Greetings from Genova, Italy. I have cycled almost 300 kilometers in three days, and I am feeling it. I am feeling a lot of things.
I stayed at the motel another night and felt twice as strong when I set off. I felt good- the sun was shining and I had clean underwear, what more could one ask for? I was very near San Tropez and had Pink Floyd rolling through my head all day. I wanted to go there, but it was in the wrong direction. I hit the coast and bumped East along the famous French Riviera. It is a beautiful place. The sea is, well, the ideal- bright and clear, enticing, straight mythical. I took a lot of pictures.
It is also an endless stretch of hotels, houses, condos, ports, and casinos crammed in between the mountains and the Mediterranean. It is a place of endless summer: carousels and boardwalks, palm trees, umbrellas, roller blades, bicycles, boats; the sea and the sky are complementary shades of blue, the air is warm, the smell of sunscreen lingers here in this place of dreams, mixed drinks, sunglasses, tan skin, youthful romance. Here is the happiness of children in a land of rides, games, cotton candy and ice cream; a utopic getaway, a place to live large, to rent a space in paradise for a while, enjoy a slice of “the good life.”
There are many cyclists here as well. It must be one of the most popular cycle routes in Europe, for those who like the flats, and for good reason. This place is stunning. If the wind is right it is easy to cover some distance too, though as ever I am heading in the “wrong direction.” The wind has been very aggressive, in fact, impetuously shifting, violently shoving me around, slowing me to a crawl, making the flats or slight hills feel like 10 percent grades. There is hardly anywhere to camp, or to pee, or to sit down for a quiet lunch. Paradise is heavily populated.
I could not find any camping the first night. It is there, if you want to climb a steep couple hundred meters into the mountains, but by the time I realized this I was sapped of strength. The first day out from Roquebrune sur Argens I inadvertently rode over 120 kilometers, crossing the border into Italy in hopes of finding more affordable lodging. At about 7:30, as the land darkened, I pulled up exhausted to a cheaper looking hotel and forked over 60 euros for a room, too tired to care too much about the budget.
I am enjoying the indoors. France was a lonely journey and I am glad to be, now, in a hostel once more. I am swapping stories, talking with other travelers, exploring the town, interacting! The last few days I have been up against myself, battling my demons, which are strengthened by loneliness and fatigue. I climbed way up into the hills to camp the night before last, a great expense of energy, to find a more or less tolerable spot. I just sat there for a long time, with a bottle of wine to keep me company- a futile attempt to assuage my swelling self-pity. It was very windy, so I forewent the tent, and didn’t bother with the defunct sleeping pad either, but simply laid out my bag on my tent fly. It was very pleasant to lay out beneath the stars, above the city lights. I watched the cruise ships, lit like Christmas trees, slowly creep across the night sea. My thoughts were reeling, but the wine helped to shepherd them into friendlier waters, and I reveled in the moment, happy to be here, camping beneath the night sky on the coast of Italy.
I did not sleep well, however. The ground was fairly soft, but not so soft that a lot of pressure was not put on my ribs and hips, and when I lay on my back my mind seemed to boot up again. I may have had a bit too much wine as well, I will admit. After a fitful couple of hours I drifted off though, and was up early. A strange day lay ahead of me, full of wind. The coast is getting a bit old, with the constant navigation of waterfront towns and cities. I ended up pushing into Genoa, almost 100 kilometers, arriving around 6 pm after a tortuous ride through the sprawling body of this sizable patch of civilisation. As I was passing through a plaza, trying to figure out how to get back on the main road after it dipped into a tunnel, I helped some Italian kids pump up a bike tire. They saw me with my bike and asked me for a pump, but I didn’t understand them. As the boy, discouraged, returned to his friends, I saw the bikes and inferred what they needed. They were very polite and said “thank you” in English. It is funny the boldness of kids, walking up to a tan, bearded man who has obviously been on the road a while and ask for a hand… it was interesting to lay my bike down in the middle of a square, kneel down surrounded by three Italian kids and inflate a tire with my little road pump. I set off with a greatly improved mood, my compassion evoked by the strange scene in the middle of a crowded plaza. I managed to find the hostel alright, and after checking in and having a shower, I discovered quickly that I was quite dehydrated and totally drained. I slept heavy last night, and I am still very tired today. I booked another night here, trying to rest up and rejuvenate my enthusiasm for the riding. I am ready for more camping- as is my budget- in the hills inland from here.
