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Toutons with nutella

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It’s hard to believe but the trip is more or less over.

This time last year we left Stuttgart, Germany for a little village in Switzerland, en route ultimately to Newfoundland. In terms of direction it was slightly the wrong way as we wanted to ride through Russia and Mongolia before hitting South America to ride up to Mount Pearl. Yet, when you are talking about taking a year or more to ride from one continent to another, what is 180 kilometres in comparison to the 30,000 we eventually put on our vehicles? (that’s two times 10,000 for each set of motorcycles, and another 10,000 on the van)

Not that significant, really.

Our arrival in Newfoundland a little over two weeks ago was a little anti-climactic. We were on the island, but in Port aux Basques. We had 900 kilometres and a whole day of driving ahead of us. We could have made it into an adventure, but the oppressive fog meant that not hitting a moose was adventure enough for us. To put this in perspective, during our journey here the same distance – 900 kilometres – took us through Italy, Austria, Slovenia and into Hungary. It also took us three days for the ride. There was plenty we could have seen on our cross-island drive that would have meant going slower in Newfoundland as well. However, as the last time I was home was Christmas 2010, I was in a bit of a rush to make it to Mount Pearl. I had a nephew I had never met waiting for me and a niece who was an infant when I left. I wanted to see my family something awful.

Home sweet home

If the initial arrival on the island was anti-climactic, the arrival home was not. I have to admit that approaching from the overpass rather than directly from the airport was a somewhat surreal experience. It felt weird to be coming from that direction without having come from Mount Pearl to begin with. I had more jitters than when we rode away in Germany. And I was sorely tempted to pull over and get my picture taken next to the spray painted “here be townies” sign. But the German did not understand and felt risking our lives (or a ticket) for bad graffiti was not really worth it.

And although we were in a van rather than on two motorcycles, once we pulled into my parents’ driveway it felt great to have a dream completed, even if slightly differently from that we had envisioned. But then again, sticking strictly to the plan might have meant complete failure. If travel teaches you anything, it is to be open and flexible. Bend like a tree rather than snap like a board kind of stuff. Or as I prefer to say, go with it and have fun or throw tantrums that end with sharp objects in someone’s eye (or a multitude of sharp objects in a number of eyes, as the need may be).

…sticking strictly to the plan might have meant complete failure. If travel teaches you anything, it is to be open and flexible.

Throughout the trip, and even now that we are here, the most common thing people say to us is how lucky we are that we were able to do this trip. And yes, we are incredibly lucky. But no more lucky than anyone else in our situation. That is to say, anyone born in a first world country where ensuring we have enough food to eat and shelter over our heads is not a daily priority. On an average day, the trip consisted of a couple of hundred kilometres a day tops. Not so different from a lot of people’s daily commute. Only ours was always in a single direction. And in terms of money, neither of us is rich (I thank the goddess that Newfoundland student loans are now interest free!). The German – coming from Germany – had no student loans (a rant for another day) and as a software developer is neither rich nor poor. Yet he also did a similar around-the-world motorcycle trip when he graduated from university, which is hardly a time when one is considered to be at the pinnacle of one’s wealth.

It’s about commitment, not cash

What was more important to ensuring the trip became a reality was a firm commitment to making it so. As a freelance English teacher I had the freedom to leave my job. Yet, I teach English for a living. That is my choice. I would rather the freedom to travel than a job that brings me prestige. The German is in a better position in that there are not enough developers in Germany for the demand. His boss didn’t want him to go, but said he understood the urge. So a sabbatical year was granted. Yet if the year had not been granted he would have just quit anyhow. The trip was more important to him.

And I think that’s less about luck, than it is about knowing the trip would be worth whatever the fallout might be. Because there will almost always be work – of some sort – to be found, but you might not always have the health to motorcycle your way around the world. The other component that made it possible was saving up money the year prior to the trip. New clothes came from Santa or not at all that year, and dinners out with friends became “come to ours and I will cook instead.”

And the past year has been worth every ounce of sacrifice that led up to it.

But again, it was less about luck and more about willpower and determination.

So now I have a month to enjoy at home before flying back to Germany for our move to Berlin. That means a month of indulging shamelessly in my father’s cooking. Toutons with nutella it is!

This is also my last column for Chasing Summer, especially considering that I overshot summer, had a brief stint in winter and now seem to be in spring. I will continue blogging over on my Unleash Your Adventure site for those interested. And thanks to everyone who followed along on my adventure the past year!

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