Hans Jonas Hansen / Contributor
Back in 2013, my girlfriend and I decided to go on a crazy bike ride from Copenhagen, Denmark, to Rome, Italy. We were both bored of our lives in Copenhagen where it seemed every day was identical. We wanted to try something new, so when my girlfriend asked me if I wanted to ride a bike from Copenhagen to Rome, I immediately said yes.
And what an adventure it was. We rode our bikes 3,744 kilometers (2,326 miles) from Denmark through Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, France and Monaco before arriving in Rome three months later.
It was our first taste of how the internet has changed the way you can travel and work. We could ride our bikes during the day and work online at camping sites or McDonald's at night.
For most people, it seems insane to ride a bike across Europe – but you see countries in a distinctive way when you travel by bike from one big city to the next. It's the same reason why I love going on road trips instead of flying. I love nature and the mysterious cafes and shops you will find in the middle of nowhere.
We didn't travel the fastest route from Denmark to Italy because we wanted to ride our bicycles through Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and beside the French Riviera. I’m glad we did it this way because it taught us how diverse European countries are. Traveling through Belgium is like being in two different countries at once because you have the French and Dutch-speaking populations.
"I think travel is a great way to kill prejudice."
I don’t think I ever appreciated Europe enough before we went on our long bike trip. If it wasn't for that journey, I would probably never have visited a lot of those cities I now love so much. A city like Lyon, France, is usually not a place you travel as a tourist, and it's a shame because it’s an amazing and beautiful city that was founded by the Romans in 43 B.C. When you travel through Europe, it feels like you are a part of history. In Berlin, you have all the history from the Cold War and World War II. In Paris, you feel like a part of one of the French classics like, Les Misérables.
Before going on this trip, I had a lot of prejudices about a lot of places. Not anything bad in particular but stuff like Monaco is only for the super-rich and it’s very superficial. When we were there, we couch surfed with a regular guy who happened to be born in Monaco. It was much more normal than I expected because you only hear about wealthy Russians and the Formula 1 race. Amsterdam is more than weed and the Red Light District. Brussels is the headquarters of EU, but the city itself feels like a part of southern France where Paris is cleaner and feels very organized. Italians aren't lazy or ineffective like people in northern Europe say they are. It would also be weird if a population who drinks coffee at 10 p.m. be lazy. I think travel is a great way to kill prejudice.
I’m not saying that you have to go on a long bike ride to avoid burnout, but I think it can be a good idea to travel at a slow pace.
Most of the time, when you travel you think you are in a hurry because you are only off for two weeks, so you run around because you don't want to miss anything. If you go on a vacation to avoid or cure a burnout, this is not the best solution because your mind needs to relax. It doesn’t imply you have to sit still for an extended period, you can move around, but if you have a fully booked calendar every day, your mind is in the same work mode that caused the burnout.
I have never had so many ideas since I rode my bike through Europe. My creativity level went trough the roof, I wanted to write books, scripts and start businesses. All this happened because when you ride your bike for 60-80 kilometers (37-50 miles) every day, you have plenty of spare time to think. You can’t work when you are on a bike and even talking can be hard. Instead, your mind starts to think. If you have a burnout, your mind will start thinking bad thoughts like all the stuff that you should be doing instead of riding your bike through Europe. After awhile it’s like your brain realizes that it can’t do anything about all the stuff we typically find important. That’s when creativity kicks in.
All the ideas from this trip are what I now work on in Los Angeles. Right now I have plenty of energy, but I know that I someday will be burned out again, and then I will go on a long trip for three months to spark my creativity. That's what traveling is all about.
June 19, 2017