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MY BEST DAY EVER OUT OF MY ENTIRE TRIP

JUN 8, 2023

This was a question from one of my readers suggested as a blog post. It's difficult for me to answer because I've had so many, but I'll try my best. I was contemplating on what basis I would measure as "my best day ever." Should I select a day based on emotional elation of pure bliss, or perhaps on the majesty of mother nature and seeing things I could only dream about, or maybe bring attention to some amazing friends I have met. After careful consideration, I have picked one day. I will first provide context, and then explain why out of 500+ days, this was my best day ever out of the entire trip.


My best day ever was December 9, 2022, day 414 with my Couchsurfing host John in Northern Ireland.


It's winter: cold, rainy, snowing and I arrived in Belfast two days before off a 9 hour ferry from Scotland. The weeks before, I was riding around Scotland trying to explore as much as I could to beat the snow. And I cut it close. The same day I left the Scotland Highlands, the snow fell in the evening. I saw the storm clouds in my mirrors. I had barely escaped. I was physically exhausted from riding England and Scotland during the winter. My neck and shoulders were so tense and locked up from shivering from the cold.


Whenever I enter a new country, I try to Couchsurf with a local. I do this so I can learn how life really is and not just stay in a touristy part of town and have a filtered experience. Most of the time, I have an amazing time Couchsurfing and some of the most amazing friends I've met on the road were from this travel strategy (especially in Newcastle upon Tyne, England and Vilnius, Lithuania). Unfortunately, I did not have a good experience with my host in Belfast. Long story short, I was very uncomfortable with my Couchsurfing host in Belfast after he asked me multiple times if I wanted to sleep in the same bed as him. Gross. Excuse my Bay Area-ness coming out, but fool was trippin.


I left Belfast and headed to Bushmills to another Couchsurfing host. My host in Bushmills rode motorcycles as well. He is my people. So I hoped for a better experience. I followed the coastline and the ride should have only taken two hours. But there was a cold spell in Northern Ireland at this time, so it took me four. I needed to pull over at a grocery store to warm my frozen fingers and toes up. I pressed my hands against the burning hot deli glass display to defrost them. It took a while to warm up, but I finally regained my courage to face the cold again. As I was gearing up, some kind locals warned me about black ice on the road in the direction I was heading. Great. Time to go even slower and prolong being in the elements even longer. But slow and steady gets me to my next destination alive in one piece.


I see the black ice. I see snow clouds off in the distance and my body is starting to lose the warmth I recovered in the gas station. There's patches of rainfall and I am soaked. It gets to a point where it feels like my fingernails and toenails are going to pop off from the lack of blood circulation. I'm getting to the point of mentally breaking down, my throat starts quivering, I let out a whimper and I start feeling sorry for myself. All of a sudden, my GPS tells me to turn in 500ft/ 150 meters. I'm almost at my destination. I'm so close, just another minute. You can do it, Crystal.


I'm not sure if you've ever been pushed to your breaking point, but that's what this ride was like for me. It takes a lot for me to get to this point, but if you've ridden in the winter for months, it starts to wear on you.


Turn right. Yes. I pull in, set my kickstand down and John comes out. He says "You made it." I couldn't even say Hello. In the most defeated voice, the first words out of my mouth were "I'm really miserable." I was on the brink of tears. At that moment, John knew and understood. Without any other words, he helped me unload my luggage, bring them inside, and put all my soaking gear on the radiators. He told me to take a hot shower to warm myself up. Yes, okay. When you're this exhausted, you're loopy in the head and just mindlessly go through the motions. You won't even remember what someone said and will need to ask them to repeat themselves. I took a hot shower, felt better and melted into the couch. John gave me a blanket, fed me tea and pastries and we watched movies for the next few hours doing absolutely nothing not even talking to each other. He kept refilling my tea while I recovered on the couch. I felt so spoiled. After settling in, I said out loud "This is the best day ever."


I have never audibly said before on my expedition.


I've said Wow, This is beautiful, Is this real life. But why did I say that now? I wasn't wandering some amazing archaeological ruin alone, or being gifted money or materialistic item, or partying in the most famous club in Hamburg. So why?


Hygge.


The Danish word, hygge means a feeling of comfort and coziness with feelings of wellness and contentment, usually with close friends or family with no agenda. Simply put, it can be enjoying a meal in the company of close friends at home. But for me, this feeling was amplified due to the juxtaposition of events. I was previously uncomfortable staying with a person, rode through draining weather and then finally arrived to a safe place and safe human who took care of me and nursed me back to health. The complete opposite experiences allowed me to be even more appreciative of the situation.


When you're on the road traveling alone for a long time, you become more rugged, self sufficient and independent. You have to. No one else is going to do your stuff for you or take care of you. You get used to doing things for yourself by yourself. I would even say it makes my edges a little rougher. That being said, to be cared for on the road is one of the most precious feelings a being can experience. When another person takes care of you, they feel like home even if you just met them, no matter where you are in the world.


You know when you see videos of wild animals that are injured, nursed back to health and go back and visit their human saviors? I know what those animals feel like. I am often one of these scraggly creatures that are dazed and confused. That's why I believe and can attest that 99% of the world is good. When I am at my lowest and am completely depleted mentally and physically, complete strangers lift me back up. The presence of the virtues of empathy and kindness without expectation of anything in return are why I chose this day as the best day ever out of my expedition thus far.




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