Homesickness

About reasons for traveling.

And something one can only find when you're gone.

 

 

Somewhere I once read or heard wise words:
There are two types of travelers. Firstly those who travel to escape: from home, from one or more experiences, misfortune in love, dissatisfaction in work and life in general. They hope to leave this behind them on a journey. They want to fill their head with other things. Getting to know or even reinvent themself.
The second kind travels out of pure curiosity. From lust to adventures and the unknown. They follow the urge to see the world.

 

 

Even though I believe that there is always something of the one reason to be found in the other, I always counted myself to the second category. I didn't resign my job because I was unhappy. I didn't leave Dresden because I wanted to leave something behind me. I was happy there. I was aware that I would miss my family, friends and my normal everyday life. Climbing in Säeschische Schweiz, excursions here and there, sipping coffee and wines together, being together. Yet my dream of a bike trip was stronger. It always lived in the back of my head and knocked, wanted to be heard. The desire for something big, new, unknown was once again there and instead of always pushing it backwards, as many people do, I decided one day: stop dreaming. DO IT.

 

 

In the original German blogpost I'm quoting a longer text from Béla Balázs. I'll only translate a piece of it here:

 

"But one thing is there, it seems to me, what one can not experience without going away, and yet is the deepest and sweetest of all experiences: the homesickness. Where is at home? Not necessarily where you live. And no well-being shows us where home is. Only this homesickness. Whoever does not know it, has no home. Perhaps you only go away to experience a home in homesickness?"

 

[Béla Balázs: Reisen, aus: Genschow, Karen: Kleine Philosophie des Reisens. Fischer 2012. S. 9-11]

 

 

And I went on a journey. I'm still on it. Also wanted to go to Greece. But suddenly there was that feeling ... A longing. Not for the unknown, but for home. The reasons for this are varied. Last but not least the weather and the dwindling summer (which was never really there for me) contributed a lot to it. Camping a few nights in the cold and wet are okay, but in the long run I'm rather a summer loving person. Especially since my sleeping bag has already seen better times.

 

Therefore I'm riding in the direction of home: Dresden.

 

 

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Memories.

From warm childhood memories and doing nothing.
Oh - and a bunch of pictures.

 

 

Sweden has always had a special value to me. It is not just any country. It has a valuable status for me. The reason is my childhood. When I was still in my mother's stomach I swam with her in a lake in Värmland, Sweden. From then on, every year I was bathing in this water. Even beyond childhood I was always attracted to that place. It's probably my grandparents fault. 35 years ago they decided to build a small house on the edge of the forest there. They spent most of the year there and rarely came to Germany. That's why my family spent every summer and partly also the winter holidays there.

 

 

My family lived in different houses, but alwyas somewhere next to my grandparents. The first one was a large old house on a hill. It was wonderful. It had neither running water nor a proper toilet. We went out to the latrine, where we could even sit next to each other, thanks to two holes. From there we looked down over the fields and the edge of the forest, watching moose while we were doing our business. With an old wooden boat we crossed the lake over to my grandparents, where we spent more or less the whole day at the water. My younger brother and I were more in the water than outside of it. It's amazing that children never seem to fear cold water. My mother or grandma shouted and ordered us to show our lips to them. Even if these were already quite blue and we were shaking, we didn't want to get on dry land. We had just conquered new land and won the fight against the pirates.

 

 

We were explorers, sailors, divers and adventurers. Swam on my fathers surfboard to the next rocks, went off  to explore the new land. Dived through the crystalclear water and watched the fish under us. Grandpa took us fishing. Both summer and winter. However, we were always too loud and therefore, the so much hoped-for fishes were not coming. But still: photos show my brother, with a strained face,  proudly holding up fish half of his size to the camera. We often sat in the boat because the many fishing lines of my grandpa were completely tangled. Half of the time he spent sorting them apart.
We gathered mushrooms and walked through the woods. Mom sent us out with a little bucket to find some berries. We were supposed to pick strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, but most of the time we came home with a pretty empty bucket, but completely red-smeared mouths. We wandered over wild meadows, along small dirt roads and jumped through puddles.

 

 

We collected tadpoles in puddles. We didn't want to leave them there, exposed to sunlight and possible dehydration. So we took them to the lake and let them free. Huge grasshoppers were caught and watched for a while in the large glass until we released them into freedom again.
The house of my grandparents was and is a place of pure comfort for me. As for many, grandma is the best cook and grandpa was the best since he always gave me foot massages. However, I regularly had to fight against the cat, because he claimed his place next to grandpa for himself. Mostly we ended up like this: I petted the cat and grandpa my feet.

