If you’ve ever dabbled in the sophisticated world of reality television, boy do I have a pitch for the next big thing. Forget The Bachelor, scrap Love Island, because what’s the fun in seeing people test their love in paradise, at a tropical island villa? Yawn. Instead, picture two overly-confident and under-prepared twenty-something singles thrown together and made to do a cycle tour, with no frills. Wild camping in mosquito-infested woods beside a noisy, polluted highway, giving each other food poisoning (by accident, of course), and making themselves sick after scarfing down (literally) half a free sheet cake provided by a luxury Norwegian cruise liner because they haven’t been able to afford food and are (literally) starving. All hypothetical, of course. After all of this, three months, four countries, and thousands of kilometres later, said couple must decide if they’re willing to stay together.
If you haven’t figured it out yet from my previous articles documenting mine and Tieran’s cycle tour, the whole thing wasn’t exactly my idea. In fact, I waited until the last possible moment to book my flight to Oslo and purchase my panniers. I kept telling myself that it was a half-baked idea that wouldn’t actually happen, so there wasn’t a need to prepare.
As April passed me by the panic set in.
I started realizing that somehow, Tieran had roped me into his plan. I figured that if I didn’t do the tour with him, I wouldn’t get the chance to see him that summer. Since we’re long distance and summer is our longest stretch of free time, I knew what I had to do.
I packed my belongings into panniers, including two 1.5kg bottles of special shampoo and conditioner for my hair treatment (which should’ve been Tieran’s first red flag, to be honest), and set off on what I thought would be a relatively easy journey. Needless to say, I played myself.
The moment we cycled our 1,500th kilometre!
We knew the cycle tour would strain us at times.
If cycling as a couple was a test, I give myself a D. I passed by the skin of my teeth, and only because the scorer had mercy on my soul. As for Tieran, I give him a C for his general attitude, but bump him up to a solid B+ for putting up with me. Honestly, he was a trooper. I would’ve ditched me in some fjord on day one.
It was incredibly demanding physically and emotionally, and, given how unprepared we were, I’m still shocked we made it out without at least one trip to the hospital (a shame; I do imagine Scandinavian hospitals are lovely). It was always just the two of us, so we only had each other to celebrate with, or to cry with, or to blame. When I wasn’t blaming Norway for our less-than-pleasant weather up north, I was cursing under my breath at Tieran, condemning him for being the reason I was there in the first place. I know, Norway is such an awful place to be dragged.
It wasn’t exactly a romantic getaway, either. When we weren’t damp and covered in bug bites, we were cloaked in sweat, wearing the same clothes that hadn’t seen a washing machine in a pitiful stretch of time. Our hair was greasy, dirt was caked under our nails, and my eyebrows-plural- were slowly creeping into one in the absence of my trusty technician at the salon back home.
At some point, we had no choice but to stop caring how we looked.
After I couldn’t take the feeling any longer, Tieran helped me wash my hair in the dingy sink of a ferry waiting room (where we were sleeping, of course). On another occasion, at a different waiting room bathroom, I shaved my legs with water from my bottle and hand soap; a memory that is forever burned into me (as are the scars).
Aesthetics aside, I started seeing Tieran as a lifeline, in a sense. For the first time, it felt like we needed one another. Whether it was holding up his bike while he packed it up, or watching each other’s belongings while one of us went into a shop, it became a very productive relationship. Occasionally on the off chance that both of our spirits were high, we’d share a moment to appreciate the beauty around us, which made everything seem more worth it.
When the clouds finally parted, allowing us to take in the views in Andøya, Norway.
Don’t get it twisted; we did fight.
A lot, in fact, at the start. It was hard, to put it mildly, and we lashed out at each other. On the evening when we first stayed in a waiting room, we started to argue. About what I’m unsure, but what I do recall is us both eventually bursting into tears, our heads in our hands, blubbering about how hard we were finding it.
We both said and did things we aren’t proud of on the cycle tour, and there were times we mutually felt that we couldn’t possibly stay together after the way we treated each other in particular moments of weakness. After a year of self-reflection, I feel especially guilty about how I handled the start of the journey. That was a hard realization to come by, as I generally feel that, considering the 4,000 mile distance between us, we do quite well.
Photo taken in Dovre by Svein Rune Berg at Iguan Design
It’s easy to dwell on the hard moments.
But when I really think back, I remember the instances when we could not have been more grateful for one another. The times when I thought, I’m so glad I’m not alone in this. Reflectively, we should have conveyed that to each other more.
After I’d returned home for university in August, Tieran set out solo on the rest of his cycle tour to make his way east from Hamburg. He told me it was the hardest week yet on his tour, and listening to him talk about it on the phone each night broke my heart. As much as I had despised the trip at its worst, I wanted nothing more than to join him again, and not because I missed cold pasta and hail stones. I hated that he was alone, because despite everything we had been through, not a day went by when I’d wished he hadn’t been there.
Traveling together was a test where neither of us prepared, and both of us procrastinated. We saw the best and worst sides of each other, which I suppose comes with the territory. In the end, if you think Tieran learned anything from dragging a city girl along, try again. He’s already pushing to plan our next big trip.
I better go buy some more shampoo.
Watch the trailer for our cycle tour below (you can find more on our YouTube channel):
Thoughts? Leave a comment down below!
Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date with our blog and interviews with local people around the world. If you want to see clips from the cycle tour, you can also have a gander at our YouTube channel! If you want to see how we’re doing on our journey, check out our Live Updates page.