My family and I went to Sweden in July for a two-week vacation. Everything about it excited me. I love traveling and I was excited to bring my kids to Europe for their first time (well, our son had been there but he was 10 months old. Doesn’t count.). We have dear Boulder friends we visited while they were on their annual Sweden summer trip. I love, love, love the culture, geography, history, people, shopping, and food. Yet there was a little nagging drawback in the back of my head; I’d be off the bike for 15 days. Having an annual mileage goal in mind should’ve been the last thing on my mind. It probably was the last thing, but it was still there.
I’m not exactly sure why keeping on top of weekly miles and fitness should even be a concern. I was in Europe, for heaven’s sake. I’m blessed to have the time, resources, and health to do something like this. It probably was FOMO syndrome: fear of missing out. Missing miles, losing fitness (there’s a LOT of coffee breaks with baked goods: fika!), not going on team rides…missing out instead of enjoying a break.
It wasn’t a clean break. We rented bikes twice. Once was to ride on a touristy island, Visingso, with castles, beaches, and flower farms. Another time was around Djurgarden, a lovely island in the heart of Stockholm. Both were on rented B-cycle type bikes. They were heavy, utilitarian, awkward and awesome. One little push on the sensitive coaster brakes sent you into a major skid. The baskets could hold a large dog. We had a blast navigating the narrow roads. Car-driving Swedes apparently don’t see reason to slow down or give generous berth to cyclists or runners even though their road width is about one-half of ours. It’s all very logical and efficient; you stay alongside the edge of the road on your bike, they’ll not lose momentum in the (safely driven) vehicle, and everything will work out nicely. And it did. In America it would be grounds for middle-fingered road rage. There, it was “you go about your business and I’ll go about mine. What’s the fuss?” I rather liked it.
The change of pattern was just what I needed. Not cycling much helped me step off a mental treadmill. Plus I think my body needed that break. A few of us Petunia Mafiosas rode to Jamestown days after my return and I set all kinds of Strava PR’s. My legs were rested and fueled by 2 weeks of fika. Yay coffee and treats!
Riding bikes in foreign cultures broadens acknowledgement that our way isn’t 100% right or wrong. Just different. Viewing new places from a bike seat provides new perspective. It slows things down. It allows you to look around and connect to the surroundings. To see the world by two wheels always offers the best view.