 

 

We were left for ourselves. We could do whatever we wanted. We were lost in time. Just like long-term travelers, who forget what day of the week it is. We experienced a kind of Bullerby summer romance. These were the best holidays of my childhood. Every summer. Even as an adult I drove to the house of my grandparents. I spent my summer holidays partly alone in the house in the forest and I did: ? Nothing. Nothing and yet so much. I read. I cooked. I went into the woods for mushrooms. I layed in the sun. I walked around the area. I smelled the freshness, which lays in the air after a summer rain. I sat in the sun and did nothing. I enjoyed doing nothing. I was lazy. I was alone. I got to know myself. I breathed.
Sweden seems to have become a kind of metaphor for me. When I see the woods here, the lakes, the flower meadows and red old wooden houses, I immediately notice this feeling  inside of me. A feeling of peace spreading through my body.

 

 

What did we do during the summer holidays? Not much. No excursions, no visits to any entertainment park, no further education, no courses. We were just there. And I felt freer than ever. We live in a society that expects constant performance. A steady DOING SOMETHING. Everything should be done optimally. One should always evolve. Experience new things. Also during leisure time, the weekend, on vacation. There are expectations to show off a perfect life on Instagram, facebook and co. You should proof society that you have DONE something, that you have USED your time optimally, that you have EXPERIENCED something. We had the exact opposite. We drove every summer to the same place, did the same, and did not go to some distant countries. Back at school I was sometimes sad and envied the other children, who told about hotel facilities and different places. Today I am happier than ever, that we spent the summers as we spent them. With DOING NOTHING and only BEING there.

 

 

I still need that. Doing nothing. Let my soul fly around. Let my eyes and thoughts wander. Daydream. Or enjoy company.
During my Swedish tour two friends from Dresden visited me for ten days. Cycling became second priority. Instead, we spent hours in the morning with chatter and laughter. Enjoying the get together. Towards 2 or 3 o'clock in the afternoon we managed to get on the bikes and cycled about 70 km until we got the next camp fire started and talked.

 

 

I am currently in Tallinn, Estonia. In Stockholm and here I have had a few days off from biking. Time spent with great people and doing this and that. I visited Peter (from the Lofoten Islands), saw Rebecka again (with whom I cycled in Norway) and got a visit from Germany again.


In the next days, however, I will be back on the bike again. The Baltic States and Eastern Europe are waiting for me!

 

 


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Waldeinsamkeit.

[= Untranslatable German word. Wald = wood/forest; Einsamkeit = loneliness/solitude. The feeling of being alone in the woods]

 

About the only indigenous people of Europe, small encounters and the enjoyment of nature.

The meaning of the word 'lagom' and why I'm a big 'fika'-fan.

And what is typical for Sweden.

 

 

The lovely Sweden. For more than a month I was cycling through the country. The landscape is far less varied than the Norwegian coast. From the border to Kiruna are still the outlets of the mountains. Soon these will be passed. Instead the forest, which in the north has grown rather thin and low, is slowly becoming denser and taller. One lake after another emerges. Everything looks less spectacular, but also far less rough. The weather is more stable. Although it is not really warm here, but this seems to be common in summer '17, as many assure me. I'm happy as long as I'm not ending up in rain for days. At first I hardly see houses at all, only every 50 to 100 km. I'm passing through a lot of forest and marshy lands, not to forget the lakes again and again. I would prefer to be only on Gravelroads, but unfortunately these do not really seem to connect in the far north. I find no routes, only pathes to the left and right. After a while I can finally get away from the paved road and find off-roads- they cost more time, because they are more intense to cycel on and I also do a lot of Zick Zacks, but I'm alone. Absolute peace. I see mostly reindeer, elk and maybe one - two cars a day. At some point the typical red houses start to show up. They are surrounded by flower meadows and lined on the gentle hillsides. Lakes right and left. Rocks look out. Farms with several houses are reminiscent of earlier times. Old wooden fences separate the cows from the horses and forming the picture. I'm in the midst of the lovely romantic Astrid Lindgren world.

 

 

The better weather somehow attracts more contact with people. When I ate some bread in front of a supermarket in a small village, an elderly gentleman asked me to wait for him to come back. 'Young lady, please wait here. I have a present for you. ' When he slowly and a bit wobbly came back 10 minutes later, he gave me a hat with a mosquitonet in front. He must give me this as protection he says. He would be afraid that I would be eaten alive otherwise.

At a campspot by a lake comes an Ukrainian couple in the evening before I get into the tent. They want to cook Borscht and invite me. Since I'm super tired we decide to meet the next morning. When I was about to leave at 10.30 am, both woke up and wouldn't allow me to get on my bike before I had tried their soup. The short and delicious soup gets into a two hour conversation including coffee. Since both unfortunately don't speak English, we only communicate via smartphone and translation apps. Kind of funny. Just a couple of years ago the conversation would only have happend with hand and foot. Today, we can even talk about politics in a simple language.

