I have spent almost 8 years in a bicycle saddle and this did shape my life in man ways. One such thing is the need to do physical exercise to be able to think. I can´t really do any good, positive and exhilarating thinking if I don´t work out, preferably in the saddle of a bicycle. And since I took over of as Trek editor at ExWeb, most articles I have written have been about other cyclists. They seem to find me, makes me remember and I write about them with joy. And I understand them. Like Marija for example, who´s article below, deals a lot with the love of cycling and the rewards for doing so.
I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption
I did what I have to do and saw it through without exemption” – My
way, F. Sinatra
When being 13 I got my first new shiny bike. During the first night I
went to garage and brought bike up to second floor to my room. I was
proud owner and over excited. I spent more and more time on bike. I
took it for the ride around my town everyday. Sometimes I was out for
an hour, sometimes for full day. All I knew it then was I loved the
feeling of riding the bike. It gave me one of the best way to explore
my surroundings, towns, hills, myself, to be one – me & bike.
Time was passing by. I grow up older. Finished one school, got a
degree from university, but the passion for the bike remain with me. I
start reading sites from people who did longer journeys. Instead of books for school, I read more and more reports from people being on the road.
To be on the road myself for time being I never really imagine. I
started with a “career” job. Couple years later I resign.
For a change I had a bit of money left on bank account, I got time and
passport in my pocket. Opportunity that allowed me to try my best for
idea of crossing Euro-Asian continent using human powered to become
reality. The project “Momo on tour” was born. Bike ride took me from
my home, little town Skofja Loka, Slovenia to Beijing, China and back.
I can say it took me 30 months, 32000+ kms done, 23 countries visited.
Or I can say for the time being I live my life with passion. I hit the
bottom few times really really hard, but there were also moments when
I feel as a dancer in the sky just being happy. I was one. Me & bike.
As before and as now, I chose to took the rood less traveled by. I
chose to go complete solo after Iran. Day by day I continue going
east. For most of the time I was positively over surprised with openes
of people and the beauty of nature. Nature that surrounded me for the
most of the days was simply amazing. The way I feel, when crossing
Pamir, Tibet and other remote area is hard to describe. I am talking
about areas where for couple hundred kms there is not much of society
out there. Where it was the simple “game” between me and mother
nature. It was not easy, but it was straight forward. I enjoyed sun
and snowy days, had hard when fighting against wind and mix feeling
when hearing rain drops coming g down. I realized how tiny little I
am. I was solo, but not alone. At the evening I looked up in the stars
and using bit of imagination thinking over about my parents, friends.
We are far far away, but we all looked at same stars, same sun. The
peace that surrounded me those weeks in and out was special. Sleeping
under open sky and seeing all the stars on fresh clear night is one of
best view ever saw. It was the best million start hotel. I never
thought that Milky way can be so beautiful. I never was bored with
sunrises and sunsets. They are special part of the day. They are
reminder that everything comes and goes in circle.
Yeap some amazing memories were written down. Those helped me when
riding a bike become struggle, when it was hard work needed to be done
day by day. When seeing big blue sky was not an option due to heavy
pollution. Crossing most of big cities was no fun. There were parts in
China when my lunges felt shitty, just because of the air I had to
breath. It was hard lesson learn about the price civilization is
paying for the so called “development”. If nature is my motivation,
the important part as well are people. People that for most of the
time was one of my best source of motivation. While being on bike,
there is no wall between you and bike. Due to the low speed of
traveling for most of the time you see much clearer where you are.
People see you as well. Being a solo woman had plus and minuses.
Learning local languages opens many door to the homes of local. I had
time. Hearing stories of their life’s, realizing once again how
“spoiled” we are on the west. Enjoying the little conversation over
tea or lunch was important for me. I never traveled abroad to see
another church, people are my source of inspiration. With the openes
and hospitality towards me in Iran and Central Asia, once again I
realized what a shame for all political only reports in media about
that region. China was a culture shock. I done over 15.000 km there,
but still today my opinion is not defined. I struggled. There were
months when speaking proper English was not an option, when body
language was not understood, the way I used to it. But in China I felt
safe. I had not an single problem with men there.
