What had suddenly gone wrong with me? Or had I felt that way perhaps for quite a while and just didn’t want to admit it to myself? I was no longer the Heike, who was cheerful and gladly torturing herself while struggling to reach the pass of the next mountain and enjoy the view.
And I wasn’t really capable of indulging in boring small talk anymore either. I had lost all desire to adapt myself to the situation as I had usually done, to be polite or to allow pets that came running toward me in hallways to lick my hands and face.
I had tired of telling the same story over and over again, because people were always asking me the same questions which I had already answered 1000 times over.
I was simply tired. My legs didn’t want to move anymore and my head didn’t want to think anymore in an attempt to understand life.
I longed earnestly for like-minded people – people who are forward-thinking, people who are open and interested in something more than just their dogs and their neighbors, people who complained for hours about how much tax they have to pay instead of being glad they were born on the sunny side of the world.
I don’t want this to sound judgmental or arrogant in any way. And I would never say that I’m more intelligent than others or anyone special – definitely not that. But my world is a different one than that of most of the other people I come into contact with. There are other topics that interest me – questions that come up automatically when I cycle through the world with my eyes wide open.
Extremely often, I’ve met loving people, who took me into their homes again and again; they fed me and even entertained me, or perhaps I should say, I usually entertained them most of the time. They were encounters and opportunities for which I am extremely grateful.
But how many people come to my mind, with whom I’ve had really interesting discussions that went beyond the usual blah blah blah – discussions which made me feel really comfortable and a friendship was born.
How many of them have I philosophized with and attempted to find solutions to questions that were on my mind?
Very few. In nearly 3 years, it has been simply too few.
Am I too demanding? Do I expect too much? What am I doing wrong?
I belong to a group of people who are different; I’m not like the others. Or do others also feel the same? Most likely, yes, especially because the older people are, the more difficult it is for them to find true friends.
Unfortunately, since I always look for trails that are off the beaten path, I rarely come into contact with other travelers who have thoughts similar to my own.
It is not my intention to talk about my trip. I already know what I have experienced. No, I’m looking for a common base.
An athlete enters a sports club; a musical person looks for a choir; a dog lover goes to the dog training area; and a chess player joins a chess club. They are all looking for people who share interests and points of view similar to their own because they think it would otherwise be difficult to exchange ideas.
We humans need other people around us to allow us to open up and feel comfortable. We all have times when we like to be alone, but sooner or later we need friends and like-minded people to be happy.
I no longer had the desire to cycle to Alaska – a corner of the world that I had wanted to visit since my childhood. So, shortly before my goal, the long road to get there frightened me. Every kilometer tormented me. I had had similar feelings previously during the past 3 years, but this time I had the impression they were more serious.
I sat for an entire week on the island of Haida Gwaii at Carol’s house. Carol was an elderly lady who had invited me to stay in her home. On her sofa, I waited for a change of mood, but unfortunately, it never came. Shortly before my 3-year-old bicycle world tour anniversary, my trip seemed to have reached another turning point.
I had the “travel blues,” a weary traveler’s burn-out, a condition that I’m sure eventually catches up with many, if not all, long-term travelers.
Why did I have it? Was I going too fast? Had I lost sight of my goals? Was it just the loneliness that had exhausted me? Had everything become routine and, therefore, boring? Why didn’t I feel like doing anything anymore?
What should I do? Is it time to settle down somewhere? Where would be the appropriate place for it? Is it time for a longer break in one place? What would it actually be like to take a long break? What would I do during the time and how would I avoid not getting bored? Is it time to go home? Would I be able to continue my old life at home or would I find a way to start a new life?
The only thing I knew for certain, no matter where I would go, it would not be the right place, so I simply decided to go nowhere and put myself to the task of surviving. Eventually, in a few weeks, at least so I hoped, I would return with fresh momentum to cycling – the kind of cycling that had tormented me so much in recent weeks.
I noticed that when I made plans as to how my trip could continue, I often thought of corners of the world that were incredibly far away. I was in Canada, and dreamed about Australia, Argentina and Africa. But I was in Canada, a country that is actually an outdoor paradise.
Why did I want to get away and why would it be better to be elsewhere. It had nothing to do with Canada; I was at fault. And no other country would be the right one at the moment. That was certain.
Haida Gwaii was certainly a good place to clear my head and make room for new thoughts. It was a magnificent archipelago in western Canada, far away from noise, traffic and stress.
But how did I end up on this island? Because my Canada experience began with the ferry that took me from Port Angeles in the United States to Victoria on Vancouver Island.
“Why are you coming to Canada?” the official at the border asked me. “I would like to see the beauty of your country.” I responded. “How long have you been on the road?” “For nearly 3 years”. “Nearly 3 years?” she asked back in astonishment. “Just a minute; wait over here, then an officer will ask you a few more questions, because I’m curious to know how you are able finance a trip like that.”
