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Fifteen degrees

typical church in denmark
Cycling in Denmark
December 1, 2020
 

Wednesday September 30th - Värmland

 

Here we are, in front of the door of our temporary home. Zoë pulls the big bell hanging next to the door and preludes the end of our journey on human power. It is exactly September thirtieth, four years after we left Amsterdam on an unknown adventure. A year and a half ago we said "it would be nice to complete the circle and arrive back home". But what is home after four years of travel? Belgium, the Netherlands, our tent, the outdoors, the bicycle, nature?

 

We put aside the large corrugated iron blocking the door. We picked up the key at the neighbours house, put it in the lock and open the door. Behind the first door we come to the staircase, which is painted in a bright green color. There is a paper on the door with a prohibition sign displaying a pair of shoes and the text "skogräns". In Scandinavia, everyone takes off their shoes indoors. We take two slippers from a steel box and open the door to the living room. "Our home for the next two months," Zoë says proudly as she opens the door. We are in the kitchen, which is also the living room. The cupboards are yellow ocher, there is an old-fashioned wood stove for cooking and an electric stove. We have arrived at the holiday home of a colleague of Olivier's father. They come here almost every school holiday. In between, the house is in hibernation. We have to connect the water and heat the house. There is luftwärme, a kind of air conditioning, but then to heat. "Fifteen degrees, warm enough?” Olivier asks.

 

We have arrived in a new place so many times over the past four years. We know the routine, everything is automatic. Washing clothes, drying the wet tent, cleaning shoes and charing our batteries. We organize ourselves as if we are leaving tomorrow. The realization that we shouldn't pack for the next two months isn't there yet. Two months in the same bed, two months at the same kitchen table, two months in the same shower, the same front door, the same refrigerator. It sounds like an awfully long time, but we know that time flies so we start to work immediately. We need the first four days to catch up some overdue work. The last six weeks we slept two nights in a house, everything else in the tent. We have a pile of emails to answer and blog stories that need to be online. On Sunday evening we are ready and say "tomorrow is the day”.

The last days on the skates we have thought how we start our book. We want a table book full of photos, our travelogue, lessons learned, statistics and practical tips. We start at the beginning and read every blog, post on social media and email. On the yellow kitchen cabinets, we divide our journey into three parts. We write all the inspiration on small post-its and stick them on the cupboard. We soon see themes recurring. Endurance, working together as a couple, motivation, routine, hygiene and so much more. We move themes and get more and more structure in the book. The result is about one hundred fifty packages with post-its. Each package is a chapter in the book. The writing can begin.

 

We quickly adapted our travel routine to a writing routine. The house has something very adventurous in the middle of the green. It is a perfect transition from the simple life on the road to a little bit of luxury. Just like during the trip, every day is a Sunday and every day is a Monday. Weekend doesn't exist and the writing is intertwined with the rest. We exercise, we write, we bake our own bread, we explore our new environment, we learn about moose hunting, we cycle to the supermarkets once a week, we get to know our two Dutch neighbors and we collect firewood in the forest. While writing, we take a packet of cards from the kitchen cupboard and write a new chapter. Zoë takes the pile of "creating routine" and says "funny, after two weeks we are already in a new routine". We write one or two chapters a day and make good progress. In our extensive Excel schedule we can mark more and more blocks with a green colour. In the meantime, Zoë starts designing, while Olivier researches the actual publishing and selling of a book. We thought writing is most of the work, but the more we read about the sequel, the longer our planning becomes. For the time being we don't have a publisher and we do everything ourselves. Design, crowdfunding, printing, promotion, launch and sale. It overwhelms us a bit, but we have learned to take everything step by step. If we started the "let's travel forty thousand miles under our own power" plan four years ago, we would never have started it. Step by step, goal by goal, that's how we get there.

 

The leaves have fallen off the trees a couple of weeks ago and we have had the first snow. We are above sixty degrees latitude and the days are getting visibly shorter. In the morning it is dark until half past eight and in the afternoon it is dark from three o'clock. The temperatures drop below zero at night and indoors it is barely twelve degrees in the morning. We first exercise for an hour and then light the stove with our firewood we collected in the forest. The house gradually warms up, but we write all day long with a lovely thick sweater. There is the luxury of the luftwärme, but at fifteen degrees we keep our mind fresh. It's six degrees in the bedroom upstairs. When we dive into bed, we kick the bed warm and snuggle extra close together. We stick to the outdoors, but with a solid dash of luxury. We don't miss sleeping in the tent yet, but by writing we experience our journey all over again. "If our book becomes a bestseller, we will continue travelling," says Olivier. However, our journey continues for a while.

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