We have now been traveling for four months and have cycled almost 6'000 km.
When I look at the world map and all the kilometers and countries still ahead of us, this doesn't seem like much. But this first part of our journey has already been demanding. We have pedaled through long days of constant sunshine and heat, with humidity levels that make you sweat even when sitting in the shade resting. The mountains of Thailand were hard and steep, while in Laos the long up and downs were seemingly never-ending. Now in Vietnam, where heat and humidity peak, I must admit I feel my energy is being drained. However, much more than my physical energy it's my mental energy and perhaps motivation, that are at a low. I have caught the traveling blues.
Why? It started in Hanoi, where we had bad luck and chose the hotel with bed bugs. Luckily we had seen them before we went to sleep and spent that night in our tent in the hotel room. The following days it was hard to get a good nights rest, as we feared more bed bugs. No wonder, during these days we only came across pay by the hour hotels, with grungy rooms and an uncomfortable atmosphere. Soon after I came down with quite a bad cold, caused by the lack of rest and sleeping with the air conditioning or fan on all night. I can tell you, having a cold in this humid and hot weather is really not fun! I started to miss the simple luxuries of having my own home, like sitting on the couch, relaxing and watching a movie. More importantly, I started to really miss my family and friends.
But did I really want to abandon this trip and adventure? I was fulfilling a dream after all, wasn't I? As these thoughts were running through my head, pulling me down and making me feel homesick, I heard a Vietnamese woman asking me something. I hoped it wasn't the usual: "where are you from?" and "where do you go?". The woman was sitting across from me, curiously looking at me and asking: "are you feeling OK?". Wow! Such a simple question, but one we have seldom heard on this trip. It came just at the right moment. I talked to the women for a while about our trip, her family and her work. She is a teacher and about the same age as I am. But in Vietnam, school is also open on Saturday and holidays are short. She has a little girl and once a year they try to go on holiday for a week. What a difference to being a teacher in Europe!
Just as the conversation died down a bit and I was about to say good-bye, she invited Sera and I to have lunch with her and her family. Even though she was the only one at the table who could really speak English, the atmosphere was laid back and friendly. We showed them pictures of our trip, always a good way of communicating with people when language skills don't suffice. They probably thought we were crazy travel by bicycle, but even more I think they were slightly envious.
After they had left, I returned to my previous thoughts, this time with a different perspective. I now knew quitting wasn't an option! I am very privileged to cycle the world, experience far away cultures and not be pressured by time. It is often the little gestures by the people we meet, their generosity and kindness that keep you motivated.
Traveling can be very exhausting, especially when the mode of transport is a bicycle. Even more than a physical, it's a mental challenge and the mind is not always on your side. When things get tough, its important to stay positive and remain motivated. In the end, I chose to go on this adventure. It's a choice most people do not even have. It's a choice I'm glad I made!