Why I still haven’t written about my four months cycle tour

On this day, two years ago, I woke up in a forest by the seaside in Andalucia. It was the end of a chapter and in a sense, the true beginning of the journey I had set to undertake.
If you have been following this blog for a few years, you will undoubtedly know which journey I’m referring to. If not, let me explain.

In March 2015 I went on holiday in Portugal for a week and fell in love with the country. By the time I had flown home, I knew I wanted to go back and see more of the country. So I set a plan in motion. I would quit my job and go cycle in Portugal for a few months. And I did. But my trip actually began in Spain. I pedalled from Irún in the north, to Huelva in the south. And that led me to the forest by the sea in Andalucia.

It was the first wild camp of the journey, the first step into the unknown. Up to that point, I had mostly kept to the fellowship of the Camino (de Santiago). But this was over. There were no more pilgrim’s hostels and no more waymarks. And it was fine. I was ready. But I digress. This is not what I want to write about.

I have mostly not written anything about this journey, and I’m not about to. I probably never will. Not unlike my first cycle tour to the Orkney Islands, I find myself unable and unwilling to share my experiences.

The deeply personal nature of those journeys lock them within myself. I can’t find the right words to express them. Sure, I could write what I saw, who I met, and what I experienced. But this feels too superficial for those trips. I would lie by omission because both of those adventures changed me. They didn’t make me into another person, unrecognisable to my friends and family, but they shifted something. I could tell you what but what would be the point? It would be nothing you haven’t heard of before. Which doesn’t make sense, because I tell you about most other adventure I go on. I have no problem sharing those words.

The truth is, not sharing my time in the Orkney Islands and in Portugal is also a choice. If I let the words out, those journeys would not completely be mine any longer. Part of them would be yours too. I would fix a version of their stories with you. And I don’t want that. They are my journeys, my memories, and I unapologetically, selfishly want to keep them to myself.

But this does not mean that I don’t want to share anything. When I came back from Scotland, I shared my photos, and I did the same coming back from Portugal. I even made an album relating that second journey. And soon there will be a zine or a book of some kind. No words about the journey, but unpublished (and some published too) photos and sounds. I may not want to tell you about the stories and memories that live within me, but I do want to tell you about my love for those special places.

So I remove myself from the equation as much as I can, and bring you moments of my journey. All of the photos and sounds have memories attached to them, but you won’t see that. Because those are mine. What you’ll see is a reflection of beautiful places. A reflection curated by my eyes and ears, chosen by me with all that this excludes, and this is the most of my experiences I am willing to let go of.

If you want to remain updated of progress with this zine/book/photo-sound thing, subscribe to my newsletter.

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Album – Passage – A cycle journey through Spain and Portugal

In March 2016 I left my home in the UK to cycle in Portugal. My panniers were full of camping gear, road essentials, and microphones. From the beginning of the trip I knew I was going to record a lot of sounds. I had no idea what I would produce out of those sounds. I imagined simply sharing the files, creating a sound map, maybe integrating them in a story in words. But never did I think, I would create an album.

When I came back home in July 2016, I was at a loss of what to do with all of my material. I wanted to share my story but I didn’t know how. Writing about it felt trivial. There was (and still is) nothing exceptional about what I did. I pedalled a lot of miles, slowly, and with a lot of breaks, in Spain and Portugal. I am one among hundreds of others.

Sharing the sounds as they were felt not enough. There was so much material, so many stories behind each sound. I wanted to give them more meaning, a way back into the world that was more than a dump of files on SoundCloud.

I struggled and beat myself up for not doing anything. Times was ticking on. I’d been on my journey, it was now time to share. But a friend reminded me that no, I didn’t need to share my story immediately. In a world that seemed dominated by the speed of social media and instant gratification, I forgot, I didn’t need to share straight away. I was allowed time to digest, time to forget and move on, time to come back to my memories. So I did.

I went on living life, creating a new home for myself, exploring new areas, building new friendships and stories. Until July 2017.

Out of the blue, Thaniel from Humanhood Recordings got in touch. His first message had nothing to do with creating an album but soon the conversation veered that way and I saw an opportunity, the possibility to find a home for my field recordings.

So I got to work. Evenings and commute time often taken by thoughts and questions about the album, days off spent staring at the audio editing software, moving files here and there, altering them, deleting everything, and starting all over again. Until late November. The album took shape, became as ready as I could get it, and it was time to release it into the world.

As I worked on the sounds, my sister worked on the booklet, and the album was complete. Get the booklet for free here.

There are no words in the album, albeit the ones from passer bys and friends from the road. The sounds are the story. But if you want something less metaphorical, the video below sums up four months in five minutes. All the photos can be found on Flickr. And if you want specific stories, you’ll just have to get in touch and ask.

