Pressing pause during our world trip
Unexpectedly, we are pressing pause on our world tour by bicycle. Not an easy decision, but one that is really needed. We listen to our gut feeling, to what our body needs both physically and mentally, REST. This means the statistics of our bike trip are also on hold, something that feels strange but we have another focus for a month. Previous encounters lead us to Estes Park, Colorado. All of a sudden we bath in luxury and this gives our heads some clear new thoughts, it makes us realise that we are allowed to press pause on our world trip. Time for some new exploration and different movement!
Unforgettable encounters in Colorado
Sept. 25, 2022 - We had a cold night in Rocky Mountain National Park. There is frost on our tent and bikes, Niels takes out the breakfast from the bear box and his hands are freezing within seconds. Luckily our neighbours invite us into their warm trailer to have our breakfast there and we get spoiled with fresh tea and coffee. It's very cozy inside and in the meantime the sun starts rising and heating our stuff. We love these quiet mornings in good company and exchanging stories.
"Now we really have to leave", Niels says to Stefanie when the clock points 10am. The "highest continuous paved road in the United States" will be our challenge for today. With a climb to an altitude of 12183 feet (3713 meter) the Trail Ridge Road will be the highest point of our trip so far. Again we are crossing the Continental Divide (how many times already?) but this time we are slower than usual. Because of the altitude our stomachs are acting annoyed and breathing is a bit harder. Luckily, the views towards and on top are phenomenal. All of a sudden the fatigue from our trip through The Great Basin resurfaces and Stefanie begins to have knee troubles, but it still turns out to be one of the best cycling days of our trip.
After enjoying the surroundings at highest elevation we put on our down jackets and start the descent towards Estes Park. It's a Saturday and the sun is shining, the road is full with cars. We have to be careful going down because every now and then there is a traffic jam at the view points. It's still an amazing feeling flying down such a beautiful descent and it's almost 6pm when we arrive at a local bar in Estes Park. Steven and Bie, a Belgian couple, are waiting for us over there and we have a well-deserved beer together. Our bodies are exhausted and we are longing for some rest, Bie and Steven do everything to make us feel comfortable and after a beer we head towards their home. They cook a delicious diner, we have some wine and we even get treated with a warm bath, a first good wash in more than a week. We also get warmly welcomed by their two lovely dogs, Tripel and Athena.
We got in touch with them through our first Warmshowers hosts, Mieke and Eric in Belgium. There is a connection with Bie and Steven from the first moment. They talk about their world trip back in 1994 and know like no other how it feels to be away from home for such a long time. After many interesting conversations Stefanie decides it's time to head to bed, while Niels witnesses some Belgian sports history (Go Remco) together with Steven.
The next day we go for a walk with them and the dogs and then drive to Denver where there is a gathering of Belgians who live in Colorado. A pleasant meeting with so many fascinating stories. Belgians who moved to Colourful Colorado, each with their own story and reasons. Some moved here for work, others for love. There is even someone who moved to the USA to share his Belgian knowledge of beer brewing. We are told that they find our journey courageous but we are more impressed by their stories. Leaving your life in Belgium behind permanently is still different then embarking on a world trip by bike, at least that is how we feel.
Dog- and housesitting
When Bie & Steven tell us they are going back to Belgium in October and they are still looking for a house and dog sitter we get a little warm inside. In the evening Niels whispers to Stefanie, "Wouldn't it be cool if we are able to watch the dogs and the house while they go back to Belgium?"
Our head is full, full of ideas: Pausing now? "We have only been on the road for six months, isn't it too early for such a pause? And what will the remainder of our trip look like because when stop cycling till November, Colorado will be under a thick blanket of snow. And what will we do the next few days before Steven & Bie leave for Belgium, won't we be in their way here?" Many questions arise and our minds try to tell us that it would not be a wise decision, but our feelings say otherwise.
For Niels it is pretty clear, just in the past two weeks we have said several times to each other that we need rest, a roof over our heads for a while. He realises that this might be exactly what we need. Stefanie has more doubts and starts panicking a little bit, full of doubts about November and the next part of our trip. After some thinking she realises that she has to listen to her body and mind. Her knee needs to rest, we need to catch up on some proper sleep, Niels needs to gain some pounds and we will feel good changing our way of movement from cycling to hiking, doing yoga, etc. We talk it over and ask Bie and Steven if we can be their dogsitters.
They understand our feelings all too well. Almost 30 years ago they also left on a world trip, which was also their honeymoon, with a plan of 7 years to travel around the world. After 6 months they got stuck in Miami. There was also a need for rest or as Bie describes it, "I wanted to be able to take care of my own little plant." Those feelings are not so specific to us yet, but there is a need to get to know a place a little better. Not packing up our tent and moving to another place every day. We appreciate having a couch to rest in, a kitchen to clean in and a warm bed to sleep in.
Bie and Steven respond enthusiastically to our proposition: "Athena and Tripel would be very happy." When they also point out that we actually don't really look all that well and exhausted, we quickly realise we have made a good decision.
