believe it’s a first step in order to lead a happier life, escaping consumptive happiness and spending money not on possessions but on shared moments. The words of our host in Athens come to my mind. They invited us for a fantastic lunch on our last day, after a great three days we spent together. “Fuck the money”. Exactly! And good if you can still say that AFTER you quit your fancy job.
Despite these thoughts and our minimalistic packing in Prague six months ago we still “lost” quite a few things we don’t miss. My electric hair trimmer hopefully found a better life somewhere else and I hope the spare usb charger is being recycled and put to good use somewhere on the Balkans as well.
In all these 6 months, the only scary thing that happened to us is that we really don’t know anymore where we want to settle down and even more what we should do for a living. Every home we leave and every country we come to, we fall in love. It’s genuine too as people don’t expect anything from two poor cyclists that need a shower despite the rain they just went through. Hippie live on a beach in India here we come! Don’t get me wrong, i’m not naive to believe that having no money is a desirable state to be in, but we consider carefully what we spend it on. Great memories are more fulfilling than possessions (or hours wasted in front of TV or Facebook).
At last a bit of house marketing. We do live off little money, but some is needed nonetheless. If you have friends or family thinking about a vacation on the beautiful baltic sea coast, just 3-4 hours north of Berlin please share with them the link to our family’s holiday apartment. For German speakers and if you cannot find your mother tongue on AirBnB please let me know 🙂