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When I got off the plane in Portugal, I waited for my bike to appear on the Oversized Luggage conveyer belt. I paced around for a half hour. Growing nervous, I asked the first airport employee I could about it and was told to just wait longer. After 45 miserable minutes, the box materialized with visible damage, but at least my ride could begin.

I spent three months cycling solo in Western Europe with no itinerary or set plans. I pedaled the coasts of Portugal, Spain, France, and Italy: a total of 3,000+ miles. At the end of each day, I made a spontaneous decision as to where to lay my head for the night. I often pitched my tent in a patch of woods, just off the road somewhere and hopefully out of sight. In urban areas, I would check into a hostel, meeting travelers and a taking a celebratory hot shower. When lucky, I would find a host via Warmshowers, a network for touring cyclists, and be welcomed into the home of a local bike-enthusiast!

I faced challenges big and small, from a potentially lost bike to sickness in the cold. The payoff, however, was rich: I beheld incredible landscapes, experienced wonderful cultures, and made the most of a tremendous adventure. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing scenes from my trip and reflections on the experience I had. Stay tuned for future posts!   – Val