“Your passport please,” said the nice officer smiling at me. After 5 minutes he came back and said “Wow! That’s a super trip that you’re doing.” “Oh thank you. Did you find me so quickly?” I asked him. “Finding you isn’t difficult, besides, finding people is my job. Have fun in Canada.”
Welcome to the 31st country of my current bike trip around the world. I’m allowed to stay six months in Canada, so I have plenty of time. Although, time is always relative. Bearing in mind the size of the country, six months are, of course, an absolute joke.
Canada received me with great weather. After all the heavy rain in the last few weeks, it was a real treat.
Victoria is a lovely city – the location is impressive and the homes are first class. My host also took me to several places in the southern part of Vancouver Island. What most impressed me about this were the sea and the many magical trees that adorned the area. Also, there were unusual finds on the beach, some awesome stones and interesting plants.
I’m not a beach fan – that crowd likes white beaches, bathtub temperatures, and a quiet flat sea, but there’s nothing to see. What many people describe as dream beaches are for me nothing more than utter boredom.
But the beaches here in Canada are different. The coast is rough; the mountains covered with glistening snow; the beach, full of odd-shaped logs; large rounded stones and there’s a myriad of life forms in and around the sea. The wind whistles melodies in the air and the sky is filled with graceful bald eagles.
Totem poles inspired me; they are beautiful pieces of art that we discovered on many parts of the island.
From Victoria I went to Vancouver where Catherine awaited me. I had met Catherine and her partner, Dan, in Japan and even then they told me “If you should ever come to Canada, you’re welcome anytime.” And there I was.
Unfortunately, Dan was in Alberta, but we two girls had a great time together. Catherine is brilliant and certainly one of the most special people I’ve met in the past three years, someone I could really feel comfortable with.
Catherine made my time enjoyable with Kayaking, sightseeing, meeting with her friends, interesting conversation and delicious sushi that Dan treated us to.
Vancouver is fascinating – full of Chinese, expensive, grandiose, international, and certainly one of the most beautiful cities in the world. But quite honestly, there were only two reasons I was interested in Vancouver. One reason was to visit Catherine and Dan and the other was to go to the US Consulate to obtain a US visa.
The United States had changed the regulation shortly after my second entry into the USA. Every traveler who, since 2011, had been in Iran cannot use the visa waiver program. Instead, from now on, they need a proper visa.
Unfortunately, a US visa is not always easy to get, certainly not when you have no proof of income. You have to get an appointment for an interview and then provide all imaginable information and pay 160 Canadian dollars in advance. But even that is not any kind of guarantee for a visa. Without getting a US visa, Canada would be a dead end and the end of my hope for a trip to Alaska.
My appointment at the US Consulate in Vancouver was at 7 a.m. Together with a plethora of other people, primarily Indians and Chinese, I was standing outside in a line on the street waiting for whatever was about to happen. I was allowed to take absolutely nothing into the building except the documents that I had to show to the person interviewing me.
Friendly people, fingerprints, a few questions, a pleasant smile and 15 minutes later I had the approval for a visa. I honestly couldn’t believe it, but it was far easier than I would’ve ever imagined.
Now, I can enter the USA for up to 6 months at a time for the next 10 years. Wow, I doubt that I would ever use it much, but now, I could travel to Alaska and re-enter the lower 48 states, and I wouldn’t have to fly out of Canada.
Catherine and I experienced still another absolutely fantastic sensation, because in the English Bay, the beach of the city dwellers, a humpback whale suddenly surfaced. What a show – I couldn’t believe my luck.
On the Sunshine Coast I cycled through many curves and ran into some traffic to the north. It was difficult to believe there were so many magnificent buildings everywhere. People here have money, a lot of money.
Axel, an artist from Berlin, had settled here and decorated his entire estate with his unusual art – a witty guy. Hans, also German, found me awhile later on the street and invited me for an evening in his home.
I found it somewhat difficult to find much enthusiasm for this corner of Canada. Trees, traffic and corners that had been closed in with various edifices. The best were the ferry crossing areas – they were landscaped most impressively.
I reached Vancouver Island from Powell River and hoped that the route from Coven to Port Hardy would be more impressive. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really find what I expected here.
Trees, trees and more trees adorned the street to the north. Initially from time to time, with a few vistas to the sea, I cycled eventually through a green corridor of fir trees. In addition to that, monstrous 4x4 jeeps thundered past me, which didn’t exactly improve my mood.
There must surely be some really great areas on Vancouver Island, but only when viewing them from the water or perhaps on a hike – but riding the bike doesn’t seem to be the best way to explore the island.
In Port Hardy I met Bryan and Kathryn. Together we took the ferry to Prince Rupert. The world famous ferry passage cruises along the Inside Passage past one island after another. Dolphins accompanied us for a short distance, which for me was the highlight of my time on board the ferry.