Up/Down to/from Scandinavia : reflections

Ready to leave!

Ready to leave!

Now that this journey of 7331 kms is over, a bit of reflection is imposed. If I had only one phrase to resume this whole experience, I would describe it as hard but rewarding. Somewhat like hiking (serious hiking, not a simple afternoon in the wild), where some parts are definatly hard, some are really boring and in the moment you are very often not enjoying yourself so much but once it is all over, you are proud of having taken it from beginning to end and feel a greater individual. After all, it is through difficulty that we grow the most.

Me

Solitude was also hard at times. I am fine by myself, I do not get anxious when there is no one around but some things are just so much better when you get to share them with others that I would rather have company than not. Most often I would not fall short of people to discuss with at hostels but on a few occasions, my attempts at engaging conversations were infructuous and wish I would have had a friend with me to spend the night out with. I never had anyone with me during the day and while I do prefer the company of a friend, it is the evenings that I always find the most lonely. That is for cities but on the motorcycle, the noise and the concentration required make it a lonely adventure. However, when you are riding in group, you always have people to discuss the route and the sights with on a break or for that matter, just about anything that will take your mind away from your aching back and behind.

One thing that kept bugging me all along the trip was that I was not spending enough time at any given place. I kept reminding myself that this voyage was mostly about motorcycling and the road but everytime I met other people at hostels I could not help but feeling like I was being a very poor tourist for not taking the time to discover a place and it’s culture. Nonetheless, I got a good glimpse at many countries and while I will not have enough of my life to visit each of them in depth (the world is a MASSIVE place), I will certainly go back to some of them but probably not on a bike. People travelling alone were very common and while travelling, you make friends very easily because the mood is just right for it: everyone is actually in the same shoes. Spending only two days in a city was not enough for that and would only get me to the acquaintance level of friendship, thereby exacerbating the solitude issue.

Despite the rapid pace and the solitude, this journey never fell short of the virtues of travelling. It was enlightening, demanding, got me far away from my homely comfort for a certain amount of time and most importantly, gave me the opportunity to interact with new people. As outlined before, it was different than normal backpacking but it also had much in common.

This is certainly something I will do again in the future. Road trips are an awesome way of travelling (while gas is still affordable). The next one will most likely not happen on a motorcycle but if I manage to convince any of my relatives into taking it as a hobby, there might be a chance.

Motorcycling

The physical exertion of riding a motorcycle all day was not as bad as I had expected it. First off because I knew what to expect as I had done long distance rides before undertaking this trip and second for the reason that those little aches dit not get much worse with distance and time. After and hour, I have basically reach my quota of biking for a day. My behind is chaffing, my back is aching and my legs are tingling and depending on the weather, I am cold and my fingers are numb. With the exception of low temperature, all those little discomforts will not get worse and a good one hour break for lunch would pretty much reset the clock. However, I am abstracting the fatigue caused by long-distance driving but be it a car, a plane or a motorcycle, it is inevitable.

I have only good comments about the motorcycle. It held up very nice and never showed any sign of serious wear or imminent break down. From beginning to end I had complete faith that it would take me to end of my trip. The fact that it was only a 125 got me into some pretty tight situations but that is not the motorcycle’s fault, most of the time, it was sufficient. With regards to comfort I cannot really tell because I have not rode that many machines, but the Varadero being bigger that all other 125, having a greater carrying capacity and bigger saddle certainly helped into making this voyage more pleasurable. It got me where I need to go so really I cannot complain and I got the bite so I will definitively get another bike and it will certainly be more powerful that this one. This is not a goodbye because I get to keep it for another few months and plan on doing many other trips (to Valencia, Spain for instance) with it but when the time will come where I need to sell it, I’ll be sad.

Rankings

Best time in cities:

  1. Berlin
  2. Tallinn
  3. Helsinki

Most beautiful cities:

  1. Warsaw
  2. Nuremberg
  3. Brussels

Best roads:

  1. Germany
  2. Finland
  3. Sweden

Best country

  1. Finland
  2. Germany
  3. Denmark

Worst moments:

  1. Being in the middle of Lithuania soaked to the bone and shivering with cold with still 450 kms to go.
  2. Dropping my motorcycle in the middle of nowhere in Sweden.
  3. Riding with massive crosswinds on a road full of trucks in Poland.

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