Pedaling into the Unknown
It was just another solo trip, something I treat myself to often to combine my love of travel with my fierce sense of independence.
Traveling solo started as something out of necessity. During a 12-hour layover in Istanbul en route to Hong Kong, I convinced myself that I had no choice but shell out a few bucks for a tourist visa at Atatürk Airport and venture out on my own in a foreign country for the first time.
Since that trip five years ago, solo travel has been a choice, and one that has changed substantially over time.
What started out as budget trips, nights in shared hostel rooms, and flights on RyanAir has evolved into private apartment rentals with kitchens and allowing myself to have a fairly open agenda based on my feelings at any given moment.
For my most recent solo trip, I had done my due diligence and gathered the basics of what to see and do in southern Poland. With my base in Krakow, I would explore surrounding cities, but I wasn’t quite sure which ones or how I would be getting there. Like any other challenge I’ve faced in my past five years as an expatriate, I reminded myself that “I’ll figure it out.”
The unseasonable 90-degree heat in late May/early June thwarted some of these mental plans, as it suddenly made my daylong bike ride along the Vistula River seem less appealing. But with a thirst for adventure, I decided to go through with it anyway. My eagerness for exploration trumped temporary discomfort and the possible danger of sunburn.
I woke up when I woke up, and headed through Old Town Krakow to KRK Bike Rentals. Without knowing how long I planned to possess the two-wheeled, basket-laden bicycle, I opted to pay for a full day’s rental, allowing myself to come, go, and maybe go a bit further as I pleased. With my bright pink, black-strapped backpack tucked into the wire-rimmed front basket, I headed west toward the river, trying to remember the last time I had hopped aboard two wheels. But thankfully, it was just like riding a bike.
With the help of 21st-century technology, Google Maps directed me down tiny streets, up a winding hill along a busy road, horns flaring, and eventually to a highway ramp along which a bike path snaked. As I normally do when traveling solo, I trusted my gut and followed the path until it lengthened straight out before me, flanked by two patches of lush, waist-high grass. This must be it, I told myself, referring to the proper bike path that would lead me where it did.
Seconds later, I knew I was in the right place.
With the hum of the traffic behind me and a flowing body of water to my left, I was deep into nature, just a few pedals outside of the city. The river flow trickled past my ears, consequently relaxing on my brain, while my muscles carried on, pushing me farther out of the city.
Despite my current state of semi-sedation, I did have a destination in mind; two, in fact: one of Poland’s oldest monasteries, and a sort-of beach situated on giant lake, just a few kilometers from each other.
I wasn’t sure what to expect in either location, and I hadn’t found much information about these two spots other than the fact that they existed, but for some reason I didn’t care. I didn’t need a history lesson or an “FAQ” page to tell me that the beach was accessible only if you paid a few złoty. For me, this was a journey to see what lies outside the tourist-heavy Old Town, the grungy yet hip Jewish Quarter, and the busy, air-conditioned mall atop a train station just steps from my rented apartment.
As I pedaled myself into the unknown, I was suddenly soaked in adrenaline.
Whether hiking a new path in my expat hometown of Barcelona or cycling the outskirts of Krakow, escaping routine is the ultimate adventure.
By: Allie Moore
Allie sold all her belongings and left the United States in 2013. Since then, she has lived in Cambodia and Spain, and has spent her free time writing, editing, and exploring local life. Allie is a freelance writer for Global Traveler magazine and Trazee Travel. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, CBS Local, Expatica, TravelMag, and Pink Pangea.