Travelling with a companion can be great. You get to share you experiences with someone as they happen, and you also get to share the bill. But it can also be a nightmare. Stuck with each other not only when things are good, but also when there bad or you’re in a mood about something. You go through everything together, the good, the bad and the ugly (and smelly, cant forget smelly).
Make that companion your brother, who, it’s fair to say, you don’t always see eye to eye with, and it makes for a travel experience that’s a little like playing with fire. It’s fun, until one of you trips up.
When I was getting packed and ready to go, with about and hour to go before I was realistically going to leave, my dad rocked up and surprised me by saying that he was going to join me getting out of London. Sam decided to come along too and was spotted packing a small sleeping bag and what looked suspiciously like a passport in his panniers. Later, sitting comfortably in a pub having escaped London, Sam brought up the idea that he would join me for part of the Europe leg. I’ll admit, I had mixed feelings.
On the one hand, it would be nice to have some company during what I think (and hope) will be the hardest part of the trip physically, as my undeniably overweight and under trained body adapts to cycling everyday. Also, he’s my brother and this is the sort of thing brothers are supposed to do. Most importantly, it meant I could shift some of the weight off my bike and onto his, and in that department I need all the help I can get.
So I was unsure, but when the question was put to me I agreed. Was it the right choice?
Sam started a little cautiously. He knows his stuff about cycling but when it comes to wild camping he was a little out of his comfort zone. On our first night wild camping outside Calais he was a little nervous about our chosen spot and he must have seen something in my expression as at one point he said, somewhat surprised. “You actually enjoy this don’t you?’, and I do. Cycling may be new to me but turning a ditch into a dining room is one of my specialities.
Pretty soon we’ve both gotten into the swing of life on the road. Sam is a little faster than I am and is usually ahead of me, sometimes up to a kilometre ahead, and so I spend lots of time looking at his back in the distance, or he’ll be out of sight ahead of me and I’ll be wondering if he read the French sign saying the road was about to turn into a motorway and bikes had to get off (he hadn’t but he worked it out pretty quick). He also spent about a year in France so his French is better than mine, mind you, a ducks French is better than mine. Not ten minutes ago I had to ask for directions to a train station by saying ‘choo choo’ to an old lady. So it’s usually him who does the more complicated requests.
After over ten days travelling together though, we have had a few rough patches. These usually occur around dinner time when were both a little tired and grumpy, and neither of us want to do the dishes which were left over from the night before. Some things are the same home and away. Disagreements also spring up when navigation is involved and I have to ask (in a slightly raised voice I’ll admit), why we took the route which went through the airport on a busy highway that resembled the M25 on a bad day when I had found us directions to the delightful riverside path.
Thankfully, we manage to get over these differences in opinion pretty quickly and for the most part we get on really well.
Right now he’s not with me though. After coming down on his twice broken ankle and possibly damaging some ligaments he’s stayed the night in a campsite about 120km away in Sens, while I have continued solo for two days so he can rest up and maybe continue with me when his ankle is up to it. This has given me some time to think about what it’s like when he’s here and when he’s not.
I’ve decided that, 98% of the time, I’m gald he’s around to cycle with me, share meals, share experiences and responsibilities on the road, and of course, share the load. And the other 2% of the time. Well, then I’m glad he’s here so I have someone to take out my fear and frustration on when the going gets tough.
So I hope his ankle gets better soon, coz I’ll be glad to see the back of ‘im.