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A Stigmatized World: A Different Bicycle Tour

Time. In a rare moment of space on this planet, I feel I have an infinite amount of it, to tinker, traverse, dance, digress, and deviate; the breadth of possibilities are stars in a multitude of galaxies. My planned departure date for my world tour is Spring 2017, but the planning process has been underway for sometime now. It isn’t simply about the logistics, the financial spreadsheets, different colored tape I must cross, or figuring what high tech gear I can attach to my two-wheeled pachyderm. For me, the main thing to ponder, being that the world cannot be hugged, sniffed and tasted in one lifetime, where would lil’ ol’ me and my house on a bicycle go? And a quintessential component of that question is: why was I doing this?

That sounds like a very motherly inquiry, which is ultimately a method of finding lacking logic in my dreams and thus attempting to dissuade me from partaking in such an insane, immature and dangerous undertaking. But that’s not the angle I wish to discuss, as I can simply answer that with:

“ Ah ma! It makes me happy. And my happiness is insane, immature and dangerous. Period.”

(after which, she threatens me with her own death if I pursue this trip, for which I respond: “I dare you”, calling her bluff)

This is the internalized why. Now, there are a plethora of personal reasons to answer that posed pontification that are strictly selfish: Why? Well, to explore the external and internal landscape (myself), to meet up with similar and different folks from around the planet and do random activities with them, to eat squirming bugs and other living creatures with my hands, to jump off high, rocky outcrops into my own growing reflecting in deep, green oceans; that sort of fare that excites and invigorates my body and soul like the eternal blast of a cold, thick streamed, shower. In fact, most reasons for doing anything have a selfish component to them. Even the most pious, beatified person gets something out of his projected piety: a smile, salvation, high fives, a really great parking spot. Yet a feature of this personal motivation to do a trip of this magnitude, at least in feeling, feels that it will contribute to the greater world and people’s understanding of it. I have already explained that I would like this to be an interactive cycling trip, where you, the reader and online user make suggestions that become the overarching itinerary for this trip, creating a multifaceted, multi-angled travelogue about boundless and sustainable wanderlust, while also spotlighting the inevitable trials and tribulations that go along with cycle touring. Yet, there is also another component, something less obvious about creating such a comprehensive “guide” that goes beyond highlighting your favorite spot to sit or take photos of Orca Whales.

Some people think Africa is a country. Not plural countries, but a singular, unified country, possibly autonomously ruled by an imposing figure, consistently adorned in military garb that is weighed down by a breastful of shiny metals. A different variation of this ignorance, and possibly a more sinister and prejudice conceptualization of Africa, is that a person knows that Africa is a continent and is made up of several, separate countries, but that it’s okay to refer to all of them as Africa, because they are all pretty much the same, in appearance, unruliness and “barbarism”. They then, if you are unlucky to be within earshot of them, list off some really crude and insulting generalizations of “Africa” and “Africans”. These generalizations are not just perpetuated by uneducated people (many “uneducated, a term I hate in itself, people know better), who are disconnected from the rest of the world outside of their small, pocket communities. There are educated people who believe these images, who preach these images, who pass down these images and this frankly stupid stereotypical terribly misinformed view to their children, and so on and so forth, until an external interjection is made. And it’s not the fault of any one person or source. In the media, I am constantly being bombarded with news programming that summarizes parts of the globe as good or bad, creating detrimental binaries and boxy categories and simple equations of people. Muslim = terrorist. Chinese = Communist. North Korean = Crazy. It drives me up the wall and through the ceiling to be constantly labeled and mislabeled and have others be subjected to the same treatment, rather than being seen as individuals who make choices on their own accord, separate of some sort of abstract grouping.

What can I do to change this? Well, I can NOT think like that and tell others to NOT think like that, empowering myself and others to take charge to seek out information to debunk these oversimplification of human beings, of race, of nations. Yet the scope of this plea, personally, reverberates as does a soapbox preacher’s sermon in the rain during rush hour. I could take something I love, such as cycling and promote the stigmatized and segregated places of what should be a positive, unified global community. So that’s what I am going to do! I am going to bike to places that aren’t generally mentioned in guidebooks or travel shows, visit, and where I can, with the real people, individuals who smile when they are excited and cry buckets when they are exhausted and feel a spectrum of things and do a lot of other things that aren’t black or white, but are multicolored, things that we don’t associate with that part of the world, because it’s easier for me and others to see the world as black and white, and in summaries and in concise definitions. I will blog about these people, each one as an entity, a palette unto themselves. I will blog about religions and cultures that don’t automatically make you a terrorist, or evil if you are part of them and that it is only the ignorance others have about them, and the exoticism and foreignness of them from our comfy, Western perspective, that promulgates those stereotypes.