I am doing some much needed laundry though, and resting after riding almost 300k in three days. I am beginning to appreciate other forms of travel, namely, backpacking. I would like to do some work exchange on farms and in hostels, to stay in countries long enough to learn the languages, to live places instead of simply passing through, always passing. The bike is good, only different. And the funds, the funds… I met a man who has been traveling for three years. He is American, and he speaks Spanish, Portuguese, and French quite fluently. He is very similar to me in his motivations, and I am excited by his linguistic apprehension. I do not know though, how he can be contented to live like this for so long. Me, I feel the instinct to “settle” growing stronger. Frankly, I cannot handle being alone much longer, I am ready to share my life with someone. We’ll see how long before this need is fulfilled, it may be a while yet! Of us long travelers, of whom I could be considered a lightweight of sorts, I don’t get how they can be out so long alone. Then again, maybe they do not feel alone. If one is living, residing in cities, constantly socializing, then this is just life. For me, the going is a little different. I am not the only cyclist out here though.
I feel like I am running, running. I feel like I am pushing, working. This is not a vacation by any means, that is for sure! I am bringing myself along, however. Some aspects of me are far away, but others- perhaps that have been buried for awhile- are now untethered. There has always been a strange unrest here, in the present moment, always. Some misdirected, unaligned or inharmonious energy that tickles my solar plexus now, here. I spent years looking for a cause, an explanation, a reason, which was an attempt to understand it. Now I am simply focused on dealing with it, addressing it, using it, appeasing it, whatever it is. Something is insistently speaking to me, and it always has been. I am listening, as best I can, why dost thou accost me so? What do you want? Conversations with myself, constant, circuitous, pointless? Don’t know. It is not as if this interaction arises in me from any effort on my part, it is just here, has always been here.
It is too soon to tell how this journey will affect me, or this, my being. I try to let things be, to listen to things as they come, to stay out of the way of myself, but I am still thinking about money, my future, how to navigate the secular world. If anything, I think more about the people in my life and how I want to live than I did before! It is all here, the stage is set, the players are on, the curtain is up. God! What a show! I do not know what to make of it. I do not try to make anything of it, but the world and my own thoughts move too fast, a juggling act, in which I am always off-balance, never allowed to orient myself. I can’t help but wonder, with my natural human curiosity, what I am, why I think of myself as a “who,” what it might be that I feel myself to be a distinct part of. It is a constant entertainment in the “theater of the mind.”
How sensitive I am, how little control I have over who I am, how I act! Even my inclination to try to control, to reason, is not the product of my intellect. I cannot distinguish between my thoughts, feelings, and instincts. The distinction is illusory, but to function, as I understand it, we isolate parts of ourselves, we emphasize different aspects, we pour our focus into “specifics.” What a wonder. What a curiosity, a miracle!
In this round world, there seem to be constructed many corners, many walls conceal, block, and delay us. This world is a playground for the cultivation of the spirit, a place where it is easy to find challenge, in which all the funnels push towards upward striving; so one had best prepare to make the most of driving, pushing, to live with energy and passion!
All of this circular thinking. I can think and think, meditate, sit silently and watch, try to gain understanding. Understanding is not wisdom though. Some things cannot be caught and held, one must wait patiently, calmly, without desire, and allow them to come and alight on one’s hand of their own volition.
I am recharged! Thank you hostel!!! My passion for the journey has totally been rejuvenated, I have had contact with PEOPLE! Young, like-minded, happy, interesting, English speaking people! I got to talking this morning at breakfast to an Australian girl and three Canadians, a gal and a pair of young men having a nice tour of Europe. We ended up walking through Genova for a couple hours, full of great conversation. We carried this conversation right on back to the hostel, and this whole day has been spent talking with various, interesting people about a variety of subjects, always touching on language, travel, economics, and a bit of politics, all positive. I learn so much from talking with these folks! That American I met last night is such a fascinating man, he has layers like an onion. Energetic, inquisitive, well-travelled, and possessed of a colorful and dynamic work history. He is also stacked, which I cannot help but mention, the man is bursting out of his clothing, heavily muscled. A glass-blower, a programmer, knowledgeable about construction. So, this meathead looking American (he’s half British) who speaks Spanish, Portuguese, French, is now voraciously absorbing Italian too. Interested in languages myself, it was absolutely wonderful to speak with him, and to listen to him speak. It made me happy just to witness it, he is an inspiration, and a remarkable individual.
Yes, my heart is light, and my clothes are clean. What a day it has been! I have made a heap of new friends and relaxed, rediscovered the joy. Now it is time to head inland, to tackle the hills outside of Genoa and set my sights on Slovenia. I will be sure to stop in at each major city for a hostel charge however, without fail! Without meeting other people, this is just a slog across some new landscapes.