We are at the border between Lithuania and Belarus. To get here we have struggled our way out of Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital. Over a barely existing sidewalk to cross a bridge, up a hill in terrible traffic, but we are happy. We are happy because it is dry. It has not rained now for twenty-four hours, which is miraculous after all the rain we had while crossing the Baltic States. We detoured to avoid more traffic and ended up on a terrible dirt road, but before three in the afternoon we hand our paperwork to the border patrol officer.


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Funny stories (2)


We arrive in Nokia, Finland. Behind an elderly home is a big lawn, ending by a lake with a small beach. This is where we will sleep tonight. We sit down on a bench and start cooking. Some children are still swimming but the temperature is dropping. Soon they will leave. Then we will pitch the tent.


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The Story of Nils


The long beautiful wide and majestic Danube river stretches itself lazily along the border between Romania and Bulgaria for kilometers, before throwing itself into the river delta and finally into the Black Sea. Many stories have happened along this river. Many lives have been made and some hurt or destroyed. As for many places in the world, here on the Danube, it becomes more peaceful as the sun sets in splendid array of deep color.


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Van Baltische regen in nog meer drup


De wind waait ons om de oren en de regen slaat ons in het gezicht. Ik heb nu al drie dagen natte voeten. Mijn overschoenen houden het vocht niet meer buiten en het leer wil `s nachts in de tent niet drogen. Omdat we bijna naar elkaar moeten schreeuwen om elkaar te kunnen verstaan heb ik voortdurend keelpijn.


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We have walked around in Helsinki on a rainy afternoon, hoping to spend the night at the local fire station. However, there is no space so we make our way to the campground outside the city. On our way we meet a friendly couple with their small children, who suggest that we pitch our tent in the park in their neighborhood. There is a soccer field which is never used, with several tiny cottages around it. It saves us kilometers now and tomorrow morning, so we find the spot, pitch and sleep.


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The purpose of biking


Suddenly we were sitting on my mom’s couch.


Going from dirty, crazy roads in Conackry, where people were burning their trash everywhere, to a brand clean Dutch kitchen and a luxurious piece of pie. A huge step with only a six hour flight.


In June I wrote an article in Dutch on how and why we travel, and the difficulties we meet that sometimes make us change our plans. And how changing plans is a difficulty in itself. I am never very good at reproducing something I have written before, but I will try to give an impression in English on the development of this travel.


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From south to north


How do you start a story about a boy and a man?


Badlands South Dakota, USA. I am flying through the air. A game of frisbee with my brother, in the abandoned hills and forests of the north, my head racing towards the rocks. Crash! Dizziness, dazed… The world seems different after such an impact. Stillness. Ice. A snake farm. All memories of the first of the many impacts that have shocked my body and life, time after time after time, year after year.


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Kleren in de oven


We fietsen op een verlaten grindpad in het Deense, licht heuvelachtige landschap. Al de hele dag worden we geplaagd door regenbuien en een straffe tegenwind. Waarom doe ik dit ook alweer? Ik ben moe. Vandaag willen we vroeg kamperen en lekker op tijd naar bed, maar een gratis plek vinden om onze tent op te zetten is vandaag niet zo makkelijk.


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De zin van het fietsen


En dan zit je zomaar ineens bij moeders thuis op de bank.


Een grotere overgang kun je je bijna niet voorstellen. Van brandende afvalhopen langs de weg, ratten die langs je voeten glippen en vis die samen met de afwas in de gootsteen ligt in Guinee, naar een luxe koffie op het vliegveld van Brussel, in een zoevende auto met airconditioning, met een stukje vlaai uit een glanzend gepoetste witte keuken. Ik dacht dat ik de volgende dag in de supermarkt mijn mandje zou willen overladen met lekkernijen, maar niets was minder waar. Ik vond het bijna genant om meer dan brood en een pot jam te kopen, en daarbij te kunnen kiezen uit een onmogelijke hoeveelheid producten.


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Funny stories (1)


“What are those on your arms? Are those mosquito bites?” A young Gambian man is pointing at the birth marks that cover my body. I explain to him that I have very locally what he has all over his skin, pigmentation. It will not be the last time that people ask about the funny spots on my arms.


I am doing the laundry in a Gambian campsite as an employee starts talking to me. She does not speak much English, because she is from Senegal. She works in the campsite and lives here with her youngest child. The older ones are in Senegal. This is very hard for her, she tells me. I ask her how old her children are. She stares at me and looks as if she does not understand my question. “I forgot”, she answers after thinking for a little while.


A worm that has nicely settled in my shoe in Belgium and is smashed by my foot for two days before discovery, is definitely less bad than a rat in a Guinean mission which is drinking from my nice Swedish cup. Everything is relative.


“Your government pays you while you are travelling”, according to a young man in Guinea-Conakry. Shoot, why did nobody tell me that the Dutch government does that? Here in Africa everybody knows.


We are having breakfast in the dining room of the catholic mission in Conakry as we see demonstrations happening on television, in Nepal against the Olympic Games in China. Antoine gets up to look closely. A man tells him: “It’s in Japan. There is a game there and they don’t want it to happen.”