This bike trip, as selfish as it will be, will hopefully inspire people to travel to these places or at least open a dialogue where silence existed prior. Highlight the beauty of culture, of working people, of alleyways, of hole in the walls, of personal Taj Mahals or Great Walls, of speech patterns, of echoing laughter, of devout prayer, of mid-morning motorcycle rides through endless rice paddies. And with that, my selfish pleasure, hopefully becomes your selfish pleasure, and selfish desire to travel, to explore, to rethink, to reconsider what adjectives you associate with people, to burn the strict definitions into a blazing pyre of cindering divisions and ashing and embering delusion, that we, unified and courageous, will dance, dance revolution around, holding hands, seeing hands as hands that we want to grasp, to hold, to understand.

Wide Eyed Prague – First Time Living Abroad

Looking back to when I first got my taste of travel in 2008, I couldn’t have guessed the lifetime commitment I would make to cycling around the globe, seeing, smelling, tasting, spontaneously dancing in so many amazing, unique, exhilarating places. I thought I would share some of those first images, re-saturated and re-edited for your viewing pleasure. The first batch of photos come from that first trip. I had the lucky fortune of being invited to perform at play in Brno, Czech Republic, a place, that prior to being invited to this festival, I had no idea existed. After traveling around the Czech Republic, I landed a four month contract in Prague, teaching English.

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Utrecht to Arnhem – Pancakes! Parks! Attempts?

Inside of Princenhoff, Pancake House and restaurant.

Inside of Princenhof, Pancake House and restaurant.

 

The second day of our cycle tour of the Netherlands, Rachel and I awoke early, but not early enough to see our host from Couchsurfing, scoot off to work. We were awoken by his furry friend, a forward feline named chip. We too scooted off, out of Utrecht, stopping at Princenhof for some Pannenkoekens and beer before heading out along the bikepath towards Arnhem. The trip had kicked Rachel’s ass yesterday. As previously mentioned, she had never cycled before and so the 60km, supposed piece of cake trek from Amsterdam to Utrecht, was more like a piece of metal shrapnel lodged into her legs, than delicious cake lodged in her mouth.

Princehof's famous chef

Princehof’s famous chef

The day’s ride took us through beautiful forest and countryside. Passed ba’ing sheep and woofing dogs and naying horses. Many people were out and about on their bikes, from very old to toddlers perched in makeshift baskets. Quite heartwarming to see a society promote the bicycle, as Netherlands tends to do. Needless to say, after another long day, Rachel’s legs were aching and so we decided to stop in Ede, a town I had been to before, on a previous bike trip through this region. Not much to this town, so we interneted it up at a Mcdonalds and found a good deal at a nice hotel, the Reehorst, to refuel for the next day, where we would cycle to Arnhem and on our way check on the Netherlands elusive desert.

For some reason, from this day, all I have is photos of Princenhof.

For some reason, from this day, all I have is photos of Princenhof.

Details of Princehof.

Details of Princehof.

More details of Princenhof.

More details of Princenhof.

Check out the accompanying video:

More info on this leg of the trip:

Pannenkoekenhuis Princenhof

Address: Hoofdstraat 1, 3971 KA Driebergen-Rijsenburg, Netherlands
Hotel Reehorst
Address: Bennekomseweg 24, 6717 Ede, Netherlands

Wikipedia:

Rhijnauwen is a castle, former heerlijkheid (fiefdom), and former municipality in the Dutch province of Utrecht. It was located northwest of the village of Bunnik.

The municipality of Rhijnauwen consisted of Nieuw- and Oud-Amelisweerd (red and orange), and the original heerlijkheid Rhijnauwen (yellow). Shown here on a map of the municipality Bunnik in 1868.[1]

The municipality existed from 1818 to 1857, when it was merged with Bunnik.[2] It consisted of the former heerlijkheden Amelisweerd and Rhijnauwen.[3] Around 1850, it had 50 inhabitants.

The name is still used to denote the small forest that separates Bunnik and Utrecht.
The name is probably derived from Rhijnauwen Auen, an old word for the wet meadows along the Rhine. The estate is probably from the 13th century. The first mention of the manor Rhijnauwen dates back to 1212. The House was in the first half of the 14th century it belonged to the genus of Lichtenberg. This family was one of the most powerful families of Utrecht and had also Lichtenberg House, which was located in a place now part of the town hall in Utrecht. Rhijnauwen was officially recognized in 1536 as a manor. After the marriage of John IV of Lichtenberg Aleid Renesse came from the farmhouse in the hands of the family Van Zeeland Renesse. In 1449, the brothers Frederick and John Renesse Rudolf after the victory of Deep Holt Zweder banned from Culemborg, and in 1450 the house was on fire Rhijnauwen commissioned by the city of Utrecht. After the house has exchanged owners several times. The last private owner of the house was the family Rhijnauwen Strick van Linschoten Rhijnauwen bought in 1773. In 1919 the estate was bought by the city of Utrecht. The then owner, the Dowager Strick van Linschoten should stay there until the end of her life. On April 1, 1933 was leased to the hostel Rhijnauwen Foundation, which gave the building its current destination.