Bike trip through Greece: That’s a wrap!
End of day 27: 13th of May, 2012.
Distance covered so far: 1063.53 kilometers (664.71 miles).
By the time I had arrived in Alexandroupoli, I knew that the trip was about to change. That is one of the reasons I chose to go to Samothraki.
While out there, I spent some time considering my options. I knew I did not feel the desire any more to continue all the way to Izmir. So, question was, what now? One thought was to just ride to Istanbul, spend a few days there and then mix-and-match ferries that will take me back to Athens. Another option would be to ride to Canakkale, catch a boat to Lemnos and another one from there to Athens. Or, I could just do some island hopping. Going to Samothraki made me consider the possibility of taking the time to explore some more islands, instead of Turkey, before heading back to Athens. However, after realizing how isolated this island is and there there are zero routes towards any island whatsoever, that plan was in dire need of rethinking.
Thing is though, I had a very full, relaxing, fun week in Samothraki. It was a very good dose of exactly what I needed this exact moment and that helped me see the last, but obvious choice I had. Call it a day and go straight back to Athens. And honestly, that’s what I really wanted more than anything. I was trying to find excuses not to end the trip just yet. Maybe, in part, it felt like quitting. Maybe I really wanted to see Turkey. But deep down, what I wanted more than anything, was to head back to Athens. I was ready to end the trip and go home.
You may be wondering “Why?”. What is it that pushed me to wanting to change my plans and return home? From the very beginning of the trip I knew that the goal was not to reach Izmir. It was simply to ride towards that direction. My mind was free from any kind of “obligation” and I knew that any reason could come up that would make me reconsider part of, or even the entire, journey. By the time I decided to cut it short, a number of reasons had occurred. I gave each and every one of them a lot of thought, before deciding to follow the path my gut was pointing me to.
The most challenging (and negative) aspect of this trip was the loneliness factor. When you travel by car, boat, train, hitch-hiking, bus or anything of the sort, you get to meet people on the way. You have various, interesting, stimulating or not, conversations that make the journey exciting and the distances negligible. A bike trip, though, is a very lonely way to travel. Riding through beautiful, unknown territories becomes pointless when you have noone to chat with for hours and days on end! I appreciate solitude and am very well aware of the benefits of taking time to myself and processing the hurricanes of thoughts that constantly go through my head. However, I’m also a very social individual and the solitary nature of this trip got to me at times.
This also made me not enjoy the trip as much as I would have had I been riding alongside someone. It is a difficult endeavor and I found myself many a time in need of motivation, encouragement, a supportive word, or even just a laugh with a friend. I would probably enjoy another long-distance bike trip, but I now know that I would not do it alone again.
Last but not least, my health was also something to take into consideration. My right knee had started giving me trouble a couple of week back and it reached a point where I was getting ever so slightly worried. Under normal circumstances, I would take a few weeks off and give my legs some proper rest. However, since I don’t have the luxury of time, that was not an option. I know when to push my limits and this was not one of the times that it would be worth the risk of injury.
I left Samothraki with a heavy heart, but happy I’d be returning to Athens and to all my close friends. Funny thing was, it was raining heavily. Why was it funny? Because this was the last day of my trip and the only other day I rode under rain was the very first day of the trip! Coincidence? Perhaps. But it certainly felt like a complete circle and was happy it was as it was. 1063.53 kilometers, 32 days later, I am going home!