From Paris to Basel, Chris and I were stressed. As we shivered in our tent that first night, camped as if in a dream by a beautiful French Chateau, the enormity of what we were trying to do settled on our shoulders. We talked about what we were going to write about on our ride to Bucharest, and what we were going to do when we got there. We had no real plan. Chris chuckled “it’s as if, rather than making a decision about what we wanted to do after college, we just decided to do everything all at once.”
The first week was about learning how to put one foot in front of the other. Neither of us anticipated the sheer fatigue that the new lifestyle would bring. Everything that we had taken for granted became a struggle: from eating enough food, to finding a place to sleep, to making sure we had enough fuel to cook dinner that night. Even maintaining our bikes was a daily process of cleaning chains, tightening bolts, and adjusting brakes and gears. We stressed because we barely had enough energy to crawl into our sleeping bags at 8 pm every night, let alone go out looking for scoops and writing stories.
It’s been two weeks now since we left Paris, which has been just enough time to begin settling into our nomadic new lifestyle. Spending a few days in Basel has also given us a chance to develop our first real friendships of the trip, and start testing our ideas about how we’re going to meet people in all the cities we’ll be visiting.
The biggest thing that we’ve learned so far: we need to have more fun. Before Basel, we were so focused on what was down the road, that we were forgetting to observe and appreciate the places and people around us. It was when we finally let go that we started noticing our surroundings and having meaningful conversations. It was spending the evening grilling and sipping beer on the balcony of our couchsurfing hosts, or simply spending the morning hanging out over a cup of coffee, that our new friends opened up to us and gave us the scoop on what was going on in their lives and their country. Two days ago we had no stories. Now we have to choose which leads to follow up on.
In short, we’ve had to change the way we think about this trip. We have to stop focusing on the project, and start focusing on the people. They are the ones that will guide to the stories that wow.