|Packing my panniers like...|
When I was nineteen, I had to decide whether to go Interrailing around Europe with my girlfriends or to go to Guatemala with my then boyfriend. I choose the later and once my friends came back with Euro hair (asymmetric cuts and short fringes) I never regretted that decision until really recently. I’ve seen a lot of the world but very little of Europe. I thought that before my passport turns to dust I should make the most of having freedom of movement and cheap roaming data charges and go on tour.
My day job is as website content editor at the map mecca that is Stanfords which gives me access to maps, guide books and expert advice (in my lunch breaks, I swear boss) which is a whole blog post in itself. They have also been kind enough to give me a month off work that i’m not allowed to call a sabbatical because my boss hates that word. DUDE? What the hell happened to you on a sabbatical? We have since agreed on ‘gap month’. Leaving on the 1st of August helps me monitors my daily progress in terms of ‘DAY 1’ etc and it’s made it logistically easier for me to secretly sub-let my room.
As per usual, to allow for random adventures I only have a vague plan which will mainly be based on me listening to my body. I love being near water so I’m going to head up the Rhine and down the Danube. I booked Eurostar tickets for my bike and I to Brussels from where i’ll cycle across to Holland and spend my first night in Maastricht. I haven't bought anything specifically for this trip except new tyres. I’m not sure where i’ll stop cycling so I haven’t got a return ticket.
|Carry bits of bike by bike|
My housemate was leaving for a work trip to Asia at the same time as me and we were comparing our packing. She has a stylish wheelie suitcase filled with carefully rolled beautiful dresses and sandals and I have battered old panniers filled with Deep Heat and spanners. She probably didn’t take ‘before’ thigh pictures either. What?
By the way, don’t take this opportunity to burgle us because we have loads of other housemates and massive dogs who are in. All the time.
I almost didn’t go because I couldn’t find my favourite Allen key which may well have been the only thing bringing me good luck in former trips. Because of this, I impulse panic purchased travel insurance.
I’d like to give a shout out to the guys at EuroDespatch who are always so lovely and helpful. Because I was getting the first train I had to drop my bike off the day before. They are open until 11pm but begged me not to arrive at 11pm as they ‘have lives and stuff’.
My advice on taking your bike on the Eurostar is prebooking your bike’s ticket to ensure it gets on the same train as you. This way you can also make sure that your stop allows time to take your bike off, I know you can’t take it off at Calais. Also, make a note of the carriage they put it on so you can rush to it on arrival and collect it before it gets taken to dispatch.
|My rock and roll Saturday night in prepping|
This is supposed to be about prepping and packing and the truth is that i’ve done this lots of times and i’m still getting it wrong. It’s trial and error. I still take too many clothes but I hate being wet and I get really cold so just knowing I have spares is a comfort. Also I don’t like to look bikey on rest days so I pack real clothes like a dress and shoes in case I get invited to a wedding or something. I also pack way too many books because it’s a chance to really plough through them and before you say ‘Kindle’, the thought of another thing to charge makes me not want to leave my house and come on, there is something about going back to basics and powering across countries just using leg power that makes having all the mod cons feel a bit wanky (she wankily types from her MacBook Air). It’s Europe, not the Himalayas. If you need something you're probably not going to be too far from a Lidl.
I do pack everything separately in waterproof bags and there are probably lots of helpful little quirks that i’ve developed that I can’t think of right now but once they come to me you’ll be the first to know.
Bring on the Euro hair.