Contributor: Aurore Debry
Last year (2020), in this strange and life-changing worldwide crisis, I discovered the experience of travelling by bike.
Weirdly, but with total certainty, I can tell you that it allowed me to have the most amazing year of my life.
A short trip that was meant to be 2 weeks disconnection to recenter myself, became a life-changing journey of 2 trips, 4 countries, 120 days, and 5500kms. From the first moment I got on my bike, I could feel something was happening, reconnecting with the noises, the nature, the smells, the tastes, the people. All those little moments brought me slowly back to what really matters in life, reconnecting me to myself and the simple things of everyday life that we seem to forget sometimes. If you are reading this, I guess you have experienced it too, so you understand this feeling.
I first started the Lac Leman experience in Switzerland on the Eurovélo 17 with a friend for 4 days. We decided to do the roundtrip of the lake together and I have to admit it, having her with me gave me the strength to go for it. Travelling alone was scary, and everybody around me kept telling me how dangerous it was for a woman. Without my friend’s encouragement, I could still be on my sofa wondering about what travelling by bike would be like.
After those first few amazing days shared with my friend, I went on my own and that’s when the magic started to kick in. That’s when I discovered Warmshowers and met so many inspiring and wonderful people along the way. I had amazing talks and learned about their stories and experiences on the road.
The route wasn’t as nice as the one on the Viarhôna, on the Eurovelo 17 as it was less organized and a bit touristy, especially in August. However, once again, the experience was a blast; discovering different places, meeting nice people, and visiting some friends along the way.
Well, I guess I could have stopped myself there, but once again, I felt like something was missing and wanted to go deeper into the experience. So, I went back home, organized everything, and hit the road once more.
This time, my mother, sister, and nephew joined me for the first week. Definitely the most amazing way to start this second journey! Then, on my own, I followed the Vélodyssée, Eurovelo 1 from Nantes to Hendaye on the Atlantic coast to reach Pamplona in Spain. From there, I shifted on the Eurovelo 3, the Pilgrims way.
Gosh!!! I got surprised there. What started as just a route and a geographical decision became a real pilgrimage without me even knowing it. I sang, I cried, I screamed, I felt free, happy, sad, overwhelmed, exhausted, everything went out of me. The road was a difficult bike challenge, but more than that, it was difficult mentally.
When I eventually reached Fisterra, which was supposed to be the “end of the world” for the pilgrims in the past, I really felt like I was closing a chapter of my life and leaving something behind; on that route, at that cliff, at that moment.
After that intense and deep experience, I started going south to reach Portugal and got back on the Eurovelo 1. I travelled along the whole coast from north to south and really fell in love with the country. The food, the nature, the views, the history, the people, the culture, the language; everything amazed me there. It fascinated me so much that I decided to stay 3 more months to discover the country and learn Portuguese. I also enjoyed those 3 months to start work on a new project that slowly came to me along all those kilometers on the road.
So yes, thanks to this amazing journey, I not only found myself, but also a purpose. The next project I will be riding for starting in July of this year is called CYCLOO. Learn more about CYCLOO here.
See you on the roads of Belgium, France and Switzerland!