 

 

I visit the ice hotel in Kiruna and I'm charmed by the art that surrounds me. Each room is handmade and individual. It is -5 ° C and I feel like an ice princess between all the majestic buildings. The hotel is cooled by solar power, very effective, since the sun doesn't go down.

Likewise I learn a lot about the culture and the people of the Sami during a visit in a Sami village near Kiruna. The Sami are the only indigenous people in Europe. And as with all indigenous peoples, they have a long history of struggle for rights and traditions behind them. Central importance had and still has the reindeer. They live with and from the animal. I meet reindeers daily on the road and I try to spot the markings on the ears. Each animal has a family-specific marking and thus it is clear to whom it belongs. Also their antlers make each one unique. There is no antler as the other. They can grow two centimeters per day by the way.

 

 

Camping here is an absolute dream. I think I have set up my tent at a lake all over Sweden. There was just one evening without a nearby lake. That was the last night before I reached Stockholm. Apart from that, I had fantastic spots every night with amazing views and clear water. A true paradise for wildcamping and traveling by bike.

Even if I met some people and had lovely couchsurfer hosts, I'm most of the time alone. I cycle along empty roads, start talking with mosquitoes and also to myself. I'm camping by secluded lakes and forests. Stop when I see blueberries and go into the forest to pick a few handfuls. When I'm stumbling over chanterelles, I cook my dinner out of them. I sit in front of my tent and enjoy the sunsets over the water. Partially I make fire. So there is the perfect camping romance. I'm alone but not lonely. Nevertheless, I enjoy the forest solitude. BEING pure in nature. Not hundreds of people around me. No civilization. I find peace and quietness. Feelings of absolute well-being. And happiness.

 

 

IKEA, H & M, Astrid Lindgren... Some also know the Midsommar custom. But Sweden is more. My personal favorite is the word 'fika'. The translation is no more than 'coffee' or 'coffee break'. In fact, it is more than just a word. It is a deeply rooted social institution. You drink a coffee alone or together, possibly eat something sweet or a sandwich as well. In the best case one has several fikas daily. You meet with friends, colleagues or you have one with yourself. The focus is the comfort and relaxation. The l.o.n.g. coffee break.
Now I finally have a name and legitimation for my afternoon coffee breaks. For me it is one of the most beautiful moments of the day, when I'm looking for a cozy place, get off the bike and take a long break in the sun. I get the stove out and enjoy a cup of coffee, while the bees buzz around me. I sit in the green and just do nothing.

 

 

An equally interesting word, which is not easy to translate, is 'lagom'. It means as much as 'just right', not too much and not too little. Or even average and mean. I often heard this word in response to my question, what is typical Swedish. It is a separate word and is not so easy to find in another language (except Norwegian and Finnish). It can only be explained. This makes it unique to itself and at the same time the Swedes proud. It points out that the Swedes love the middle way. Everything is lagom, the politics, the people, their own resume. One is satisfied when it is lagom. It is like an ideal when it is lagom. A state of general satisfaction and the middle way. In itself wonderful, if a whole nation is constantly satisfied. Could make you envious.

What was interesting, however, were the discussions developing. Sweden would in part be too eager to be lagom. Always have to be in agreement with all parties involved in the hearings or negotiations. Swedes would be afraid to be not in agreement with everybody. Likewise sometimes criticism was missing. Instead of always being satisfied with the given condition, one could also do more. To draw attention to something, develop something, improve something. Just not always being satisfied with the status quo (even if this is very desirable in comparison to other nations).

 

 

At this point a big thank you to all readers.

To the writers of comments, lovely mails, encouraging words,

questioners and to the supporters of the donation button!

 

 

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Moving pictures.

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Opposites (2).

Open and shy.
Rich and poor.
Patriarchal structures and lived gender equality.
About the differences of this world.
And something which is annoying everywhere.

(part 2)

 

 

(all of the pictures show the Lofoten)

Thanks to Peter for some of the pictures!

