Sunday, 27 February 2011

Yes, You Can Buy It In Europe

     Travel light. That’s what we hear and see from experienced travellers who talk and write about the virtues of carrying less. I’ll add my name to the long list of travellers who offer this advice, even after I understood the theory but didn’t follow-through before starting a major trip. 
     I, along with my cycling companion, M, toured Europe for 6 months on bicycles, sleeping in a tent with the odd treat of spending a night or two in a B & B or hotel. We spent months creating numerous equipment spreadsheets when planning the trip and finally came up with the 'one' that would do us well for who knows how long.
     All of our gear was to fit into 8 panniers, 2 handle-bar bags and 2 rear-rack bags. I carried approximately 60 lb. but M was a different story – she is only 4 ‘-9 ⅓” and weighs 100 lbs. soaking wet. She carried approximately 50 lb.
     We suspected that we packed too much when we loaded our gear into the taxi that took us to the airport – a few grunts and groans were heard from both of us plus the cab driver. But hey, we’re going for quite a while and we have to have all this stuff and what if we can’t buy anything in Europe
     We started our trip in Amsterdam and you would think we wouldn’t have any trouble since the country is fairly flat. Well, you should have seen us hop on our bikes when we left the home of our Warmshowers hosts. We both started wobbling like crazy – similar to how a child looks when learning to ride a bike – yes, it was embarrassing! The next incident was cycling into a head wind along side the ocean while we were heading towards Monnickendam. Luckily, we didn't come across anyone on the same cycle path as we looked and rode like two clowns on unicycles.
     Riding in Monnickendam on a cool, rainy day, M's bike skidded out from under her and she toppled on the street’s cobblestones. I stopped to go back and help her but she got up and quickly hopped on her bike as she shouted at me “Go! Just Go!” I was startled and didn’t know what to think and when she caught up with me, she said “I scratched the shit out of that car!” I asked why she didn’t tell me at the time and she stated “I was worried someone might hear.” When we were out of sight of the car, we stopped and had a good laugh but deep down, we knew we had to do something about the weight of our gear.
     Due to Netherlands’ cold, spring weather not helping our balance and weight issues, we hopped on a train to Milan, Italy where it was sunny and warm. Again we suspected we had too much weight as we had to climb up and down stairs in the Milan train station because we couldn’t find an elevator (this happened often throughout Europe). We found a campsite, pitched our tent and immediately looked for a post office to ship some irrelevant gear to family members back home.
     The weight and balance issue still didn’t go away. Cycling into Venice on the 4 km. long Ponte della Liberta bridge, the narrow sidewalk allowed us to just fit and we slowly made our way until I realized I hadn’t heard M's voice for some time. I couldn’t turn my head while riding and so I stopped and looked back. Way back! There she was - stuck; she couldn’t move and signalled to me with her hands held up in desperation. I couldn’t squeeze by my bike to help her and so I gave the proverbial shoulder shrug. With brute strength, she finally freed herself and we continued on. We eventually discarded other items during our trip as we realized that one can 'buy things’ in Europe!
     First time going on a major trip? My advice? Once again – travel light!
     But I know you’ll take what you know you can't do without and you'll say "If I don't take it, where will I ever buy it?" 

1 comment:

  1. good reminder! me? I always overpack whenever I'm doing a "suitcase" holiday but while biking I take no more than 2 panniers, 15 lbs max each.