It was very important for me to finish this big trip slowly and in a way adaption into society would be easier. Therefore we decided to cycle in Europe over the summer months. As I already mentioned in my previous post Peter worked a big part of June and July. I didn’t want to wait and stay in one place for such a long time. Cycling with the children and Luna all by myself was an idea that formed already earlier in our trip. I have been touring a lot in the last 10 years but I hardly ever toured alone. Peter and I always shared the responsibility for the children and discussed every decision that had to be made. Now, at the end of our big tour, I had the feeling that I knew everything about touring and wild camping. I felt confident that I would manage on my own. It was a welcome new challenge. I wanted to know how much I learned in the past two years and how strong I am now.
It was easier than expected. My trip, my decision, my rules. I had to be strikt with Ben and Esmé every now and then. They had to help me more than when Peter is with us and I had to give them more responsibility than usual. For example: Whenever we had to do groceries one adult plus one child would stay outside with the bikes and take care nothing would be stolen. The other adult plus child would do groceries. Now it was only me with two children and a dog. I told Ben that I can’t leave Esmé outside the store with the bikes. She simply is too young for that. But Ben and Luna would be a good care taker team. I explained why it had to be this way. He and Luna stayed in front of the supermarket with the bikes every day. Esmé always choose something she knew Ben would like (e.g. salami, cheese, grapes). This was his reward for taking care of our stuff. Coming from the US, where you would never ever be allowed to leave your six year old child in front of the supermarket alone, this situation stressed me every time. In Europe it is more common to give your children more freedom and responsibility but I was still more used to the American culture.
Another big thing was Ben having to cycle every single kilometer by himself. We always had the opportunity to attach him to an adult bike on our way through North America. Now Luna was too big to carry in a box in the front of my bike. Luna and Esmé shared a two seat child trailer which was not the best but the only solution I could think of. “No Luna, this is my half of the trailer and this is yours.” is a sentence I heard several times a day. Luna and Esmé were fighting a lot. I longed for Peter and his bike, pulling Esmé and her bike, which would result in less fighting and growling. Ben on the other hand did great on his own bike. We averaged 40km a day in the first week which slowly increased to 50km a day average with a maximum of 68km in one day. Ben needed a rest day or two every four days. I am very proud of his achievement. He did a great job.
Finally we made it to Berlin without taking a train or a bus. We wild camped almost every day (except on rest days). I also planned almost the whole route by myself. (Only in the beginning I followed the R1 cycle route.) I feel proud of myself and the children and now know that I am capable of doing tougher things than I thought. While possessing a strong personality and will I do underestimate myself a lot of times. I learned that about myself on our way from Helmond (NL) to Berlin (D).
In my next post: The last kilometers back home – from Berlin to Austria
(Sorry for the long gaps between the posts …)