 

Cold and warm. In the last blog I talked about temperature and climate differences. These may also have an impact on the mentality of people? As known, the people of the South are usually more open. Let's think of Italians, the Spanish, and the French. The northern people are somewhat more closed. I also had this experience. I flew from California to Norway, was previously in Guatemala and Mexico. And the differences could not be any bigger. In the US it's easy to talk to strangers. A 'how is it going?' is on everyone's lips. Almost everyone spoke to us when they saw the loaded bikes. Especially in cities, when the bike stand next to us you always got involved in conversations. Where do you come from, where are you heading, how many kilometers, where do you sleep etc. Sometimes it was almost annoying. WHILE traveling in groups we sometimes laughed at each other, winked and gave signals: 'Its' your turn to answer and do the talking haha'. Sometimes we just wanted to eat in peace or just hang out in the cafe and use the WIFI. But it wasn't possible. In Mexico, especially on the Baja California, cars honked constantly. People waved so often out of the cars that I could hardly hold my handlebars as I always tried to wave back. People constantly talked to us. Even in the small Mayan villages, where people were very shy, most of the women laughed at me, very much to the disappointment of my former traveling partner Kieran. He did not get a smile from the female side. This would have been inappropriate from their cultural point of view. Not to mention the children in the small villages of Central America. 'Gringo' and 'Gringa' they screamed loudly and ran towards us. Originally 'Gringo' rather meant an ugly word for the 'white Americans' but today however it's mostly no longer used in the negative context. The children stopped at the edge of the street, stretched out their hands for a HighFive and smiled. Little boys, perhaps 8-12 years old, carried heavy wood down the mountains on their backs, sweating on their foreheads, but they were happy when they saw us. The girls balanced water jugs on their heads and looked at us with wide eyes. We often received invitations from people whom we just happened to meet. If we need a place to sleep? Or just askinga bout the next camping possibility would end in an invitation.

Here it is somehow different. When I smile at unknown people I recognize for a quarter or half second surprise in the eyes. Unfamiliarity. Then maybe a smile comes back. Not always. Sometimes they look away, being shy or confused. Rarely I get a smile from people first. Although I often recognize curiosity in their glances. I feel when they look, but as soon as I look back, they are turning their head away. Norwegians and Swedes appear more reserved and shy. Well, touring cyclists are quite common here. On the Norwegian coast are hundreds of us. But it is not about being 'special'. On the Pacific Coast Trail of the USA, traveling cyclists are not a rarity either, but there were more of these small encounters, the short talks, the thumbs that one gets shown when you climb a steep road, a big smile... That motivates, it is fun and pleases me. I am an open-minded person, interested in encounters and like to go through the world smiling. I believe people here need some more time to warm up. If you give them some time, the people here are warm and open as well. Lovely and helpful people. I am once again grateful for networks such as Couchsurfing and Warmshowers. They make it easier to get in touch with people, so I'm not completely alone.

 

 

Where there is no waving and no greeting on the street, there is also no whistling. No blown kisses. No international and very obvious gestures that I try to overlook. No comments which I fortunately do not understand with my few Spanish skills. I'm glad not to have traveled alone in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. Because it was partly very annoying. The blond hair did not make things any easier. Even if Kieran or Jesse rode a meter in front or behind me with their bike, air kisses would flew to me. When I was sick and so weakened that I could'nt walk anymore I took a taxi to the hospital. The taxi driver tried to persuade me to marry his son. Showed me his photo several times. This happened not just once. I took it with humor. Apart from exceptions in the higher educated classes, women in Central America still have  traditional roles. They stand by the stove and have to take care of the children. The woman gets  at last to the table while the others are almost finished with food. I was often asked why I was not married at nearly 30? I was looked at compassionately.
Here in Scandinavia I feel a gender equality in society. itfe els even stronger than in Germany. But maybe thats due to statistics being in my head. I haven't gotten the question 'You make a bike trip as a woman?' yet. 'You two women alone?' How many times have I or we heard such comments. In the USA as well as in Mexico. Here in Norway and Sweden this stopped. 

 

 

Isn't it intersting that in the poor countries the hospitality and willingness to share is usually very high? I'm not saying we are not hospitable in developed countries. But my experiences coincide with those of others. In many poor countries it appears more intense and often. Maybe it's because it seems more intense. The contrast is stronger if you get invited by a person who has less. In Mexico and Central America we got invited to sleep in houses and cottages that had no running water. Instead of taking a shower, we cleaned ourselves with water out of a rain barrel. Cooked on fire places. Sharing is an essential part of life in the Latinamerican culture. These are just examples.
In Norway in particular wealth is evident everywhere. In the general infrastructure (for example, the smallest villages are connected by a four kilometer long tunnel to the main road) or even in the private sphere. Almost everyone has one (or two) huts or cottages in nature. What was it that made Norway so rich? Fishing or oil? On queries I got different answers.

Even though I thought I had overcome my culture shock during the three-month break in California, it still caught me. I spent more than six months in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. This time made a big impression on me. Therefore I have probably perceived all these differences very strongly.

 

One thing remains the same everywhere. Whether in the USA, Mexico or here in Sweden. Their sound is no music in my ears. Fairly it must be said that they are not dangerous here. No malaria, no dengue and no zika can be transmitted. But they are equally annoying everywhere: mosquitoes.

 

 

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