“Europe by Motorcycle” – First Conclusions
It`s halftime. I traveled to all European countries that are situated to the west of Switzerland. This (and next) year` s travel project of mine called Europe by Motorcycle should bring me to all European countries, riding my motorcycle that I bought last year for this purpose. I actually planned to be riding Eastwards right now. However, I am tired of driving. I need a break and time for myself. That might sound strange since I traveled mostly alone. But maybe it makes sense after you`ve read the following…
The Most Impressive Regions
Even if I have visited all countries to the west of Switzerland in the past six months, I have to stress that I have only seen a tiny part of each of them. You would need lots more time to form a sound judgement. Anyway, if I have to pick …
The Algarve, Portugal
After the tough winter experience in Germany, France and even Spain, the warm South of Portugal with its lovely and friendly people and the stunning cliffs of the Westcoast conquered my heart. The back country of the Algarve boasts amazing landscapes with small, winding roads for motorcyclists, whereas the the Westcoast is a surfer` s paradise.
The Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland
The whole Westcoast of Ireland is the wet dream of many travelers. It seemed that I was the only one who didn`t know about this road at all. And it wasn`t wet at all. Not a single drop of rain during my time in Ireland. With the motorcycle you can reach spots far away from the usual tourist crowd. I especially loved the many peninsulas in the Southwest. Don` t miss the cliffs of Moher. Just ignore the many thousands of (mostly American) tourists. And camping wild in Ireland is totally okey, I learned.
The Westfjords in Iceland
Secluded fjord landscape, steaming hot tubs, funky birds, no darkness, no tourists! Iceland at its best; all this and much more you can find in the this Northwestern region in Iceland. Maybe the remote Highland could compete with the Westfjords, but I couldn`t ride into the Highlands since I had a lovely companion on the back seat. Iceland is no insider tip anymore, so leave the hot spots as soon as you have arrived on this fantastic atlantic island.
Traveling in Europe is Beautiful, But …
… it`s not really exotic for a European.
Obviously, you might say. But it wasn` t that obvious to me when I started this “Europe by Motorcycle” trip last march. I traveled to a great part of this world and I thought that I would easly discover differences to what I am used in Switzerland. Yet, I perveived the spots I visited in Western Europe as very similar to those in Switzerland. Situations are dealt with in a very similar way. The logic of thinking is very similar, etc. etc. The exotic aspect of travel is very important to me. So, there were moments I really thought: “I should just catch a plane to Africa or South America. Right now!”
… camping wild is often not permitted.
And since I am not good at doing illegal stuff, this fact really gave me a hard time. Being on campsites, larger than three football pitches, with me on it as the only person with a normal tent is just the opposite of adventurous. I was so fed up with it! While Ireland and Scotland are wild camping heavens, France, Spain or Portugal are not. And Iceland banned wild camping just this year. Good that I heard about it only after I have left.
… it`s not cheap.
Traveling by motorcycle might be never absolutely cheap. However, when you cannot fix your bike yourself and the gas price is around 1.5 US dollars per liter, to go cheap is difficult, especially when you travel too fast, too far (and that happens quickly with a motorcycle). For a person earning the money in Switzerland it is never really expensive to travel abroad. But for a person who only wants to work (in Switzerland) as much as needed to go traveling again, it means: Work more hours. A fact I don` t like too much. After all, traveling by public transport would be even more costly in Europe. And, if it is really cold outside for a long time or if you need a shower, you have to go for a hostel, at least. A fact that can be expensive in York, Reykjavik or elsewhere when no couchsurfer hosts can be found. But hey, remember: Not cheap doesn` t mean expensive!
… it can be cold, very cold in the winter months.
If you haven`t followed my trip on Europe by Motorcycle, you might want to know that it can be freezing in Europe, not only during the night. I had to drive over snow covered roads, sleep at 0°C in the South(!) of France and quit a hike in Iceland due to the rough weather conditions. Traveling for days by motorcycle in really cold weather sucks. And sleeping in a tent with all your clothes wet and cold sucks, too. However, in these moments you feel the adventure. And that`s good. Not beautiful, just good, in retrospect.
A Motorcycle that Runs and Runs and Runs
A well functioning motorcycle is the key to an adventure like “Europe by Motorcycle”. In particular, if you don`t have any clue about motorcycles like me. I can only tighten the chain myself. Nothing else. In fact, I have not known until very recently that I have board tools under my seat. Make yourself a favour and buy a motorcycle that is reliable and long-lasting. Even if I have such a motorcycle, I am worried from time to time that “something” must be wrong with it after 10 000 kilometers. Luckily, there was never a problem. But if I had a more high-tech one, I would be constantly worried and I could not enjoy the trip. The only downside of a reliable motorcycle: You do not learn how to fix possible problems!
What is Ahead of Me?
In short: Every possible European country in the East of Switzerland. The North cape in Norway is planned as well as Malta in the very South. I decided not to hurry anymore. Well, when compared to other motorcyclists, I didn` t really hurry so far. But I am not one of those motorcyclists. I have to take it slower, maybe even slow. I have to make more stops and go hiking. Because I am more of a walker than a wheeler, I realized. Walking gave me more intense experiences than riding a motorcycle. To combine those two types of traveling means and to find out how they can be combined in a very rewarding way is the goal for the second half or at least for upcoming travel projects.
These reflections bring me to the question posed in the introduction. Why do I need a break and time for myself when I`ve just traveled mostly alone for more than four months? Because I was too busy with traveling, experiencing nature and meeting new people. I need time for myself to think and write (that is why you have not heard from me in a while), to walk and let time pass by without any obvious purpose (like finishing this travel project).