An Unplanned Journey

Do we always need a route to cycle? This question often comes up in my head and I think quite obviously the answer is no. However is it better planning a route or just going where the wind takes you? This I am not so sure about.

alex Alexs Alex's Cycle Cycling europe alps

After reading Tom’s book, Janapar, I have found myself rediscovering the idea of going on an unplanned cycle-tour. I like the idea, originality, and simplistic nature of the idea, yet I still maintain unsure about whether I could still cope. I am a very organised person and always like to be on time to places, having a good idea of when and where I will be in the future. I like the regiment it gives me as it allows me to set myself goals and gives me targets to achieve. However my understanding is that with a more open-ended tour I will lose these short time goals, this makes me unsure with how I will cope and whether this type of touring will suit me?

When I cycled around Europe last summer we had a route pre-planned and loaded on to a GPS. This made navigation a breeze as it made us able to just focus on the cycling and what was around us, rather than on our route and possibly getting lost. However the downside of this was that because we didn’t get lost I guess we spoke to fewer locals and as a result probably met fewer people. We did experience the culture however not to an extent that we were going back to people’s houses for parties and taking major diversions to stay in people’s houses etc. We had mileage to do every day and couldn’t take that much time out to stop when we wanted; we stopped once the mileage for the day was done. This had pros and cons. It meant we were able to do a lot of mileage and experience a lot of different countries and cultures with in a strict timescale of just 3-4 weeks. However it made it harder to take detours that weren’t pre-planned and to stop earlier than 100 miles if we just weren’t feeling it that day was impossible. You win some you lose some. I did feel the structure of how we had organised it limited us sometimes. However we had strict time constraints so it helped us keep to them and keep to a regime. In no way do I regret our decision because I feel the route was fantastic and that it was the best ‘holiday’ I have ever been on. Although part of me does think how different it would have been if we hadn’t organised a rigid route or taken any maps.

alex Alexs Alex's Cycle On top of the world

On top of the world

This curiosity has grown into a desire and I now look forward to going on my first ‘open ended’ cycle tour. It will be less of where I go or how far I do each day, those figures belong on other cycle-tours. It will be more about the journey, what I do and who I meet along the way. I think it will be interesting to see where I end up and at which point I decide to stop, get a train or turn around home. Unplanned journeys offer greater scope for self discovery and I am interested to see how this affects the cycling. I do enjoy the cycling and see it much more than a vehicle to get me from A to B, so I think taking it on a journey which has no destination will be perfect. I will fulfil my desire to travel, meet new people and ride my bike. However there is a small niggling thought at the back of my mind, whether this method of travel will really work. Especially in this day and age when everyone has fixed ideas of what they want, where they want to go, and how long they have to do it. I think an unplanned journey goes against all of this; it will be a surreal experience not knowing what lies around the corner and where I might end up… Despite the uncertainties I am thoroughly anticipating this adventure and can’t wait to start cycling!

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9 responses to “An Unplanned Journey

  1. Do it!!!!!!!

    Ditch the GPS and buy maps as you go along 🙂 We did have a smart phone with a local SIM so could use mobile internet and “plan” for a day if we needed to find a campsite without too much to-ing and fro-ing. It especially works well when you are wild camping.

    Imagine you just find the perfect place to stop but its early. You CAN. And what if you want to visit an unplanned monument/museum/chateau, you CAN. Or just stop for an extended period of time, chat to the locals, have a nap, with no pressure to make your evening campsite……..

  2. I am sure there is no single right way to tour and choices are bound to reflect circumstances. On our recent trip from Paris to Algoz in the Algarve we were forced to throw our pre-planned GPS routes out of the window when a ferry strike make it impossible to start from Santander. We came to love the freedom of devising routes each day based on the principle – keep heading South West. This took us to all sorts of places we would not have seen – some good, some less so. On the other hand we only had a month for the trip so latterly we were forced to move on each day for the last 10 days and we had no time to dwell in towns and areas we especially liked. This we liked less. But there was something liberating about, ‘making it up as we went along’ whenever possible and this way of working did challenge us in all sorts of ways we found we enjoyed. I don’t think I’d go back to an entirely pre-planned and routed trip again, slavishly following a GPS determined route. Interesting post, thanks for posting.

    • Yeah I agree, I am sure each person will find what suits them best. I really want to try this because it is completely different to what I have done before and think it will offer an interesting new perspective on cycle-touring. Yeah that does sound like a lot more fun!

  3. No need even to buy maps – pretty much every town/city in Western Europe will have a tourist information office containing, amongst other things, free local cycle route guides 🙂

      • Tom is right, we did do this in northern Spain but we only seemed to get to any town of note during Siesta which made our lives quite difficult. There is no guarantee that anything will open again in the afternoon in smaller towns too! In the end (after 5 days and seemingly no way into Bilbao other than the motorway according to local maps put up about the place) we bought a map at a service station as we where having a bit of a comedy of errors at that point!

        We cycled in a big circle at one point due to the maps not having north as up and no arrow to tell us which was is was. And as we didn’t have ANY local knowledge (we where cycling almost totally blind) know how big towns would be so we had to buy food at the first place we came to in the day and carry it all day in case the last place turned out to be a tiny tiny village with very little. That being said, nothing was catastrophic, it was all quite funny really (navigating from phone photos of road signs), we just bought a map when we NEEDED to get somewhere.

        We did use the map when meeting other people to show them where good campsites (wild and paid) were as well as to a couple of farmers/walkers who found our wild campsites and wanted to know where we had been. Makes getting directions from locals a lot easier too.

  4. Pingback: Planning the Route of Your Cycle-Tour | Alex's Cycle·

  5. Pingback: The Art of a Planned Journey | Alex's Cycle·

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