I’m going to skip the ‘sorry I took a few months off to travel, get engaged, get a new job, get a new apartment, etc post’ and just jump right back in. Here’s hoping you will too!
My (now) fiancee and I have been dating for 3.5 years and until just a few weeks ago, we had never been on vacation. This was primarily due to him starting a company and me going to grad school (thus one of us was always super poor), but also because we did long distance for almost 3 of those years. Since we were always hoping a bus (and then later a plane) to visit each other, going elsewhere wasn’t in the cards. Due to the lack of fun trips together, we knew we had to really kick vacation’s ass, and we wanted it to have an eco-component.
Well, our vacation kicked our ass (literally and otherwise), but it was truly awesome. We decided to bicycle our way through Tuscany Italy for an 8 day leg-powered adventure! We used a company a friend had recommended, EcoRent, who rented us the bicycles, helped plan our route, and even set up hotels, villas, and farmhouses in each destination spot. We started in Calci and made our way to Casciana Terme, Volterra (no vampires encountered), Pomarance, Castagneto Carducci, Pomaia, and Pisa – and lots of towns in between!
We biked about 40 miles per day through medieval villages, vineyards, farmland, 10 person towns, and fell in love with the wine, the pizza, the people, the riding, and even more with each other. Experiencing a country on bike is really beyond words. You don’t have a car window to block out the sounds, the smells, the HEAT, but you can still cover so much ground in a day. You truly get to SEE and FEEL the place you are visiting. We got to stop and do both an olive oil tasting and wine tasting at local farms! Due to the 90 degree days we had to wake up and get on the road by 6am, and were usually finished with the ride by noon. While much of the trip was simply magical, I did have two breakdowns – one of which resulted in a lot of tears and throwing my bike into the woods, and the other resulted in me calling Ecorent to come bring me up the last 9km hill I think that’s fair though given the conditions.
I would definitely do it again (although not in the heat of summer!) because it left me feeling so proud of my body. Our legs, lungs, hearts, and attitudes got us so far each day. It was also an incredible team-building activity as we learned the right ways to encourage and push each other; this definitely took a few days to figure out. Each morning it was me, my fiancee, two bikes, and a map and we had to get ourselves from A to B. It really felt like survival training as we had to focus on making sure we had enough food, water, and shelter when it became too hot.
While it wasn’t completely energy-free (a diesel van moved our luggage from point to point along with other bikers’ things doing similar trips), we ate extremely local, reused what we could, used the sun to dry out our laundry, and tried to keep our waste to a minimum. One of the best parts of Tuscany is that everything you find to eat is local. I did end up eating meat (and now I remember how good salami is!), cheese, and bread – three things I don’t normally eat, as there wasn’t much of an option in the small towns (tofu does not exist there ha). But, it was delicious, and fresh, from the butcher down the street, and I felt good to be supporting the local economy. Since returning to SF I have also returned to vegetarianism but it was quite fun to eat like a local, I’ll admit.
More summer stories coming soon