Home / Blog / Richard cycling the world: Laziness and excitement in Baku
Manu | 14 July 2013 | 2 comments
Richard cycling the world

Richard cycling the world

And there I find myself, sitting on top of a bunk bed in a hostel’s dorm room situated in the old town of Baku, Azerbaijan. I’ve reached one of the major stages of my ride. The cycling has come to a temporary end. No longer riding out of town after three days and moving on to the next stop. No, the road has come to an end and east of me is the Caspian sea, which I have to cross. I am allowed to enter Kazakhstan two weeks after my arrival here in Baku. So I first have to wait until that date on my visa comes close enough, and possibly I’ll have to wait for a boat for some time as there is no scheduled transport. So I’m stuck here for a couple of weeks, and frankly I don’t mind. For months I’ve been thinking: I can do that in Baku, I’ll have plenty of time then. So finally there’s the chance to do all these things. Things like writing articles, for example. But I also like the idea of having time to just do nothing. To hang around in the hostel, chat with other travellers, lie on the bed, walk around in town. Just to be lazy for a while.

Baku, Azerbaijan

Baku, Azerbaijan

The hostel is a remarkable one. It’s not very special, it does not have a common room, no kitchen, not even tea or coffee. But it’s the place where all travellers get together as this is the only affordable place in town for low budget travellers. And the fact that most travellers head east and need a ferry gives it a certain thrill for many. Will there be a boat today? Will it take passengers? Sometimes travellers quickly pack, when there are signs that a boat may leave. Some return after a false alarm, some don’t and are lucky. Baku is the place where many people gather their visa for the next countries. As this is time consuming, people have to wait for days and many decide to leave the hostel to kill some time elsewhere in the country. So everyday there’s the experience of returning familiar faces, when people get back to collect their visas and get prepared for their final departure.

The amount of time I’ve got here gives me the opportunity to reflect on the months that are behind me now. As I explained in a previous story, I’m especially interested in what a journey like this does to the traveller. Are there changes in personality, in behaviour, in physical appearance, in knowledge about the self? I’m glad I gathered at least some answers and conclusions. Some may be preliminary, some are firm. The fact that I’m interested in questions like these has led to an increased awareness of sensations and thoughts. This is a very pleasant effect, to be aware of your daily life. Life no longer passes me by like a train, I am the director and I know exactly what’s going on. I am thinking a lot, and thinking, or mentally chewing on my bliss, is slowly becoming one of my hobbies. I love to just lie down, stare at the sky and think for an hour or so, about special things that happened to me, about how great my life on the road is, how nice the specific place is where I put up my tent, about the adventures that lie ahead of me. My happiness is mine now. It’s no longer borrowed happiness, like when you’re happy because a favourite person or team has won a competition, or when someone else makes a journey that you would like to make. I’m happy because of the things that happen in my own life.



Sure it’s not always fun. First there are days which seem to have no positive side at all. Days on which you are only fighting. Against bad weather, against areas that for some reason bore you to death. Sometimes that leads to doubts. Those are the moments that you seriously ask yourself if cycling is still fun, and if not you wonder if there is any chance it will improve. But until now there’s only been one little crisis. And it did not lead to a reduced interest in travelling, nor to even the slightest wish to return home.

There’s a giant mirror in front of you when travelling alone. You are constantly faced with your own moods and behaviour. You can’t hide behind someone else. It’s you who has to act, in every situation. You place yourself in an unknown world and you have to keep standing. All that has to be arranged has to be arranged by you. You have to deal with all kinds of situations and people. And so you’re faced with your shortcomings on a daily basis. And you’ll become aware of your darker side. Of your aspects that are not so nice, whether it be stinginess, distrust or bluntness. You can change some things, but a personality doesn’t change that easily. Most of the shortcomings you just have to accept. Just try to find the positive sides of it, or try to cultivate the negative aspect and joke about it.

Not all new insights are true though. Some are valid at a specific moment or place, depending on the situations you face and the people you meet. When you meet people who are nice but whom you have no special bond with, who unconsciously inhibit you, you might come to the conclusion that your social skills are inappropriate. Just because you don’t feel the urge to talk to them. But another time you meet inspiring people, people you like to have around you and with whom you have lengthy discussions. Then you know the judgement about yourself was made too soon.

I noticed that new interests are not picked up as easily as I thought. I wanted to learn languages, to make music, to read and write. It is possible to bring languages to life that you’ve learned in the past, but it’s not that easy to learn a completely new language at a later age. You really have to be motivated and, to be honest, I’m not. I learned French at school and for some unknown reason I had the wish to improve my French. And yes, I like to read the French book I took with me. It’s like a puzzle that I can slowly solve. But I also planned to learn some Russian. But in fact I don’t bother. It’s too complex. Writing is a thing I did before. I kept diaries on previous travels. It could easily be fit in my current adventure, and I quite enjoy it. But playing the flute or the blues harp, two instruments that I took with me, is something new for me, and they’re still hidden somewhere in my bags.

Turkish landscape

Turkish landscape

The way you experience a certain environment can shine a bright light on what to expect in a later stage in your journey and give you the opportunity to adjust your plans. I found out that I don’t like too many people around me while cycling. In fact it’s the less the better. I become bad tempered when it’s too crowded along the way, when too many people draw my attention. I discovered that I prefer remote areas, where I can be alone and where I can experience nature without any disturbance. I do not think that is gonna change in time. So in the long run that knowledge is gonna have its effects on my plans to cycle the whole of Africa. In tropical Africa you’re never alone. On the other hand I might want to explore the emptiness of Patagonia. I was not interested in that part of the world but it might be suited for me.

And what about the physical changes? Well, it’s not what I hoped they would be. I’ve not exactly turned into Muscle Man. I really have to watch my weight, to avoid I’m turning into Very Thin Man. I’m collecting body fat here, to have some fuel in the heavy part that lies ahead of me.

Sunset along the long road

Sunset along the long road

To summarize, I experienced an increased awareness of the life I live, a life on the road that is very satisfying. Personality does not change. Instead, current characteristics (shortcomings as well as strengths) become quite visible. Sometimes knowledge about the self is knowledge that’s only valid in certain situations. New skills are not easily learned, old skills can be picked up quite easily. And the way you experience the area you travel in can tell you something about the success of future endeavours.

I’m excited. The next month will be very interesting. I proved that I have the stamina to bring a moderate challenge to a good end. But the next challenge its far from moderate. There’s a desert to cross. The ‘roads’ are a notorious nightmare. I will cross the desert in the hottest period of the year. After each hurdle, each town I reach, there’s hardly any other reward other than the reward to have completed the hurdle. There’s hardly any time for beer and ice cream. There’s always a new tough hurdle awaiting me. In a tight schedule, because the time on my visas is limited. In visa free Kyrgyzstan I’m finally free, to take my time again, to recover. Will the circumstances give me unknown powers? Will I get stronger and motivated? Or will I just get tired easily? Desperate? Interesting questions. I will collect the answers soon.

Richard’s previous posts:




Richard’s journey bicycling the world





Richard's home and bike while on the road

Richard’s home and bike while on the road



Richard, by bike from Holland to New Zealand







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