But sometimes we’ve got as much uncertainty on our plates as we can handle so a mindless tour is the way to go. For a brief while, I just wanted to the a passenger in my own life instead of the driver.
Turns out that was only beginning of the symbolism for the day....
After returning from Spain, I realized my time in Ireland was running out (6 weeks to be precise) and there was still so much I wanted to see. Therefore when the weather forecast miraculously showed a little sun icon, I impulsively purchased a tour to visit the Cliffs of Moher - Ireland’s most famous landmark.
But after submitting my credit card details and hastily pressing Purchase, I was seized by immediate, but brief, regret. Was it a good idea to rush just for the fleeting hope of a little sunshine?
Personally speaking, our Basque Country trip couldn’t have come at a better time. I needed the hard manual labour to calm my mind since it was currently reeling from my disappointing news. Overwhelmed, I allowed myself to put blinders on and avoid facing the fact that I am back to square one: back to pitching this unorthodox idea and trying to figure out where my next mid-career internship would come from. But when you are trying to manoeuvre an unwieldy rototiller (that bolts unexpectedly like a dog that’s seen a squirrel), there is little mental energy remaining to worry that my soul sabbatical isn’t quite going as planned.
Back in January, when Martin spontaneously suggested we organize a work-bee to help Joseba, with his new project Olabe, I had no idea the magic that was waiting for me in Basque Country.
Basque Country, in case you haven't heard, isn't like the rest of Spain. Proudly perched on the northern Atlantic coast straddling the France-Spain border, the Basque region has its own language, culture, culinary traditions, and a distinctive geographic landscape. It has forested mountains peaks that reach for the sky and rolling valleys spotted with farmhouses that are vaguely akin to the Swiss countryside. And then there is the rugged coastline, dotted with surf beaches and battered by mighty Atlantic swells.
After a quick flight from Dublin to Biarritz, Martin, his wife Jill, his cousin Enda, and I hopped into the rental and began our journey to Olabe. Our unforgettable road trip led us through a string of small villages with names we struggled to pronounce, from Gernika to tiny Ea and drop-dead gorgeous Lekeitio.
Without fanfare, we crossed from France into Spain and soon after I remarked to myself “why is there suddenly Romanian on all the signs?” Truth be told, I don’t actually know what the Romanian language looks like but I just knew that this wasn’t French or Spanish. It was like Dorothy saying to Toto, “we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
I’m a nervous cyclist at the best of times (understandable after a six year hiatus in biking) so I was briefly optimistic as I manipulated the bike down my narrow staircase to the street. Google maps had diligently informed that the ride was 8km and would take 28 minutes but I planned to leave myself some extra time so that I wouldn’t be rushed (and would have time to sip a chai latte from Shells Café before class).
From my regular journeys back and forth to Standhill on the bus, I knew the route was flat... or so I thought. Turns out it’s a torturously unrelenting low-grade hill the entire way. A few minutes in, my legs were burning and I was gasping for air – apparently I’m not as in shape as the deluded vision of my “active lifestyle” would lead me to believe. Once out of the town, I kept stopping to rest while pretending that I was taking pictures of sheep to maintain my roadside dignity as cars zoomed past (classy, right?). All the while, their motorized bliss being rubbed in my face.
After 40 minutes, I nipped into a driveway and checked my phone. Surely, I was almost there. Peering in disbelief at my phone, Google was telling me I had another 11 minutes to go... I was only two-thirds of the way. I feared that I could not make the last 11 minutes, which undoubtedly would be longer given how long I’d already been pedalling. At that moment, I realize that if I got to surf class, I’d surely drown because my legs would be too fatigued to trudge out against the waves or even pop up on my board... let alone carry me back home afterwards. So I nonchalantly texted Eddie (the surf instructor), Something has come up. I’m not going to make it in time today. Is there class tomorrow as well? and then turned my bike around and headed home.
As I sped downhill, I couldn’t help but laugh to myself that of all the trials and tribulations of living abroad, the thing that has pushed me closest to the edge is a bike ride!
Nice to meet you...
I'm Andi (hence the blog name). I'm a travel aficionado, passionate eater, tireless explorer of internet rabbit-holes, and amateur thinker. Join me as I give it all up (ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration) and go around the world on a mid-career "soul sabbatical" & year-of-learning to figure out what to be NEXT when I grow up. Won’t you grab a cup of chai and stay a while?
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