First Horizons Unlimited travellers meet in Sweden

Last weekend in June 2018, Horizons Unlimited hosted the very first travellers meet in Sweden and I was happy to take part. Ironically, it was hosted by a German, Kai-Uwe Och and the venue was owned by a German couple – does it take Germans to appreciate the Swedish countryside, I wonder?

It was a small meet with a shade over 15 people attending, many Swedes as expected but some people from central Europe had made their way up to Dalarna and Finnskogen near Orsa. The atmosphere was excellent, everyone was humble and, regardless of experience and skills, their main focus was to listen and learn from others, just the kind of low key event I enjoy participating in. Together, we enjoyed ride outs, both on gravel and tarmac, and in the evening we cooked food on the campfire and enjoyed old school presentations. For inspirational travel stories, we were treated to photos and stories from Canada and Iceland.

In addition, I talked about WIMA and Pikilily. As the audience was only men, apart from myself and another woman, I was happily surprised that people were so interested in hearing about WIMA and the presentation went on for longer than I had expected due to all the questions.

Lastly, there was a tyre workshop where I got to develop my skills in changing the innertube. As I previously always have had tubeless tyres, before getting my GS a couple of weeks prior to this, it was welcome practice before my summer travelling.

The weekend was a success and I certainly hope that we can see a continuation of this event!

Horizons Unlimited Adventure Days at Haggs Bank

My tent is cleaned and packed away, no more camping this year. I’ve spent last weekend at Haggs Bank in the North Pennines having a great time at Horizons Unlimiteds travellers meet. Although the meet was mainly geared towards the off-road riders, there were activities for everyone. An initial evening with bonfire, beer and band was followed by an action packed Saturday. First, I signed up for the Beginners Off Road ride, but I had second thoughts when I saw the first and easiest of the hills we were to ride. No way the little gravel riding and occasional green laning I have done was enough preparation for that incline on loose gravel. The Kawasaki Versys is a top-heavy bike with road tyres and I have a charity run coming up so I can’t afford to hurt myself. I made my excuses and went for a solitary road ride and lunch in the sun instead.

To further fill my afternoon, I signed up for a 3 hour mine tour and suited up in wellies, overalls, hard hat and headlamp. We were a group of 8 participants, four adults, three children and me, who after a security briefing on how dangerous mines are, went into the darkness. The deepening water was sloshing around our wellies as we got deeper and deeper into the mine. It would be almost knee high at the deepest section and we were prepared that for one passage we would have to crawl. After a shade over 5 minutes, the youngest boy said he didn’t feel safe and wanted to go back. “I can go with him” I heard myself say. In that instant I knew that I could probably continue but chances were I would panic and it would be no fun at all. Happily we returned to the sunlight, not all fears need to be challenged and we were both pleased to be above ground chatting about old times when people worked in the mines day in and day out for decades, even children smaller than my young companion. Five minutes was enough for me, after all it was a beautiful day – too beautiful to spend underground. I went for some up-hill running instead, taking in the view over the fields –  a view that goes on for ever and ever. What a fantastic location to kickstart my running training for the charity run. I added some yoga in the sunset outside my tent before joining the crowd drinking beer by the bonfire listening to the band.

A run with a view
A run with a view

Sunday was the Beamish Trophy Trail and I fully enjoyed seeing the riders take on the challenge of climbing the hill next to the campsite – an extraordinary effort on these old beautiful machines. For the rest of the day I studied Spanish in my tent as people left and the campsite grew quiet.

One of the many contestants taking on this challenging strech of the Beamish Trophy Trail
One of the many contestants taking on this challenging stretch of the Beamish Trophy Trail

It was a fantastic end to my season – or so I thought, it seems like the season never ends here. Next weekend I’ll go to Brighton and help at the WIMA stall at “On the Wheel”.

Has my Horizon become limited?

Now when I’m looking back at our first holiday on four wheels I can conclude that it was, overall, a success, although with its ups and downs. First of all, leaving London was emotional. We both have had a great time there and didn’t really want to leave although we could see an exciting future ahead of us, riding motorbikes all summer and then heading off for Japan. So having left our keys and loaded up the bikes we headed towards Hay-on-Wye in Wales for the Horizons Unlimited event where we were to spend the first weekend.

We're up for a great weekend at Horizons Unlimited travellers meet
We’re up for a great weekend at Horizons Unlimited travellers meet

The weekend proved to be just as inspiring as I had imagined and I fully enjoyed being among people who do amazing things which makes my travels seem boring. To me, it proves that all the people who tell me that travelling alone is dangerous, and that I do crazy things, are wrong and I love seeing the limit for what is possible being moved further ahead – the true meaning of Horizons Unlimited is that only one’s imagination is the limit for what one can achieve. To name a few people that inspired me during this weekend, Sjaak Lukassen who travelled around the world on his Yamaha R1, Dylan Samarawickrama who rebuilt his BMW GS to create a raft enabling him to cross the Darien Gap and enter Columbia during his around the world journey and Tiffany Coates who travelled for three months in Madagascar riding the muddy trail and crossing rivers by means of dugout canoes. Although these people and their stories inspire me, I do not desire to do what they have done and their adventures will never be mine – simply because my dreams are different. I do not want to ride to the north pole, sail a raft or ride in the outback of Madagascar. I want to go to Japan together with my partner, teach English, buy motorbikes and travel around the islands.

Me and Mt Fuji - may we meet again?
Me and Mt Fuji – may we meet again?

This is where this post becomes a tad political and utterly sad. While we, of course, were aware of the referendum and Christopher had posted his vote before we left London, we did not expect the Vote Leave to come out on top. With our situation, as a British-Swedish mixed couple, using the free movement to live and work in different EU countries, we are personally affected by the referendum result but we do not yet know to what extent it will impact our future. So how does this affect our plans to go to Japan, one might wonder. Well, the idea was to return to Europe after a couple of years, work in Italy or perhaps Germany for a couple of years and then return to Spain and settle there. Now, when Christopher is running the risk of losing his status as a European citizen we feel that heading to Japan may risk our possibilities of returning to Spain. In this sense, time is against us, and it would possibly be better to give up the dream of the land of the rising sun in favour of an early return to Spain to get established there and apply for permanent residency. One major drawback with this is that I no longer have a job there, since my application of an extended leave was turned down and I had to resign. I honestly couldn’t believe some British people would be so stupid that they would think that Britain would be better off leaving the EU. Especially not after studying Vote Leave’s propaganda for an essay in sociolinguistics where I studied power and language. I was specifically looking at loaded words and how a specific use of words can imply a meaning that is not actually backed up by facts. Sadly, the Vote Leave supporters didn’t bother to read up on the references for the claims made by Vote Leave.

Avila - may be in my neighbourhood again.
Avila – may be in my neighbourhood again.

At this point, I have got over the feeling that it is a nightmare and I will wake up soon and we are trying to come to terms with the fact that our future will take a different turn. We are trying to evaluate our possibilities and be positive about the alternatives. As long as we can be together we will create a good future. By now you are probably wondering what this has to do with motorbiking… well – I would say: everything! To quote Haruki Murakami and “Dance, Dance, Dance”: “It’s all connected, the sheep man says”. Stay tuned for my next post – which will be about our touring in ace Wales, and an upcoming guest post by Christopher – novice motorbike rider and proud owner of a Honda CG 125 called Koneko.

Christopher and Koneko en route
Christopher and Koneko en route