I roll into a campsite at the end of a day. Depending on the trail, theres sometimes a few other tourers, gererally young men, or retired couples. After establishing whether we speak the same language, the first question is where did you ride from today? This establishes direction, but more importantly distance. Theres often some other niceties thrown in, where are you from, how long's your trip, are you alone etc. But you know theres that one question that comes up, without fail, and i wait for it. Because for me it establishes your status within the bike touring ranks...
What's your average daily distance?
Now maybe its just me, but i feel the level of respect given by other tourers is directionally proportionate to the number of kms you ride each day. 100+ is hardcore, you must be super fit, that's awesome. 70 - 100kms - kudos to you my friend, that's about average for most bike tourers, you can be in the cool club. 50-70kms - good for you getting out there, what do you do with he rest of your time?
But the reaction I get when I say I can do anywhere between 20kms or 70kms a day, depending on terrain, and what I feel like - it's gold! Ohhhh, ok. You have seriously only done 20kms in a day? Yup, sure have! But then I feel like I need to explain myself. It was a shitty thunderstorm, lightning etc, i had to stop early that day.....well that's true, but on another day, i just went "screw this" I'm done today.
Cause it doesn't matter. It's MY holiday. I choose how far I ride, where I ride, how often I stop, when I catch a train, when I have a sleep in, and when i want to get a hotel instead of camping. And like today, i choose to spend my day in my hotel room, its beautiful outside, but inside is a luxury I need right now.
See my only previous bike touring experience when I did Canada to Mexico, was all about "right we have to get xxkms in today, we have to make it to xxx town by tomorrow. Rest days? Nope we have already had one last week, what do we need another one for."
And before I left for this trip - "How many kms will you do in total?"
And the cycling community in general is all about the big kms. I struggle to get past this mindset myself. What will people think if they knew I wasn't doing thousands of kms on this trip? If I finish on the flat Danube I will be able to get more kms in. Yes, i did think that! And yes, every few days I add up how many kms total, and how much ascent. (980kms, 7,000m for sake of argument). But then i catch myself. It doesn't freaking matter!!!
So how do I judge my trip if not by kms travelled? How do I measure it? (note: i know i need to learn that not everything needs to be measured!)
1. The people I've met. Those that have fed me, and generally been kind. And those who have inspired me, and those who are on similar paths (literally and figuratively) and who are part of the few that just "get it".
2. The trails. The feeling u get on the inside when you are on a beautiful trail. And the mountains...man the mountain here are stunning!!
3. The realisation of your own strength. Theres been a few moments on this trip that the big girl pants have been pulled up, Ive reminded myself that I can do this, and i just get it done. I said it years ago when I did Everest Base camp, and ill say it again. When theres no one else to rely on you find a strength that you never knew you had inside yourself. My fave saying "It is what it is" has applied so many times...i could get grumpy, but where is that gonna get me??
I feel like so SO many more people might give this way of travelling a go if they knew that it wasn't about big kms, that it was about the experience of moving around under your own steam. Having the freedom to go where you like, when you like. Having everything you need on your bike. Having the freedom to choose a trail, a campsite, a hotel, a bus, a train or even an e-bike.
It's your trip, you choose. To hell with what anyone else thinks!! But let me tell you this - its one hellava way to travel!!!