What I learned from cycling in Wales

Everything around me is silent. The only sound comes from the wind through the cornfield and a few birds. I’m paddling my bike up a hill on a country road in Wales to go to the beach. Oh, and did I mention I’m not wearing a helmet?

The path I take is amazing, and a sense of freedom overwhelms me. The last corner leads me on a steep path down. It rained earlier that day, so the road is slippery. I pick up speed and try to use the back paddle breaks to slow down. My back wheel slips, but I’m still upright and rolling down. I can’t see where the road is going, and I pray no car is coming up. The road is too narrow for both of us, and I have no way to stop as I’m still picking up speed on my way down.

Being born and raised in the Netherlands, I grew up on a bike. Naturally, when I moved to Wales, I had to bring my bike. It turned out my bike wasn’t equipped for the Welsh countryside. No gears and looking like a proper vintage piece of metal, it was the joke of the village. Especially when one morning, I rode it to my waitress job.

In hindsight, the no helmet thing was stupid. Over here in the Netherlands, no one wears helmets, not even the little children learning to cycle. If you do see people wearing helmets, they’re either sports cyclists going way too fast or German tourists. It did teach me a few things, though: I make do with what I have. Since I lived in a small cottage in the middle of nowhere, I had no other way of getting around. I was still saving up for a car, and the beach was too far to walk. So I had to use the bike to get around. But it also taught me that I tend to be spontaneous, bordering on recklessness and that I like it that way. I love the feeling of making up my mind to do something and then to do it. In fairness, that doesn’t always work out, but at least I have no regrets.

Like that day, I cycled to the beach, even though I still ended up mostly walking back home. The roads were too steep to cycle back up, and I had no endurance whatsoever since I was used to the flat roads in The Netherlands. Yet, I regretted nothing. The fresh air, the sense of adventure, and the feeling of freedom gave me wings.

Looking back, I sometimes wonder where that carefree, spontaneous girl went. She’s replaced by a calculated planner who is used to comfort and security. Yet in the midst of this, I can feel the need for adventure rising and bubbling like a volcano eruption. One of these days, it will erupt and result in a trip far out of my comfort zone. So far, in fact, that it will feel like the comfort zone was never even there.

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