Kathleen tells...




It's 5:30. The sun announces its arrival behind the mountainside by colouring the sky pastel blue. The first cicadas are heard in the grove of pine trees next to the campsite.

And me, I'm looking for my sock. A black one with a subtle grey pattern. It's the right one. I know that because there is an L stitched in the sock that I have in my hands. The second and only other pair that I have in my pocket hangs from the washing line that is stretched between the tent and our bicycles.


When we got on our bikes a month ago, I went out into the unknown in search of Inspiration. With a capital I. But for the time being it remains mainly a search for my sock... and for car-free paths in the Alpine landscape... and for hidden spots along the side of the road to pee... and for eye contact with the inhabitants of the villages we pass. 


And during the 42 km-long ascent of the Brenner Pass on the border between Austria and Italy, a climb with parts of sometimes more than 10% on loose gravel, I constantly feel the two meters of ground for my wheels to a slightly less steep spot with solid ground, on which the wheels of my bike can find grip. There I crawl steadily, and two seconds later I forget about the 1% gain and start looking for the next flat meter in the long ascent. 

So I won't be able to start my search for inspiration for the time being, unless you take the word literally. Because the Latin word inspiratio means inhalation. When after 6 hours of climbing the summit finally waits for us behind a last turn, I literally look for the last bit of air somewhere deep in my body. Once found, I prepare myself gratefully for beautiful panoramas as a reward for the physical effort.


But apparently I'm not the only one who's constantly searching. Because once upstairs a shopping mall with the steel frame of a three-storey car park next to it takes away the view from me. Like a spaceship, the complex dominates the whole pass, and offers fulfillment to my searching fellow human beings. Hundreds of travellers grab among the oversupply, longing for that one T-shirt -70% that they didn't have yet, under the motto 'I'm buying so I am'.


And at the next campsite a bit further on we are promised 'PURE RELAXATION' on big posters along the road. Together with the 600 other guests we could choose from a bingo evening, guided morning gymnastics, a karaoke hour, mindfulness sessions, paragliding introduction and more of that.


Clearly, we all have a lot to look forward to. It keeps things moving. Yet it is not always clear when Paul and I are actively searching and when we are rather led by something like a sudden inspiration. Because just like a normal breath, the best inspiration often blows in without great effort. The wooded valley of the National Park in the Dolomites attracts us, a shady terrace on a lake makes us decide to stop here and not to cycle the planned 20 km further. The landscape, our saddle pains, the energy in our legs. They whisper to us to take this forest path, to pedal a bit faster or to hang around somewhere longer. 

And so that in a story about inspiration we don't go down by too much oxygen, breathing out also deserves its place. So on the umpteenth climb I blow and puff, pant my lungs out when the sun burns in the sky at noon and sigh long and deep before I dive with my head in my panniers again,... because where the hell has that sock gone?