It's Saturday night. Monday morning we want to get on the bike. The whole floor is full of clothes, camping gear, bags and everything else we want to take with us. We only picked up our bikes yesterday at the bike shop Bike Stories in Hofstade where we were busy all day assembling the bikes together with bike mechanic Jurgen. This morning we signed 60 copies of our book and brought them away. Now we can finally pack up.
We don't have a rack at the front, but use bags that hang from the front fork. They are smaller than we are used to which means we have less luggage space while bringing more stuff for the winter. It's puzzling, Tetris with travel gear. Zoë tries to get all the sleeping gear into one bag. The other is full of clothes. She always tries to pack the bags so that everything is nicely organized. Olivier's one back bag is full of cooking supplies and food, while his clothes, laptop and electronics go in the other bag. In the front, we have room for more food, spare equipment, our woodworking kit and some loose items. By four o'clock Sunday afternoon, everything has a place and we can take a four-kilometer test drive to Grandpa's and back home. Over the next few weeks we'll have enough miles to test everything out properly.
We start with a big tour of friends and family in the Netherlands, just like five years ago. Then to the south, this time to the north. Then completely inexperienced, now with five years of experience. It feels anything but special, but that's not surprising. So many times in the past six months we've set off from home with a packed bike. It feels like the standard ride from Neerpelt to Breda.
'Only when we leave in Breda does the journey really begin,' says Zoë.
From Breda we cycle to Spijkenisse, Bodegraven, Loenen aan de Vecht, Amsterdam, Purmerend, Heiloo and Sneek. We zigzag northwards. The daily distances are barely fifty to sixty kilometers, but with a visit in the afternoon and evening, the schedule is full of fun.
We receive a warm welcome everywhere and keep getting the same questions.
"Will it be Norway or Sweden?", "What kind of work will you do?", "Are you looking for work first or a place to live first?
We don't know the answer ourselves yet, but the more we answer the question, the more we get clear about what we are looking for and want. The critical questions and the input from our friends and family help us to find the answer. In this way, links are gradually formed that lead to our dream.
In Bodegraven we meet Tom and Karina. We tell them that in the future we would like to take people with us on adventures. They immediately make the connection with a friend, Joost, who organizes adventure trips throughout Europe. He is looking for an instructor for a canoe trip in Sweden in June and asks if we are interested. Linked, bingo!
Another plan for the future is to turn our experience into leadership coaching and training, preferably combined with the outdoors. In Loenen aan de Vecht we suggest to Paul that he bikes with us the next day to his work in Zaandijk.
Paul declines the offer, saying: 'I am offering you a different challenge. Instead of cycling, we will go to Zaandijk by car and you will join me as coaches.
So the next day Paul introduces us as his fellow trainers in a leadership program for young talents. We are literally getting a leap of faith, and this is how we learn best. With the insights and experiences from our journey, coaching feels right up our alley. It is a profession in which we want to continue to grow. Under the wings of Paul, we will develop. We have even come so far as to return to the Netherlands and Belgium for a few days in April and May to participate in various training sessions. However, during our search we will also focus on very different work. Our primary goal is to work in a Norwegian or Swedish company or organization to learn the language and integrate. Maybe forest ranger, maybe engineer, maybe helping handicapped people, maybe fireman? Along the way we hope to meet people like Paul who will just give us the opportunities and gain experience. Thus, the other links gradually form during the journey. All we have to do is ride our bikes, meet people, open up, seize opportunities, tell and ask questions. The answer will come our way.
We are prepared for cold weather and snow, but the first week is anything but cold. We have sun, rain and lots of wind. It storms and blows in the open polders of Holland where there is little shelter from the wind. We go left right left right for days on end through the rigid polder landscape of western and northern Holland. Sometimes we have a full head wind, sometimes a tail wind. It's just like the road to our dream, which also doesn't go straight ahead, but zig-zags to its destination, with head wind and tail wind.