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Cycling to Rome made me realise what's important in life

Entrepreneur Bart cycled from Amsterdam to Rome. More than 2300 km in 26 days. He crossed nine very different and beautiful countries. It was Bart’s second long-distance trip. His first on his brand new Santos Travel Lite. His goal was to clear his mind from the strains of daily working life. Want to know if he succeeded? 

 Bart Verleg
Bicycle Santos Travel Lite

Last year I went all the way from Amsterdam to the Austrian border. On a second hand Santos Travelmaster 2.6. Cycling through Germany was great, I rode along a large stretch of the Rhine. It was easy to find places to sleep and fantastic if you love German wines. This year I decided to go much further. I chose Rome as my final destination with the origin of the Rhine as a bonus. I opted for a new bike, completely adapted to my needs. The geometry of my new Santos Travel Lite with Rohloff belt turned out to be just perfect. No body pain, not once during my 6-7 hour cycle sessions per day.

I traveled through many countries to reach Rome. The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, France, Liechtenstein, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. Basically the entire trip I drove in nice dry weather, only a few days it was raining. I had packed light for this trip. Not bringing a tent as I would sleep in hotels. Still, my bike felt quite heavy with an extra set of dry clothes, raincoat etc.

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The beauty of long-distance cycling is the special rhythm and the unique flow that you experience

Cycling all day is so much different from my everyday entrepreneurial life, where every day can be challenging in a very different way. The beauty of cycling besides the fact that the scenery changes almost every 5 minutes, is the focus you need. The goal to travel from A to B, every day…. Just that goal, and nothing else…..

After almost 8 years of knee injuries, I managed to get back on my feet and do sports at an intensive level again. Kiteboarding, surfing and mountainbiking make me whole. Once the fitness was back, I decided to try long-distance cycling. By doing so, I wanted to try to clear my head so I would be able to take some decisions. Interestingly enough, what happened was that I didn't think about anything at all….during the entire trip. I needed all my energy to travel and reach the daily cycling goal. When I came back to the Netherlands the processing began, which made things very clear for me and decision taking much easier.

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Experience the purity of life again

With that in mind, I decided to go to Rome. Use a longer time to travel, to reach an even stronger level of thoughtless state. To clear my mind, to reset and realign. Remove the filters, experience the purity of life again. I first started with a dear friend. Unfortunately he wasn't able to finish the trip, but he managed to cross the Alps which was his personal goal, so I am really proud he made it. Two other friends joined me in Italy for the last 5 days to Rome. It was a different experience from travelling alone, but still I managed to keep my focus on cycling and not think about many other things. I think it depends how you want to experience such a trip. If you need me-time, go alone… If you want to share the intense feelings you experience during these kind of trips, find a buddy who does not need to adapt to you and vice versa. Cycle at your own pace, just agree on where you stop, eat and sleep….Nothing is more frustrating than having to follow someone else's rhythm. Luckily I had a nice experience cycling with my buddies.

Daily intense exercise really changes everything. Not only your physical but also your mental health is positively affected. Even though you are often confronted with yourself during the trip, my conclusion is that cycling allows you to reset yourself. I think that's important in a fast-moving life that I am right in the middle of. Cycling really slows you down, it slows life down and makes life really clear. What matters the most to me, became as clear as a beautiful Italian night sky and made me realise again what is important.

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Cycling to Rome was truly special, the change in scenery was overwhelming.

The Alps had been staring down at me for a few days, before they tried to consume me at the Splügen pass in Switzerland. I think this was the most memorable day… Climbing for at least 6 hours to reach the summit. At such a low speed and a continuous focus on your cadance and breath, it was one of the hardest things I have ever experienced. After reaching the summit it was a 30 km downhill ride to Chiavenna in Italy, an absolutely amazing experience. Then there was the feeling of victory of not having been consumed by the Alps. Followed by my arrival in Italy, which in my opinion is just one big open air museum with art, old structures, and very satisfying for my other hobby which is cooking. All the beautiful wines and lovely food made me want to stay in this beautiful country.

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Don’t underestimate the Apennines in Italy….

The hills are more steep, temperature is high, definitely more exhausting than cycling in the Alps. Beautiful views where ever you travel. The Italian hills reminded me every day not to pack too heavy. Try to take some small trips before you go on such a long journey. That way you get used to what clothes and accessories you really need, and what you can leave behind. Trust me…you don’t need that much…

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Last but not least

Everybody made us feel welcome…. It was such a great trip… I am still processing and enjoying…. Ohh PS: don’t forget an extra innertube and maybe even a back up special outer tube repair set, because in some areas you just don’t want to get a flat tire…I can tell you from experience :-)

Special thanks to my beautiful wife who was managing the kids, the household and the business. Without her backup during this 4 week trip, it would have been impossible for me to go on this journey. Thanks also to my team at work who all worked very hard, all the love and support during the trip from friends and family was heart warming.

Where will I go next time? I am not sure yet, but the North Cape sounds intriguing.

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