Roadtrip in Colorado
Before Bie & Steven leave for Belgium, we explore Colorado by car. Autumn is the ideal time to admire the mountains of Colorado. The Aspen Trees turn yellow in October and in combination with the Pine Trees you can see some beautiful colours in this part of the country. It's strange at first to be experiencing this in a car, the pace is different, feels too fast. You don't see and hear everything, you don't feel the wind and in the evening the food doesn't taste as good. Traveling by bike does something to your senses, traveling by car makes everything a little bit easier. One is not better or worse than the other, but the experience is very different. On the other hand, we realise it is also fortunate being able to see things from a different perspective. We talk it over and enjoy the warmth of a car, realising we can see things now we otherwise would not have been able to see.
We ride through Glenwood Canyon, do a hike to Crater Lake at Maroon Bells (possibly the most beautiful place in Colorado) where we find the most beautiful place ever to pitch our tent. Driving over Independence Pass, we are left speechless by the endless views of the Rocky Mountains. Our love for the mountains grows by the minute, and when the sun also shines almost every minute of the day, we understand more and more why Bie and Steven came to live in this area. The timing for the road trip is perfect with its beautiful colours and cool, but nice temperatures. We don't want to put to much stress on Stefanie her knees and decide to do relatively short hikes, one even more beautiful than the other.
Even during this road trip, people open their doors for us, from Warmshowers hosts to other Belgians living in Colorado. Most campgrounds are closed and options are more limited, yet we easily manage to find lodging every night. We meet up for a second time with Guido and Colleen, in the meantime called Uncle Guido and Auntie Colleen, a Belgian-American couple with whom we came into contact thanks to a former colleague of Niels. They are taking us on a trip to Denver and the Red Rocks Amphitheater, an iconic venue place. We have an awesome weekend in the Denver-Boulder area and we finish with Belgian fries, it doesn't get any better!
Diary from a house sitter
As we are writing this blog we are alone in Bie & Steven's house, how are we going to handle this now? After six months of living outside and not maintaining a house, it takes quite a bit of getting used to. We decide to make a daily plan. Around 7am Tripel comes jumping on our bed with all her enthusiasm, waking us up. After a bit of cuddling she gets impatient for her breakfast and we get out of bed. Until 8.30am we have some time for exercising, Stefanie some yoga and Niels does some exercises from his movement teacher in Belgium. After this we have a healthy breakfast and while having a coffee we discuss what will appear on our to-do list. Instagramming, blogging, sorting out photos, answering emails and messages.... Sometimes it feels like we are on a job. In addition to all this and a daily walk with the doggies, we think we also deserve a daily hour or two of me-time. This is filled with more exercise, reading a book or watching a movie for a change.... whatever we do, the other can not interfere with the decision.
Still, if we may address one disadvantage in pressing the pause button? We have too much time to think about the future, life after our trip but also life during this trip. What direction do we want to take our blog? What are we still getting out of this? Aren't we putting too much/too little time into this? Stefanie's head in particular is suddenly no longer empty, it is filled up with all kinds of ideas and she starts writing and making lists like crazy. But the fear of failure surfaces at one point and she admits that she feels how she used to feel in school. Setting the bar too high and going into freeze mode. Afraid to feel and letting people down, it gets difficult for her to keep putting energy and time into all our online content at some points.
Fortunately, we are in a beautiful surrounding and around noon we make time for hiking, alternating short walks with the doggies with some longer hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park (unfortunately the doggies are not allowed to go there). What a luxury it is to have a National Park in our backyard, the amount of hikes we want to do is endless and we soon realise that our time here is too short. Being outside causes the fog in our heads to disappear a bit. It is our love and passion to write about travel, it is a creative outlet to inspire others. The only thing left to do is finding a manner to keep it sustainable for ourselves as well. We want to keep sharing our love for travelling but at the same time we must not lose sight of our own feelings. A challenging quest and will definitely share more about this in detail later on.
When our to-do-list is completed we start doing some household chores. We go to the container park, vacuum, do the ironing and empty the mailbox. On days when it's not too cold outside Niels does some work in the garden while Stefanie tidies everything inside. This way we also feel useful and have the feeling that we can give something back for being welcomed here. Tripel and Athena look at us around 4:30 p.m., dinner time already! After this we get to prepare diner ourselves. Niels is so happy to have this luxury again and makes delicious vegan dishes while Stefanie makes some fresh granola and pumpkin bread. Oh, how we miss an oven on the road!
At the end of the day we clear out our heads completely by watching a movie or documentary on Netflix, some better than others, or reading a book. Sometimes we just lie on the couch by the fire talking about our adventures, as long as we don't think about everything that "still needs to be done."
Are you still looking for a house and/or pet sitter?
In Belgium, we already helped friends and family out with taking care of their dogs and house while they were on a holiday. Since 2020 we have done this a couple of times and we love it.
Maybe we can help you out too? Feel free to send us a message!
You can find our resume here.