Plans for travel plans

Where to next? It’s not a ques­tion that would con­cern me on a daily basis, but every­body keeps ask­ing. Usually I reply by explain­ing my recent trav­el­ling his­tory: Each year the inter­val between start­ing to plan a trip and actu­ally depart­ing has become ever short­er. If it’s lin­ear, by 2020 I’m prob­ably going to start plan­ning a trip after I’ve been en route for a week already.

Yet don’t ever con­fuse not know­ing what to do with hav­ing no ideas what to do! Work-related, on both Nelson’s part and mine, there won’t be any big bike jour­ney in 2017, but some oth­er year a next one will take place (and if any one of us is going to be lazy about it it’s good to have it black on white (or whatever is your screen set­ting) here). So what’s in the basket?

Surely there is hardly a region that’s com­pletely unin­ter­est­ing. There are, how­ever, huge swathes of land that aren’t suit­able for bik­ing. Liberal stand­ards apply: For example, going along the Panamericana requires car­ry­ing the bike manu­ally through the Tapón del Darién, a 110 km gap in the swampy, guer­illa-infes­ted bor­der­lands between Panamá and Colombia. This kind of issue sounds fun and worth­while rather than a no-no-cri­ter­ia. The Sahara, on the oth­er hand, sounds more like black­list mater­i­al, as any­one who ever cycled through the March of Brandenburg will agree upon. Deserts, of the sandy and icy vari­et­ies, are out, as is the densest jungle. Too much noth­ing is cyc­lable but hardly great enter­tain­ment, so no Kansas.

This leaves some­thing like … 90% of well-known des­tin­a­tions? So in the end ran­dom pick­ing will be neces­sary. The easi­est would be the grand hubs that could be reached solely by bike, rather than with a plane short­cut in between: The Caucasus. Russia. Iran. On the oth­er hand even the lat­ter leaves me sus­pi­cious that Nelson might not find that suf­fi­ciently far away from Europe. Surely he’d prefer a sojourn some­where on the oth­er side of the disc, say … round­about California?

Jokes aside. I’d like to think there’s some­thing far more import­ant than a des­tin­a­tion. An object­ive. It’s not what decides wheth­er or not a trip is worth the effort but it makes all the dif­fer­ence in fla­vour. It’s the spice I like best, even if it’s far from being essen­tial. So far we had: I. Moving into Terra Incognita, i.e., Kraków, and II. meet­ing the Pope. The first was very suc­cess­ful, the second got only very close to a full 100 % suc­cess for we for­got to bring mate along. This sort of object­ive is hard to make up since they are best when abso­lutely one-of-a-kind. One could fin­ish a trip climb­ing the Everest, but there are oth­er moun­tains, less climbed, more dif­fi­cult ones. No dis­tance is the longest, no con­straint the hard­est (these are essen­tially vari­ations of the old Westphalian say­ing that goes: There’s always someone doing a big­ger trip. For example; not all, but many of our hosts will remem­ber hav­ing com­men­ted on how little lug­gage we car­ried – except these two won­der­ful witches in Świecie who found it waaaayyy too much, who knew some bloke who went all the way to Gibraltar with but one backpack).

Apart from many ridicu­lous ten­ets there is one that keeps com­ing to my mind. The con­stel­la­tion isn’t optim­al but it’s not impossible to pull off, even if in the worst case it’s for a trip very far in the future rather than right the next one. It’s the one great mar­vel in the world that must have come about by pure coin­cid­ence. If we ever encounter an ali­en civil­isa­tion, chances are they’d turn Earth into a hol­i­day resort because of it. It’s this:

There is no spe­cial reas­on eclipses in the fash­ion we know them occur. That the moon and the sun have the same appar­ent size is some­thing abso­lutely spe­cial to this loc­a­tion and time with­in, to my know­ledge, a few light years at least. This is an object­ive of lit­er­ally uni­ver­sal allure. The cal­en­dar looks dire: Throughout the next years, total and annu­lar eclipses take place over Antarctica, over the sea or islands, over oth­er uncyc­lable ter­rit­ory or, when in friendly lands, at night­fall or in areas notori­ous for their bad weath­er. An extremely fancy and access­ible one takes place over Spain and North Africa, with longest total­ity around Luxor, on the 2nd of August 2027. In Arabia, not­ably Mekka lies in the path of the shad­ow. If in that sum­mer I sud­denly get a tad reli­gious, do not worry, prob­ably it’ll fade by the 3rd …

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