Listen and buy the album here.*

*If the cost of the album really is a barrier, let me know. But before you get in touch, consider that your money will help a small label and me get more content like this in the future.

An update on my 2017 goals

Six months have passed since I set myself goals to achieve by the end of the year. A lot has happened in those months and it’s time for an update.

  • Learn European Portuguese

    I have been learning a lot of vocabulary and I am confident enough to handle basic conversations. I understand soap operas when I have Portuguese subtitles on and I can read learners’ books. But I have not practised the language with a tutor or Portuguese person. I want to use a website called iTalki to help me improve but my work hours have made it difficult to arrange any kind of schedule. So instead I have gone on with a pattern of fuelling my vocabulary with a side of listening and reading.

    Lately I have let this goal slide. Other commitments have taken priority over learning Portuguese and I find myself struggling to maintain my daily practice. I am aware that I have overgrown simple vocabulary learning but alternatives are more time-consuming – which doesn’t help me timetable them in a busy schedule.

    But, I have began a new job with more regular hours, and this I hope, will make it easier to make time for iTalki tutors and boost my language skills.

    One thing I have completely given up on are the videos. They took me too much time for not enough return. So only one video was ever produced.

  • Take a photo every day

    At the beginning of the year, I used Splodz very helpful monthly prompts to help me focus and remember to take a photo a day. But I soon gave it up as the habit became more ingrained in me. My eyes automatically catch details and I remember to stop to take them in and capture them. I have gone through days when no photos have been taken, but most days I do and I’m happy with that.

    Follow me on Instagram if you want to see all those (almost) daily shots.

  • Record a sound every day

    This goal has been dropped back in April.
    I started this exercise to push myself to listen and use my recording equipment more. And I do. But recording every day proved too much. Instead of pushing me creatively, the process began to hamper me. I would grudgingly record a sound which resulted into a bad recording. Then I would have to spend hours at my computer to edit what I had captured instead of devoting time to other sound exercises that I found more valuable. At first I pushed through, thinking it was a hump to go over. But the feeling of time lost and wasted never stopped. So I stopped.
    I did not put my recorder and microphones away. Instead I took the time to develop a new sound specific project, one that forces me to listen and record regularly, but also one that is more meaningful and encompassing. But more on in another blog post (coming soon…).

    Follow me on SoundCloud if you never want to miss one of my recordings.

  • Other goals included

    -Setting up a new blog: this is probably not going to happen but I’m fine with it.
    -Sharing the sounds and story from my journey through Spain and Portugal: coming in September and December.
    -Going on a longboard microadventure: this is probably not going to happen.
    -Walking the West Highland Way with Zoe and Jenni: due to work issues, this is not going to happen for me but other plans are afoot.
    -Exploring the areas around my new home: this is well underway.
    Reading a book by a Portuguese author every month: this is going well although my library is running out of Portuguese authors.

Overall I’m happy with how I’m doing with my goals. There is room for improvement but setting myself targets has provided a focus I wouldn’t have otherwise had.

Have you set up goals and resolutions for the new year? If yes, how are you doing with them? Are you on track?

Pedalling Portugal – Photo report

In early March 2016, I found myself in a deserted coach station in Spain. At my feet lay my bike, wrapped in industrial size bin bags. Next to it, my four panniers rested in a line ready to be mounted on the racks. And I stood in front of them, the reality of my journey slowly sinking in. Eventually I hooked the panniers to their rightful place. I got on the bike and off I went. This is what I saw.
For 32 weeks, I will post a batch of photos every Monday morning.
Later words and sounds will come. But for now, I’m going to share what I experienced through the photos I took. If you miss a post, go to this page to find all the links.

I left Santiago on a coach as I needed to get to France quick so I could visit my dad. I got back on the bike in Irun and cycled along the Vélodyssée for a while, met up with my dad, cycled along the Loire à Vélo for a bit, met up with my mom and little sister, ditched the bike in favour of coaches and trains as I got reunited with my partner once more and we set to explore pockets of France. I couldn’t have wished for a better end to my journey.

Pedalling Portugal – Photo report

In early March 2016, I found myself in a deserted coach station in Spain. At my feet lay my bike, wrapped in industrial size bin bags. Next to it, my four panniers rested in a line ready to be mounted on the racks. And I stood in front of them, the reality of my journey slowly sinking in. Eventually I hooked the panniers to their rightful place. I got on the bike and off I went. This is what I saw.
For 32 weeks, I will post a batch of photos every Monday morning.
Later words and sounds will come. But for now, I’m going to share what I experienced through the photos I took. If you miss a post, go to this page to find all the links.

As I left Portugal, I found myself back on the Camino but this time I was with friends. I’d stumbled upon them on one of their breaks, got chatting and found out we were heading the same way. So I tagged along, the hardship of being alone on the road forgotten for a week.