Day by day, week by week I continue following the road wherever it
took me. It needed cca. 27 months to met Mr. Faruk in the hills of far
far north-east of Turkey, near town Ardahan. coming out of Georgia,
where once again I was waken up few times by the sound of bombs, due
to the war started while I was on the bike. for the need having
another problem with man all I wanted in first week in Turkey is to
get me to first city, find the hotel to clean, eat and sleep. And
there was this man. He, small middle aged man. came along the road on
his bike inviting me for the tea. He was polite but he was persisted.
He showed that just for 5 minutes. He wanted to try my bike. (I had
been riding recumbent bike then.) I stooped, he tried it. As usually I
was standing it behind the bike and pushed him around, while he was
sitting on it. By that time i got “used” to all the positive feedback
from the people and he was one more super happy person at the moment.
He invited me for tea. It was afternoon, so I had few hours left
before night come down. I followed him up. Couple hundred meters from
main road it was his little house on the tree. The most beautiful
little house on trea I ever see. Really nice, super clean, everything
organized. We set down, make a fire to boiled the water for a cup of
tea. I knew few words in Turkish and he know couple more words in
English. We talked about this and that, his family, my family, his
country, my country. When we could not understand each other we drow
on a piece of paper. hours passed by. As my confidence was really low,
I was still full concentrated observing for any hints if things will
go wrong. For sure I was far from being relax, but somehow I started
to trusted him. So he invite me to stay over for a night. I stayed. It
was personal test for myself to build up confidence again towards
society. He took care of me as my dad would to. Making sure my bad was
comfortable and warm enough, letting me all the space in that little
house on tree for myself only. I have not sleep good (I was still to
nervous.), but in the morning I felt great. We ate breakfast, went to
his village where I met up his family, when to mosque and later he
join me for a ride to next town, cca. 30 kms away. Seeing mr. Faruk on
his bike was one of best views every. This proud Turkish man, who was
someones lovely husband and proud dad, on that bike he looked like
being the happiest person on the world as well.
One day in my life was spend with that man. Our roads separated, but
the memories will stay till the rest of my life as fresh as on the day
that they were written. If I had to traveled through out all ups and
downs to experience this just for 24 hours let it be. It was well
worth ed! It is the reasons why I choose to traveled roads less
I do wish that more people would understand and realize that we all,
rich or poor, Muslim or Christian, we are all living on same boat,
name it space ship. It is all connected and it is main purpose of
society to try making, and doing it better and better place to be for
all and each of us. We, at “west” are privileged just to be lucky to
be born here. And should try to use our sources and resources more
sustainable for the well being of whole society and surroundings much
Me & bike was and is the combination that brings out the best of me
and most of the time from people around me. It gave me a chance to
learnt many lessons about life itself, about unconditional love from
parents, about others, about cultures, about physical and mental
limits (Which are higher then we thing, but still they do exist,
called it the thin line between life or death.) It was an amazing
opportunity to instead of reading from others to experience it first
hand, to feel it, to touch it, to see it…to seize the day to
maximum. It was not easy, but for sure so far most influent time of my
I did what I did. I do consider myself being lucky. Lucky to be
healthy, lucky to be born in Slovenia, lucky to have a passport, etc.
Things that we – on West take it for granted. They are not! If I would
be born just 200 km southern from my home town, I would be born in
Bosnia. My life, 15 years ago would go different direction. I am not
saying worse or better just for sure different.
Now I am 31 and bike is still here. I love the feeling the same way as
once I was 13.
To finish with Albert Einstein quote: “Life is like riding a bicycle.
To keep your balance you must keep moving.” No matter where and how!”
© Copyright 2013 Explorer Mikael Strandberg | Photos and texts Copyright Explorer Mikael Strandberg