I knew that I would be taking most of the gear, being the more seasoned bicycle tourer, so I did the final checks on the bikes and packed the equipment into the myriad of bags my sturdy Surly Troll was capable of carrying. It's always interesting packing for an unknown place, I had heard that the southwest coast received some of the most rain in France, so waterproofs were a must.
I had two fork bags, one filled with torches, spare tubes, a puncture repair kit, and a small emergency first aid kit, the other had waterproof trousers and overshoes as well as a high-vis jacket.
I lash the tent poles to the underside of my frame, my Lezyne (Micro Floor Drive HV)
pump being neatly stowed on my seat tube post. I carried two bottles, a Life Straw water purification bottle, and a stainless steel flask that both live in the two cages behind my fork bags.
The tent, a 3-person ZearZero
ultralight is stored on my Surly corner bars (handlebars), with a LowePro camera bag lashed simple to the front of this. (See photo above), this ensures suitable wobble at speed and if I go 'no-handed' on the bike this loaded, the grim reaper suddenly appears alongside me, grinning with anticipation.
The rear panniers contained the cooking gear, sleeping bag, inflatable sleeping mat, and a luxury item (a USB rechargeable mat inflator - actually pretty handy in so far as that it doesn't give a build-up of moisture from blowing mats up with our breath, which can lead to internal mold - not good.
The rest of the items were a pair of light running shoes, a solar charger, a power bank, and a few spare clothes, including a pair of Merino boxers, I cannot stress how amazing Merino wool is, it's pricey but well worth it.
For Ryanair flights, the maximum allowed weight for bicycles is 30kg, so if your bike is light enough, you can get away with packing a few extra bits in your bike bag and only take a carry-on that fits under your seat.
At the airport and even on the journey there, looking back, I felt a strong sense of self-centeredness, in terms of wanting to get the best car parking spot, to get through the gates the quickest, to get the best seat on the plane, to be first, and this and that. Some of this I accept is inherent within me, some of this will have been absorbed in the general vibrations of lumping so many people together in one place with the same (or at least extremely similar) objective - to get themselves and their luggage to their chosen destination as quickly and effortlessly as possible. I'd say a lot of this mindset is from years of programming and conditioning from schooling, adverts and movies, and TV shite.
Slow travel, especially into areas of wilderness, allows one to reconnect with oneself and with the land and escape to some degree this conditioning.
Being aware of this allowed me to focus on the wonder of air travel, of what a miracle of modern times it is to fly, of what an achievement of planning and engineering it is to mass transit so many people, to get all of their bags weighed, checked, tagged and forwarded to the sunkissed shores they may be headed to. To focus on nurturing a state of gratitude for simply being able
to do this right now. How blessed some of us truly are!
In my video I was going to include the following slide (see below), as a reminder that not all of us are lucky enough to experience such smooth transit, in fact, according to the latest Global Estimates of Modern Slavery (2022) from Walk Free
, the International Labour Organization and the International Organization for Migration, 49.6 million people live in modern slavery
– in forced labour and forced marriage.
This is equivalent to about 0.6% of the world’s population. In contrast, according to the Historical Estimates of World Population by the U.S. Census Bureau, there were about 1.8 billion people in the world in 1920. The League of Nations estimated that there were about 1.2 million slaves in Africa and Asia in 1926
. This is equivalent to about 0.07% of the world’s population at that time. Therefore, the proportion of people living in modern slavery today is about 8.6 times higher than 100 years ago.
Once 'in the saddle', I was able to let go of all this self-centric thought and simply enjoy the surroundings, not being particularly bothered about being first, best, or getting anywhere in particular. This is one of the most rewarding things that I enjoy about slow
travel. In 'normal' waking life, we are quite conditioned by society to act in a certain way, to be in competition, it kind of forms the basis of the modern capitalist structure, i.e. a system where the means of production and distribution are privately owned and operated for profit, and the market forces of supply and demand determine the prices and wages of goods and services.
Capitalism is based on the principles of individualism, competition, innovation, and consumerism, and is often associated with democracy, freedom, human rights, and economic growth. However, capitalism also has some drawbacks, such as inequality, exploitation, environmental degradation, and alienation, as opposed to, e.g. Marxism.
Marxism is a system where the means of production and distribution are collectively owned and controlled by the workers. The aim of Marxism is to abolish the class system and create a classless society where everyone is equal and free, (easier said than done). Marxism is based on the principles of dialectical materialism, historical materialism, class struggle, and revolution. Marxism is often associated with socialism, communism, solidarity, justice, and emancipation. However, Marxism also has some drawbacks, such as authoritarianism, violence, dogmatism, and stagnation.
What I like about the Warmshowers
community is that, to me, it represents an evolving community-based society. In short, it represents the idea of a system where the means of production and distribution are shared and managed by the people who use them. The aim of an evolving community-based society is to foster a culture of cooperation, diversity, creativity, and sustainability.
An evolving community-based society can be associated with anarchism, libertarian socialism, horizontalism, and bioregionalism. However, an evolving community-based society also has some challenges, such as coordination, scalability, security, and resilience. In my ideal utopian version of existence, an evolving community-based society is based on the principles of mutual aid, self-organization, participatory democracy, and ecological balance.
If you don't know what Warmshowers.org is yet, look it up, it's a fabulous way of meeting new cyclists and making new friends, and it's great to be able to give back to a community too. Since joining a few years ago, I've hosted perhaps over a hundred people, many of whom are now good friends.