So the mountains of southern Poland and Slovakia were beautiful. They reminded me of the pain and joy of cycling up hills but also the rewards of descents and a fantastic view. People in Slovakia were friendly too including the random gift of half a watermelon.

In Bratislava I met Vinny who also set off on a tour from the cycle touring festival. It was nice to spend a day relaxing and enjoying food and beer with a fellow terrible tourist. It was also quite nice to talk to a native English speaker for the first time since Hamburg. Although most people I have met have spoken fantastic English, there is always a slight language barrier in every conversation.
Parting ways Vinny headed east along the Danube towards Budapest and I set off west to Vienna. A whistlestop visit to the city before heading north to the Czech Republic. Vienna seems nice but a warmshowers stay in a shared flat reminds me of parts of my old life I don’t want to return to. The stress of rent, bills and possessions. You can also see how different people deal with the problems and enact solutions around shared space within shared houses/flats. At some point I know I’ll have to learn to live with others again and I think after so much time alone it may be tough. Hopefully though my communication skills may have improved on this trip.

My mind has also been wandering and thinking about other ways you change by cycle touring. You definitely start to see things differently and I have found I now very rarely see things as absolute. The world is awash with new continuums that either didn’t exist or were very different before touring. For example cycling in the rain and spending long periods outdoors has made me realise that wet and dry are not absolute states. Now in my brain even the mid-point state of damp is not enough. I can and will mentally catergorise things as dry, slightly damp, very wet or variations on this theme based on a personal and highly subjective continuum.
I am perhaps more scientific when it comes to another new found continuum. Nothing is now just clean or dirty. Clearly the lack of regular access to washing facilities or even just running water has led to there becoming variations in cleanliness. Personally I have found myself categorising items on a ‘day scale’ around how many days they have been worn. This the enables me, when everything is dirty to select the most worn items for washing. Sadly it’s not a perfect system as not every days wear produces the same level of dirt i.e. it may be hot so you sweat more or dusty on the road. Also I have a rather bad habit of forgetting how many days I’ve been wearing something!

My favourite cycle touring continuum is not new though but rather a change to something that existed in my mind already. Bicycle parts are generally new and then become worn before finally reaching worn out. Worn out is the point where in any good bicycle shop they will tell you it should be replaced. When cycle touring with little money though this continuum extends beyond the point of worn out. Bicycle parts get used for more miles and just seem to keep going. That is of course until they don’t, the continuum is finite and reaches a stage where something breaks or is unusuable. The state I would probably label ‘totally fucked’.

So as I head off to the Czech Republic it is with excitement about what lies ahead but also what new things I will learn about myself and how my view of the world might change.

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