A word of gratitude

Danku, Merci, Grazie, Efcharistó, Teşekkür, გმადლობთ , дякую, Mulțumesc, Danke.

While cycling in Turkey somebody told us that the photos with people in it will be the photos that’ll put a smile on our face later. Photos of landscapes are nice too, they probably give you an ‘ahh yeah it was so beautiful out there’ feeling, but the photos with people in it, they’ll make you smile and dig up memories. Now that we’re back in Belgium and that we’re scrolling through our photos, we realize how true that is. Every photo of a person tells a story. Sometimes just a short story, a simple hello moment. Sometimes a long, intimate story. Sometimes a funny story. But every time a story. That made us realize how much we’ve enjoyed meeting new people during this trip and that we wouldn’t have been as deeply happy as we’ve been if it weren’t without all these beautiful humans we met. We made a quick calculation: we talked to at least 3 people each day, and with ‘talking to’ we mean having a real conversation, not just a smile or a hello how are you. So 3 people each day for about 200 days… equals 600 people that we’ve really interacted with, learned from and spent time with. We’re extremely grateful for having met you and would like to take a moment to thank all of you.

First of all to thank you for ‘the big things’: your generosity, hospitality and trust. For sharing time with us and opening up to us. For sharing your stories and challenging our convictions. For giving us a place to sleep and stay. For showing us a spot for the tent. For giving us food and water. However, we’ve also realized that we’re enormously grateful for ‘the small things’. For being shown how you do the dishes, how you cook food, which products you have standing in your bathroom, how you wash your hands, how and when you wake up in the morning, how much salt you put in your pasta water, how you fold towels, how you arrange shoes, how you clean carpets and clothes and cars, how you hold cutlery, how you make tea. It’s as if we were part of your daily lives for a brief moment. All these interactions left a big impression on us and taught us so much more than is written in any text book. We’ve realized there are many different ways to live this one beautiful life we have on this planet, but that it’s always worth engaging and connecting with people. This connection adds depth and meaning to life. So maybe the small things are actually the big things.

But there are also people that we’ve only interacted with briefly and don’t even know the names of. Also these people have lightened up our trip and have put a smile on our face, most often when we expected it the least. The masons who gave us four pain au chocolat when we were camping on their building site in Avignon, the couple who made breakfast for us in the Camargue, the ten Kurdish potato farmers in Turkey who taught Tim how to drive a tractor, the truck driver who drove us from one border post in Turkey to another one, the grandma who showed up in the middle of nowhere with a piece of cake in the Greek Pindus Mountains, the father of the bride who made Rhea hold a gun, the owner of a salt mine who showed us how big a goose egg can be, those who invited us for a cup of tea, the truck drivers that laughed at us and shouted yallaaahhh while cycling on highways, …

Thank you is all we can say now. Maybe telling you that you have made us feel alive and happy and have given us hope for the future is worth a ton more. But still, thank you.  

PS: The blog will remain accessible online although this part of our journey has come to an end. Feel free to contact us by email (hello@brussels2baikail.com). Feel free to continue sharing the blog if it can inspire others to explore themselves and the world by bike. And who knows, as Lake Baikal is still waiting out there, our bike journey might still take us there in the future, and encourage us to continue sharing it. At the moment, back in Belgium and at the crossroads of new projects, we’re trying to cherish, reflect and implement when not cycling what we’ve learned while cycling. It is challenging, but it holds great potential.