How I listen and practice trust in Galicia
Having cracked the 1000km mark (1018 to be precise-ish), I am equally pleased and exhausted and allowing myself to rest for a day, putting the feet up and catching up on sleep. My left Achilles is thanking me for it.
Did I say before that I love hills - by that I meant the occasional one, and not those skyscraper-like Galician cliffs with over 10% inclination. Dear universe, there must have been a misunderstanding. My bike is amazing, but every gear has its limit with 2 bags on the back. My legs are strong and I am forever thankful for Jack who helped me activate my glutes these years ago in Melbourne, but every leg has an Achilles, and mine has made itself heard. But okay, I am taking all the lemons and always smelling the roses along the way!
Galicia really is a place like no other. It is like some fairy-tale medley of Celtic viking roughness mixed with an Astrid-Lindgren setting in Bohemian Czechia. I pedaled past Celtic crosses, up and down the Rias (Fjords) of Rias Baixas, through lonely villages tucked behind wonderful pine forests and along windswept beaches. Every drop of sweat was worth the beautiful views that literally left me breathless over and over again. If you are ever looking to visit a place that is near but seems far and remote, go to Galicia. You may feel like you are in a different reality, but can still eat your tapas, pay by card and everyone understands you.
I left Finisterre and headed straight into the forest. A large dog kindly accompanied me for a while, but headed into the other direction shortly after; he probably knew what was awaiting me around the corner. I was in the middle of nowhere in the forest, at a road that did not exist. So I made my way back to the villages along the coastline, up and down and around. After I listened to my instincts and decided to cut the day short by a bit, I arrived at the campsite after 75km and 7 hours of riding, to be bought a beer for my birthday by a fellow cyclist accompanied by a friendly chat. I think that was a decision well made.
My journey took me into Caion, a small fishing village, for lunch. At a cafe and before I headed back up to the other side of the Ria, I was curiously eyed by the locals - I guess not that many cyclist make it down there on a daily basis? After a few words, I was promptly offered a place to stay - what a shame it was still too early in the day. I battled with more hills and finally arrived at a friendly and small family campsite overlooking one of the fjords. I was gasping for a beer, and the owner dug out his last Cola as a welcome present instead. Another little act of kindness that made me appreciate this place even more. The failed zoom call from the other night was a success here too, and after a long day I rested extremely well.
Upon recommendation by my #Ericeirabike buddies to do so every 1000km, I got my brakes checked the next morning - did I mention the steep hills! - as I definitely did not want to take my chances on that one. The guy was really liking the looks of my Rove, and telling me he was thinking of getting one himself (#Konabikes, you might have found yourself a new dealer in Betanzas!). He thanked me for letting him change my rear brake pad; I guess it was a win-win for both of us.
The other highlights of this day cutting across inland day were the rare and random and water fountains (every single one of them!), the unexpected and yummy tortilla before the climb in Irxioa, views over everything on top of the 700m Monte Rano with huge windmills lined up around me, and rolling into a roadside bar and little shop for a cold beer (with rowdy men!) afterwards. I failed to nail sleeping in the wild that night. I have had many conversations with myself over the last 1000km over it, and my ego and I have decided that we are fine with warm showers, and will leave the wild camping to when I am in company. It was fine, but I just don’t feel comfortable doing it by myself, did not get a lot of sleep and was exhausted the next morning.
After a short power nap a few hours in, I was rewarded with a never ending downhill road and 2 dogs who were the impersonation of the dogs I live with in Portugal and who I have been missing a lot; one of them gave me so much love, that we both found it hard to say our goodbyes when his owner called. I then rolled straight into a Pulperia in the next village, and so my stomach was equally happy and filled. Another few hilltops and a flat tire later, I reached a nice spot near Ribadero, right next to the rugged Cantabric sea, tucked in between cows and corns. From here I will head east next.
These last few days I have heard many more news about worries, uncertain futures, changing conditions and sadly also loss. Mixed with physical exhaustion, this has been a lot on my mind and played with my confidence of undertaking this trip. I have been wondering; why is it often such a challenge to trust ourselves?
To me, empathetic leadership is one of the most important things in life. In the first years this role should be played by our parents. I still remember well when I asked my dad what happens after we die and he did not know the answer. I guess that was the moment I started realizing I have to find my own answers at some stage, and some of them are right there within me (of course I did not realize that at the time).
We are intelligent beings; why can we not just find the answers by ourselves from the get-go? In my last post, I wrote that I am starting to get the hang of this life and things are making more sense. I have spent a lot of time connecting to myself and practicing self-care; why has it still taken me 40 years for the penny to drop?
There is always a lot of noise around us. We are busy, constantly surrounded by other people, the media is telling us what to think, or we have other more substantial things to worry about than connecting to our inner voice. I have taken this trip because I was able to at this point in time, and because I wanted to take the noise away for a while. Like I said before, listening to your own thoughts can take you on a pretty wild ride, if you let yourself go down that rabbit hole. I get asked sometimes if I ever feel lonely cycling alone; I would now know when to be honest. Of course, it is good to verify your thoughts with other people sometimes, and I have and always will do this (and I am lucky to have people around me who I can always call up). But I am learning more and more that there is a lot in just hearing yourself when you can.
Now this practice has been tested as my body is tired and I am hearing the outside noises again. Naturally, I have been wondering if I can still trust my decision. So I have broken down my concerns into two simple questions:
What do I have control over and how?
Being responsible and keeping myself and others around me safe: wearing a helmet, turn lights on and generally don't cycle in the dark, wear face mask and respect all hygiene and safety precautions, avoid going to crowded places and inside, eat healthy, drink plenty, rest enough.
What do I not have control over?
What others say and do, what the media is telling us, things I don’t know enough about as I have not informed myself (voluntarily or involuntarily).
I have made the decision to go in this journey, because I am able and capable to do so. I am acting to the best of my knowledge and abilities. I can take the lead of my life and trust my judgment. Just like I can cycle up those hills that are popping up one after the other. Shifting gears, listening to myself, controlling my breathing, and pedal. If there is an obstacle, I can find my way around it, and still get to the destination if I want to.
Trust is the opposite of fear and a quality that is very strong in us humans. In Portugal and Spain, there are signs saying 'Tudo va a ficar bem' (Everything will be fine) everywhere. I am an Optimist by nature and want to think that these signs are true. What can we as individuals do to make them so? If we are in the position to do so, we can take out the background noise and listen to ourselves. Trust the decisions we make based on what we hear. They will lead us in the direction to live our life in line with our values. And with everything we do, we always need to remember to respect and be kind to those around us.