Hallo Deutschland!

I’m currently on a German ICE train – a rather empty one at that – bound for Hamburg and then eventually Flensburg in the very far northern part of Germany. It’s Thursday morning, my train having left Frankfurt around 8:30 a.m. Once in Flensburg, I’ll hop another train for the Danish city of Tinglev, what my friend Jette calls, “The saddest town in Denmark.” I was planning on laying over in Tinglev then continuing on by train to meet Jette in her home city of Sønderborg, but she insisted on picking me up there writing, “I can’t let you spend an hour of your life at that station.” Thanks Jette! Hahahaha

I’m feeling good. I’m feeling pumped about my ride. Nervous and a little freaked out, but pumped. I count this as the first official blog post of my 2,000 kilometer bike ride across Germany. And as I begin writing, it dawns on me that for me to remain consistent in my writing and to document my ride as much as possible, I’m going to have to write with a mindset of quantity over quality. I want to write each day, to record my thoughts and experiences as much as possible, but because I’ll have my butt on my bicycle seat for most of each day, to do this I realize I won’t be able to painstakingly edit and edit and edit each post like I’ve normally done as a blogger. It’s going to be more like dumping content onto the page, going with my gut, writing what feels right and accepting the scattered and haphazard quality of it all. I do plan to write and publish a weekly newsletter, however, which I hope can be a more refined, polished summary of the week’s events. We’ll see how it all pans out. I feel like I won’t really know until I’m in the saddle a few days and begin to settle into the pace of this crazy ride.

The clouds are hanging low over the rolling hills outside my big train window. There’s been a ton of rain in Germany over the past couple of weeks, so rivers are engorged and the landscape is as green as ever. I’m hoping the flooding won’t affect my ride too much. Considering the worst of it is in the south, I’m crossing my fingers that things begin to dry out over the next couple of weeks, before I get to that part of the country.

I arrived in Frankfurt Wednesday morning and stayed there two nights with my friend Molly, her husband Corey and their only child Mr. Fuzz. I met Molly while working at Metropolitan School Frankfurt last year, me the primary school library, she the secondary. We clicked right away – I guess that happens with us librarians. We’re kind of a strange lot. Having a comfortable, cozy place to stay my first two nights in Germany was amazing, and Molly and Corey were wonderful hosts. They hold the honor of being the first of many hosts I’ll have the pleasure of staying with during my ride. Quite an honor that is. 😉

Because I’m riding for mental health, and because this whole adventure is a huge “pushing out of my comfort zone” experience for me, I’m planning to not shy away from being honest about my experiences from a mental health perspective. So, in that spirit, I will say my first day in Germany was quite a shit show. I honestly wanted to go home. I’ve experienced this feeling before, and I pretty much counted on experiencing it again on this trip. I’ve never been able to truly define it, other than identifying these feelings as a heightened sense of anxiety and a deeply uncomfortable, unsettling feeling of, for lack of a better word, “homesickness.” I think it could be labeled as a form of agoraphobia when one is “afraid to leave environments they know or consider to be safe.” I also just recently read about something called “hodophobia,” or “the fear of traveling.” Yeah, I know. It sounds a little ridiculous. I guess in this age of anxiety we have a name for everything. I stumbled across this article about hodophobia, which, thanks to the comments section and reading about people who’ve had similar travel experiences as me, I found to be very helpful. For me, what happens in these situations is I get very anxious, my mood dips really low, and I have the intense urge to flee to safe surroundings, which on a trip means wanting desperately to just go home. It sucks because I live this dichotomy. When I’m strong and confident and feeling good, I absolutely love the adventure of travel. But all too often travel comes with some of this other shit, shit I just have to push through until the feelings dissipate and I can carry on with the joy of the experience.

My mom dealt with the same thing. Later in her life she canceled, at the very last moment, several trips she was about to take. She described the feeling to me as intense fear, and not knowing if she “could do it.” She needed to stay home, where she felt safe. She confessed to me once that on our big family trip to Europe 10 years ago, it took all the strength she could muster not to bolt for home from the Minneapolis airport when our trip had barely begun. She, like me, loved to travel, but getting over that initial hump of that extreme anxiety of being away from home proved sometimes too much for her to bear. I also canceled a trip last year, which honestly kind of broke my heart. I was all set to go to Qatar for the football World Cup – plane tickets and accommodations booked, but because I was in a very low place in the months leading up to it, I just had too much fear of being away from home. It effing sucks. But, at the same time, it’s part of me, and I can’t beat myself up for it. All I can do is try my best and if my fear does get the better of me, I need to let myself off the hook and accept myself for who I am.

So, I pushed through the crappy feelings and fears I was experiencing on Wednesday, I got a solid 10 hours of sleep that night, and I woke up yesterday feeling a ton better. Yay! I had a leisurely morning, enjoying a great two-coffee conversation with Corey before he went to work. I then did a little organizing of all my stuff, took the train to pick up my bike in Bad Soden after getting a new front rack installed, I had a nice ride along the Main River back into Frankfurt, stopped for a beer and a pretzel, then went to dinner with Molly at a neighborhood Italian joint that night. Thursday kicked Wednesday’s ass. Thank God.

Now… in a few hours…Denmark. Jette is a friend I met earlier this year in Guanajuato, Mexico. We stayed in houses on the same street and took classes together at the Spanish language school. We also had just a few cervezas and mezcals during our time there together. She’s awesome, and it’s a super fortunate coincidence that she lives just across the German border in Denmark. She invited me to stay with her and use her place as the jumping off point for my ride. Tomorrow Jette will take me on a mini road trip around southern Denmark. I’m excited, and I feel lucky for the gift of friends. Time now to chill, watch the world go by, and oh, my train is pulling into Hamburg over an hour late so I’m missing my connection to Flensburg, so yay, I have to figure out another train and determine just how much later I’ll be arriving to meet Jette. The expression, “The trains always run on time in Germany,” in my experience, is quite the fallacy. Oh well. This won’t be the last, or worst, of the hiccups on my trip for sure. Just sit back and just experience it all!

4 thoughts on “Hallo Deutschland!

  1. Laura Carreon

    Comenzar cualquier aventura es siempre difícil, existen en nuestra cabeza ideales que tal vez son basados en burbujas de aire. Cuando viajo, me ilusionan aquellos viejos edificios que existen en el lugar, pensar ¿que los ha mantenido de pie por tanto tiempo?, y saber que yo tendre la oportunidad de admirarlos. Eso me motiva a comenzar mis viajes. Colecciono fotos de edificios, puertas, ventanas e incluso pisos, que me ayudan a completar un catálogo de viaje, pienso que puede ser siempre una buena idea. Mándanos fotos de hermosas ventanas que se crucen por tu camino, si tienes oportunidad. Éxito en tu aventura.


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