Paul tells...




A fierce, ruthless sun, melting asphalt, temperatures that sometimes even reach plus 40° C. I had expected to encounter this in Africa, but we are less than 24 hours in Germany and this is already a reality. We set the alarm clock at 5.30 a.m. and leave just after six to cycle the necessary one hundred kilometres to the next campsite. The ones who still have the illusion that we’re just having holiday....

But holiday or not, I had no intention of writing about that in this blog. I wanted to tell why we want to make such a cycling trip again. Why would you want to cycle from our countries to Cape Town? A few have asked me and I can imagine that several people have thought so. I have to say, I regularly have asked myself this question. Often in bed; the place where I also dare to admit my doubts. Why am I getting on my bike for the second time, facing the great uncertainty? The first time I could say it was on my bucket list, but a second trip?


I can enumerate the other side of leaving in bed without any problem: I have a very nice life; I have everything my heart desires and I expect that 98% of the world's population would like to swap with me: a stable country where you don't have to worry about much, a country with a reliable government, where you can be who you want to be, where you have all the possibilities to develop yourself and where you can have a nice life. Why would you want to leave such a country for a long time for countries where the danger is greater and life is often much less pleasant?


After a few nights of lying awake, I know what it is that I want to get back on my bike again: I want to know what I am up to, but I don't like predictability. It seems contradictory with each other and according to Kathleen it is! I'll try to explain it below.


In the Netherlands everything is well taken care of, everything is clear, neatly, socially and comfortably arranged. I know in advance what I am up to and what I can expect and that gives me certainty. I really like that. But I'm also missing something with that. It's all very predictable. I hardly need to come up with solutions myself. My creativity is hardly addressed because everything is regulated. I realise that this is a very luxurious feeling, but I miss the unexpected things. I come across too few situations where I have to find my own way, too few situations where I can express my creativity. The constant feeling of having to be 'awake', because something can happen that I have to act on. Sometimes I have the feeling that my life passes a little too much on autopilot and that months fly by without realizing it.


No matter how nice my Dutch life is, I sometimes miss the frayed edges, the diffuse places, the unknown, situations where nothing is really clear, where it’s grey instead of black or white. Where it is the time of day or the outside temperature, whether it is a 'yes' or a 'no'. Where the rules are currently determined by the people who are there at that time. Where I have to be awake all day. Where I meet myself because it is different than I wish and am used to, where I unwittingly feel a shot of adrenaline flowing through my body. Where the ‘lows’ are deeper than in my Dutch life, but where the ‘highs’ are also much higher than in the Netherlands. In places like that, weeks start to feel like months! Free life time!


And besides that, I long for the simple life on the bike. All my possessions are tied around me. No agenda, see how the day develops and what we need. Living in the 'now'! Feeling small in this big world, surrendering to the day and the night, the situations and people we meet. Not knowing what the next five minutes will look like, let alone what will happen in a week's time. I'm really looking forward to that too! And that's why we decided to get back on our bikes. Luckily Kathleen recognizes herself in this for the most part, because I'm not the kind of daredevil who would do this alone....


The closer the day of departure gets, the more tires I start to cut. Much of what makes me who I am: my tennis club, various memberships and subscriptions, the ‘broodfonds’, a group of entrepreneurs, of which I was happy to be a part, but which I had to cancel because as a result of this trip, I no longer comply with the rules. I will probably never speak to the vast majority of the members again. In addition, I tell clients about our plans and finish interesting projects that almost certainly had a follow-up in them. Conversations with friends become more intensive. I see my family much more often and at those moments I realize even more how much I love all those people! In the meantime I prepare my house for Nic, who rents it for a year. Much of what goes through my hands comes on one of the piles: old paper, recycle-pile, clothing container or rubbish. I also do a big digital cleaning; I cancel almost all newsletters. The last week before my departure my mailbox remains completely empty, except for a few emails from people who wish us a good trip.


And so our trip gives me an unexpectedly different feeling. It feels like I'm throwing off an old skin and enter a new phase of life, fresh and clean. I throw away all the old ballast; only the essentials remain. It feels as if the future is completely open again, in which anything is possible again. Just for that feeling I am happy and very grateful to be able to make this journey!


And then we turn around a corner and suddenly I see at least ten old first-generation Volkswagen vans with a bar in their windscreen. It looks like they are standing there to rust. Later that day there is a ruin for sale, but at a location that makes my heart stop: on a very quiet mountain road and with a breath-taking view over a green valley with a lake. I start immediately to fantasize about one of the two to refurbish to camper or second house. I would love to do that! But that is not possible, at least for the time being. They remain dreams for at least a year. I'm back at the beginning. Why do I want to do this actually?