Status Update:

Current location: Bochum / Germany

50 countries, 1226 days, trip mileage: 124200 km

5 May 2008

Leaving the UK


My last day in England began in true British biker fashion with a Full English Breakfast in the Ace Café. As it was ‘Italian Day’ at the Ace, I normally wouldn’t have got onto the main parking area. But thanks to my friend Charles, who had arrived a bit earlier and told the parking marshalls that I was about to set off on a ‘Round The World’ trip, I was waved through in front of the cafe – with the only BMW amongst hundreds of Moto Guzzis, Ducatis and MV Augustas.

The Full English Breakfast got rid of the hangover I had from the night before (I was staying at a friend’s place & we had a few beers next to the bonfire – Thanks for a good evening, Paolo!). Shorty after 11 o’clock, I set off from the North Circular onto the M20 to Dover. This was the moment I had been dreaming of for quite a while now – but strangely enough, it didn’t feel very special at all. Maybe it was because I had travelled alongst the London – Dover route a few times before? Or maybe it was because I was too busy trying to get used to the fully laden travel bike – or I was simply too much in thoughts about various things: Are there any unfamiliar or strange noises on the bike? Have I got everything I need – or did I maybe take too much with me? How will the heavy bike cope with the offroad-stretches? And why on earth did I quit my job to go on an ‘extended holiday’, with all my belongings cramped into 2 aluminium panniers and a tank-bag. Was this really the right thing to do?

Once in Dover, I felt a bit more at ease. The bike had been running very smooth for the past few hours on the motorway. I got off the bike & onto the ferry deck, and shortly after I watched the white cliffs of Dover drift away in the distance. I guess it’s quite a beautiful way to leave a country in such a slow manner as it gives you time to reflect. During the sunny channel crossing to Dunquerque, the last 7 ½ years of living in England passed in front of my eyes – the good times, the bad times and the fond memories of the friends I had made during that time – some of which I will visit during my journey.

Off the ferry - Europe

1 ½ hours later I’m on the continent. “The continent”. “Europe”. I remember when I first came to England & heard British people say to their friends “I’m going to Europe next week for a holiday”, and I was thinking to myself “well… actually… you ARE in Europe already”. A few years later I would say the exact same words to my friends. “I’m going to Europe”. Not that my political views or had changed, no. But subconsciously it now made a difference to me, having to cross waters to get from one country to the next.

Bockwurst and Frities, Belgium

Initially I wanted to visit a friend in Antwerp on the way through Belgium, but unfortunately we got the timing wrong – and some other friends in Holland had already made different arrangements. Traffic was really dense. At first I thought it was good fun to practice a bit of filtering between the cars, but after the 4th traffic jam in 100 miles I frankly had enough of filtering. After a quick stop for ‘frities & bockwurst’ I decided to leave the motorway for a campsite in Antwerp before I would continue on to Germany the next day, to visit my parents.