"Quite frankly, you haven't gotten very far just yet" an ex-colleague of mine remarked jokingly when I was talking to her over Skype from Tbilisi a few weeks ago.

And it's true: Looking at the world map and my route so far, there is still lots of land to cover -- on this continent, anyways.

But still, it's not so much about the distance anymore. Surely I enjoy making progress and see the km counter going up, yet the actual takeaway of this trip can hardly be expressed in numbers:

In the past year...

In the past year I've spoken French, English and German and I've listened to people speaking all kinds of languages.

I've eaten with shepherds and construction workers, camped at empty beaches or in old farms, stayed in dormitories and been invited into the homes of many friendly hosts on 2 continents.

I've spent a small fortune on Italian ice cream and (probably) an even bigger fortune on beer.

I have been attacked and barked at by countless dogs. Befriended and fed many of them and I startled hundreds of cats. Foxes have stolen my garbage and turtles crossed my way.

I've fought against high headwinds and pushed my bike through some steep ascents. I've enjoyed speeding downwards to the valleys and cycling along flat pastures.

I've gone to bed with dusk and was woken up by the rising Sun.

I survived food poisoning in Albania, swam in ice cold streams, lakes and the Seas. Cursed at the ungodly amount of mosquitoes following me everywhere. Cycled through deserted land.

I've met hundreds of cyclists, world travelers and tourists from all around the globe.

It wasn't always easy. It wasn't always super exciting. But I always had fun.

Even at -5 C in the tent, even at 38 Celsius cycling through the desert. Because that's what I had chosen to do and it was up to me to make the most of it!

What I've learnt

The major takeaway is certainly this: I'm really lucky!

Lucky for being born in EU, where we can speak freely, where there is no political oppression, with a decent health care system, where people know how to drive, where despite heavy traffic the air is breathable and people don't throw their garbage in the streets, where children don't have to beg or work, where the supermarkets let you choose between 5 types of tomatoes.

And of course lucky to have the right passport which allows me to pass through most countries without hassle (well, except Turkmenistan...), to have enough funds for a little bit of comfort every now and then.

Sure, in theory anybody in good health can just grab a bicycle and head off. But in reality, most people I've met struggle enough in their daily lives.

    And than there's a few other things. I can't say I'm an expert in anything yet, but sure enough I've learnt a bit:

      • Wild camping isn't really a big deal
        In the beginning, it was a very exciting and also a bit stressful to find good camping spots, even more so during high-season at the densely populated Italian coast. Nowadays I still try to stay out of sight but I sleep much better and do care less about being "discovered"
      • Taking breaks is essential
        "Ration your sweat, not your water". Be it in colder Winter temperatures in Anatolia or under the relentless Iranian Summer Sun: breaks and shelter from the elements are as essential as water and food for both, body and morale. Warming up with a cup of coffee at a bus shelter or seeking shade for a couple of hours under a bridge at noon will help to make the trip more enjoyable.
      • I know where to find my stuff
        1 year ago I was constantly looking for my things, misplacing them, packing and unpacking my bags (which often enough took me hours). Today my packing is efficient enough that I can leave most of my bags on the bike when camping and I have all items at hand when I need them.
      • Have a plan B, but also: planning is overrated
        Rather than having an exact plan, having a general idea of what to do when plan A fails is probably good enough.

      My bike

      After 11.000 km in total my bike is still going strong and not showing many signs of aging. Still running my first set of tyres, sprockets, the first chain.

      The brake pads were changed once, the chain tightened twice and the second oil change for my Rohloff hub is also due in Yazd, along with an annual maintenance. Which brings me right to the next point:

      What I haven't learnt yet

      How to maintain my bike properly!

      I've had a shitload of flat tyres. My kickstand broke, I've cursed over adjusting my brakes. But I haven't had any more complicated issues with the bike, such as broken spokes, cables or worse.

      Fingers crossed...!

      What's next?

      Plans change, schedules get adjusted.

      Right now, my next big goal is Taiwan where I plan to stay 3 months or longer and learn a little bit Chinese. I hope to reach Taipei by end of 2019. But if I only get there in 2020, that's okay, too!

      With my Turkmenistan visa being rejected I will probably head back from Iran to Azerbaijan to catch the Caspian Sea ferry to Kazakhstan. From there I plan cycling through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan.

      As I do not want to enter China in Xinjiang, a flight from Osh or Bishkek should get me and the bike to India or Nepal from where the route could lead me through Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and China to Taiwan.

      After that? No plans yet. Maybe Korea, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia? Or New Zealand, Australia...