Countdown

In the last couple of weeks we have been very busy. We repaired bikes, bought spare parts, organized our luggage, thought about what to take with us at least ten times, said goodbye to family and friends, cleaned our apartment, gave an interview to the Tiroler Tageszeitung and so on. We did thousands of other little things we cannot recall because it would be too much to mention.

But now we are almost done. Tomorrow will be our last day in Europe. We will pack the last things and have dinner with our family in the Netherlands. 

Ben and Esmé have been relaxed and easy going most of the time. Like us, they also feel excited about the upcoming journey. Esmé is talking about airplanes a lot. Yesterday, I showed Ben pictures of the coastline and beaches near Cancun but he told me, that he wants to see a volcano. A couple of days ago they had a vaccination they still needed. Unfortunately both if them got really sick afterwards. 

We have been sleeping in many different places in the last weeks, mostly friends, but both the children have had no problems with that. They enjoy meeting and talking to different people. Also travelling (bus, train, airplane) is easy with them. In general Esmé can’t sit still but in certain situations she seems to realize that she has to stay in her seat. For sure we also always prepare a long journey with nice food, new toys, games or stories. These distractions seem to work really well. Hopefully our 12 hour long flight to Mexico, the day after tomorrow, will be doable. We feel positive about it and look forward to lie on the beach very soon. 

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Spinal disc herniation

We should leave in 4 days. For weeks we were busy preparing everything: organising the first days in Vancouver, buying some extra things we would need, repairing our bikes, putting the bikes in boxes, emptying the house (more boxes) and so forth

(We didn’t got the chance to take pictures of all the luggage we would take with us.)

But than it happened: four weeks ago Peter suddenly couldn’t walk anymore. He had a lot of pain while sitting and walking and was only able to lie in bed (next to the bike boxes).

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We went to different doctors and did a scan and very soon the problem was clear: He had a spinal disc herniation. We tried different things, Peter stayed in hospital several times for a couple of days, alternative medicine, but nothing helped. The doctors told us that, if he wants to cycle tour again like we used to do, he needs surgery. And that’s what he did. Last Thursday he had the surgery and everything went well. Now Peter is at home and he can walk without pain again. Which is a big relief for all of us.

The last weeks have been emotional and stressful for all of us. First there was this uncertainty. “What is the problem?” “How can we fix it?” “Will the pain ever go away?” …

But also:

“Shall we continue packing everything and emptying our house?” “Can we leave on 22nd of April?” “Shall we fly to Canada and travel in a different way?” …

Finally we realised that it would be really stupid to start this trip right now. Peter has to get better. In six weeks it will be clear if everything healed well and if the pain is really gone. Than he slowly can start to train his muscles again and maybe try to cycle a little bit. It is hard to wait and live with this uncertainty. We love our life on the road but maybe we can never tour like we used to do again.

Ben still is very confused. Everyday he is talking about “our big trip” and about the “bear country”. He keeps telling us “I will take …  with me when we go on our big trip.” We tell him that we can’t go right now and that daddy has to get better first but it is really difficult for him to understand. When Peter had the operation Ben said “Now we can go on our big trip mummy, can’t we?”

That’s life and life is going on. Petra is thinking of how to tour alone with two small kids this year (probably only for a couple of days), Peter wants to follow with a car (if he is able to sit for a longer period by then) and we look forward to enjoy another summer in the beautiful Austrian Alps.

Spring time = adventure time

After about 1 1/2 years of no cycle touring we decided that it is time to start again. Petra’s body is back to normal after the pregnancy and Esmé is now 1 year old, ready to experience the life on the road.IMG_0071

As you probably can imagine we needed to think about how to transport two kids instead of one and how to fit luggage for 4 people into 8 panniers. Trailers (and children) are damn heavy and we try to limit our luggage to a minimum.

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I have no idea how we manage but the 8 panniers, which we already used when we were touring only with the two of us, are still enough for everything we need for a whole family. To maximise our freedom, the most valuable thing while touring, we carry all the gear we need to wild camp. A tent, mattresses, sleeping bags, cooking gear. As you can see on the picture we put the tent on Ben’s Weehoo. But there is almost nothing, except the baby and some nappies, in the Chariot. Peter and Petra take almost no spare clothes, maximum one book each, no computer or iPad (we never did). For the children we took very little toys. We experienced on previous trips that a lot of toys break easily when used outside or when they get wet. Furthermore Ben hardly ever played with them, because he is too busy playing with rocks, sticks, water or sand.

Our 3 person tent got too small so we bought a Terra Nova Hoolie 4. Till now we are satisfied with it. It’s cheap and huge. 4 mattresses fit easily next to each other.IMG_0068

First we thought that we will miss the vestibule we had at our 3 person tent but the Hoolie has enough space on the side of the entrance to fit our panniers.

As we already shared with you Weehoo sponsored us a 2015 IGO Turbo.DSC08972

We decided for a Weehoo instead of a FollowMe or something similar because we find it more comfortable. Ben likes to enjoy our rides by looking around and singing songs and he tends to fall asleep easily while touring.

We are still looking for the best solution for Ben while sleeping in the Weehoo. His head keeps moving from left till right and back which causes also some minor problems for Peter while cycling. The best solution till now seems to be a neck cushion (which people use during long flights in airplanes) but we turn it around. Otherwise Ben’s neck seems to bend dangerously unhealthy forward. Any better suggestions?

Nice weather and good camping spots are essential for touring with children. It makes life easier. They can play outdoors without us worrying too much. So we waited for good weather and started our first big trip at the beginning of April. We cycled from our village till Vienna, which literally means across Austria (600 km) and took a train back home.

This trip has been disappointing for us. Esmé liked the cycling and surprisingly the sleeping in the tent was no problem at all. But she didn’t like the time when we got off our bikes and wanted to prepare food or pitch the tent. She felt uncomfortable while sitting in the grass and didn’t dare to move as she would do at home. Therefore she cried more than usual and wanted to be carried by Petra only which made it impossible for her to help with the daily tasks. Peter had to do everything alone and got very exhausted. We had no time at all for ourselves and doubted our choice of touring with our children. What is the meaning of traveling by bike with two small kids when they don’t enjoy it? Tired and sad we took a train back home.

After some days at home we recovered and discussed about what to do now. Touring by bike is our life, we love it and we want to do it with our children. That has always been our wish. We decided on taking Esmé outdoors more often. Ever since she has been born she has mostly been inside or been carried while being outside. Last year in summer the weather has mostly been really bad. Too bad to put a little baby in the grass. And then winter came and we carried her because sitting in the snow would have been too cold.

We also decided to do some more shorter cycle touring trips this spring and summer. A couple of days or maybe a week. If that works out well we want to try another longer trip of a couple of weeks in August.

So that’s what we did. Besides a couple of day trips (hiking and cycling) we did a loop of 160km (3 days) over the Staller Sattel (border between Austria and Italy). This trip was not only another trial run for Esmé but also a little test if we are in good shape again after an obliged winter break. We had to cycle about 2000 altimeters.

And no, we didn’t came back home disappointed this time. Esmé enjoyed being outside. She was playing with grass and rocks and water and sand and really liked it. 

As you probably can imagine we feel happy and relieved now. Hopefully our next trips will be as peaceful and nice as this one has been.

Enjoy the pictures! We keep you updated.