Thursday, 27 March 2014

Edinburgh, Scotland - Northern lass

“I know that one day in the not too distant future, I’ll load up my bicycle again, roll out onto the road and feel the deep excitement as my tires turn at the start of a new adventure.”

I wrote those words in the summer of 2012 at the end of a two year trip travelling the world by bicycle. That trip was one of the most exciting and fulfilling experiences of my life. I also wrote back then that the trip didn’t change me as a person but with hindsight, I see now that it did. I simply can’t settle down any more. I know it would be sensible and comfortable to live a life with a home and a steady job but somewhere inside me there is an over-ride button and every now and again I have to press it and shake life up a bit. And I long for adventure and to be riding my bicycle again on the open road, never knowing what's around the next corner. So as I write this, my bicycle is loaded up and my tires are about to start turning at the start of a new adventure.

But where to go? I’ve always loved the North best. The elements, landscapes and light all merge to create a magical, addictive atmosphere that seeps into my bones and courses through my veins. There is nowhere as wonderful as North. Nowhere else where nature feels so much in control as it does in the North. I think I also succumb to the mystery and romance of it that harks back to the days of early explorers when North was the great unknown and the land beyond the edge of civilisation.  I’ve skied in Arctic winters below the dancing lights of the Aurora Borealis but always longed to see those landscapes without snow and experience the midnight sun of summer. And so, you've probably guessed that I’m cycling north!

The keen geographers amongst you will have spotted that my home country, Scotland, is already pretty far north. But look again at the map. There is so much land that is even farther north as Norway, Sweden and Finland extend long, icy fingers into the Arctic Circle. Their northernmost reaches are only a snowball’s throw away from the North Pole. I want to discover what's going on up there.

So that’s the why. What of the how? In a couple of days, I’ll board a ferry at Newcastle and the next morning I’ll cycle off at Ijmuiden in Holland where a silver-haired, good-looking Belgian man, otherwise known as my boyfriend Bart, will be waiting with his bicycle loaded and ready to go. We're really excited to be setting out on our first big cycle tour together. Our plan, which will always be flexible, is to first cycle east through Germany, Poland and the former Russian Baltic states before travelling the long road up through Finland, following summer as it creeps north. We’ll cycle across the top of Norway and then meander down its west coast before dropping into Sweden and Denmark to catch a slow boat to Iceland. We’ll be cycling the whole way (except for the watery bits), camping as we go (except for the occasional cheap room) and carrying all our kit on our bicycles. There's no doubt in my mind that cycling is the best way to travel - you cover every mile of the journey, often finding yourself in some wonderful, out-of-the-way places, and you experience every contour and detail of the landscape. And at the slow pace of cycling, it's so much easier to stop to talk with people along the way.

I just can't wait to get going but at the moment I'm busy with final preparations and seeing family and friends before I leave. When I left my job, I was given a beautiful travel journal by a colleague embossed with a picture of a bicycle and the words "Life is like riding a bike - make sure you enjoy the ride." I think that's a great philosophy! Hopefully you'll agree and join me on the journey by dipping into this blog. There’ll be stories from the saddle, plenty of pics and no doubt a cast of colourful characters along the way.

So sit back and enjoy the ride as I cycle to the land of the midnight sun.