It was with a markedly more pensive mindset that I rode off across the pan flat landscapes of northern France and into Belgium . With the initial excitement of embarking now waning, and a deluge of wintry showers inexplicably penetrating my shiny new waterproof gear, my thoughts had capitulated to those of insecurity in my ability and resolve to undertake whatever this mission was.
I was also grappling with all that I had left behind to commit to this open ended adventure - that being a partner and best friend who was now on the other side of the world starting a new chapter in her life.
There was almost a cruel irony that I'd broken my headphones on the ferry - where I would probably have retreated from these troubling thoughts into a barrage of uplifting sound, I was now forced to engage them while I trundled on through endless grey skies and green fields.
But as one of my favourite quotes reads, "we must travel in the direction of our fear", so I decided the headphone omen was good, and over the coming weeks had many lengthy deliberations with myself, scrawled in my journal and slowly began to adjust my outlook to embrace the freedom, opportunity and privilege I had been afforded and attempted to appreciate the past without trying to hold on to it.
I also still hadn't worked out how to manage the cold and spent much of each day musing over how it was hardly zero degrees yet I'd regularly manage to lose all sensation in my fingers and toes...still plenty African in me then.
The great port city of Rotterdam's Van Brienenoord bridge welcomed me into the city and my host Karel Slot's home, where he lives in a kind of shared community system where the aim is for everyone to assist each other where they can, share resources, etc. It shared many parallels with my thoughts on how I'd like to live in future and it was great to be there on a day when they all had dinner together to learn about it and dutch culture - made all the more easier as the dutch all speak perfect english and are fairly forthright with their opinions!
Hopping across the Dutch green heartland, iconic Amsterdam welcomed me with (from my perspective) other worldly cycle lanes and a bike commuter culture that most developed countries could only dream about.
Amongst three days of the hedonism (plenty joints yes, hookers don't quite fit into my feminist ideals) I also managed to get in on the cultural action this great 800 year old city has to offer, with the first of numerous free/tip only walking tours available in most big European cities.