The end of the first chapter


A man and his dog out on a deserted beach near llanes, Spain.

I mentioned it in the last post, but time feels like it’s getting short in a way. I have all the time in the world, but only 90 days (within a 6 month period) in the Schengen countries; which is most of what people think of as Europe, but not the same as the EU. I’d like to save a few days for some combination of Austria, Germany, Slovakia, and Slovenia on the east side or Europe, or some random plan not yet conceived, so I’ll go to the UK after 72 days.

Visa restrictions are a bitch, and I’m really hoping that the Syrian migration crisis and the recent terror attacks in Europe don’t cause the world’s countries to make them even more restrictive. People here in Spain have commented that they don’t think France is particularly safe right now. There is an open border, what makes Spain so much safer in their mind? The only thing that makes them “safer” is the world image of each country. The visa topic is something that I often think about for my travels and specifically as a part of the international policy of the presidential candidates. Anyway, I don’t believe in letting such small/infrequent occurances dictate my travel. I’m just as likely to be in the next mass killing in the US as I am in Europe.


Pamplona’s old town has some pretty great tapas and beer deals on Thursdays!

Looking back:
So, I’ve been feeling a bit short on time and while riding I’ve been thinking about everything I’ve done and seen during my 58 days in Europe. I’ve met so many wonderful people along the way, that it seems hard to believe that it’s been such a short time. Each individual day seems to fly by, but the cumulative eperience is so full that looking back it seems like such a long time since it started.

My final thoughts from the Iberian Peninsula are that Spain and Portugal are absolutely amazing countries full of amazing people. A trip to either, or both, is absolutely recommended. As with any trip, meet people (everyone you can) and don’t spend all of your time in the tourist areas of cities. The countries are so much more than cathedrals, tapas, and castles. Writing about the individual experiences would take too long for this blog, and I’m sure I’ll annoyingly tell and re-tell the stories in passing for years to come. So, I’ll just leave it as Trump would and say; “They were the best experiences. I have an international team of the best people, and we make the best times.”


The end of an insane day trip by car through beautiful parks, vineyards, random double track paths through the hills, and an awkward wine tasting. Fun times!

Looking ahead:
So as I said in the beginning, soon the first part of my trip will end and I’ll head to Amsterdam and then the UK. Not that it will necessarily be so different from this part of the trip (except for people speaking some form of English, more expensive wine, maybe raining more, etc.), but I think I’ll miss the language barrier. I’ve grown accustomed to feeling like an idiot, and Google translating things after the fact.  I still really can’t say a complete sentence in Spanish. However, I am getting pretty decent at understanding what most people ask me and reading things. I’m not saying I can pick up a newspaper and translate it word for word, but I can pick it up and get the general idea of what the stories are trying to get across. It’s kind of like speed reading, except really slow. You get the subject, verb, and some adjectives and make up the filler words.


Bilbao, you’re crazy! Buildings inside of buildings?

As I sit here at the base of the climb that will lead me to France, and eventually a train or plane that will whisk me away to Amsterdam for my birthday, I can’t help but think that there is so much that I didn’t do. I mean, I’m barely making it into France! 60 days in Europe and I avoided the 2 largest cities, and largest tourist draws, in Spain while essentially skirting the coast for much of the trip. The entire interior of Spain and Portugal are still mysteries to me. However, I have seen and done things that many backpack travelers never will. I suppose that I, and the majority of people in the world, could say the same thing about our home countries. How many people do you know that can say they’ve been to every major city, or every state in the U.S.? A handful, maybe? If you add in rural areas, national parks and natural wonders, it is just impossible to experience it all. I spoke with people in Pamplona that had never gone to Vitoria-Gastiez. People who have lived in Pamplona for 10+ years and never gone to a city of 250k people ~100km away. It just seems crazy that we roam such short distances from home.

For someone that likes being thorough and genuinely fears missing out on things this look back at the last 60 days has been a bit uncomfortable at times. It makes me acutely aware of all the things I didn’t do, or didn’t go to. However, I take solice in knowing that the list of things I did do is now much longer than it was, and the list of things ahead is just as infinite as the list I’m leaving behind.


Vitoria-Gastiez is a beautiful little city with awesome bike culture. I don’t think I’ve seen another town in Spain with more bike racks, bikes, and bike infrastructure. Just wonderful!

Final thought:
Summer is coming to the northern hemisphere. I know we all have our near and dear traditional summer trips to the same old places that we look forward to every year, but why not try something new this year? Break the tradition and do something new and amazing! It doesn’t have to be a far flung destination. I’m sure there is something close that you’ve never seen or done. Find your Vitoria-Gastiez, or hidden nature park!


Taking chances and trying new things leads to beautiful outcomes.


Published by: Andrew Monfort

I am a former engineer who decided to follow my dreams. After 9 years of working as a process engineer in the oil & gas production and refining industries, I decided to follow my passions (cycling and travel) to see where they lead.


4 thoughts on “The end of the first chapter”

  1. Can’t wait for the next chapter. I am currently reading Bill Bryson’s book about traveling in Europe. He was not very complimentary about Amsterdam, but that was 15- 20 years ago. I am interested. Love you.


      1. LOL!!!! That and more. Back in the day I had a dutch GF for about 4 years, and she lived in Gouda but had been born in A’dam. So, I got a chance to go there many times. Then there was a fairly long hiatus and I revisited again two summers ago (see my blog). Still a riveting city with problems galore and lots of young people as well as colorful geezers. I’ll have to convince Sabine to go there for a long weekend trip on one of my future European sojourns.


  2. Missing west Texas yet??? jk Really all I can say is incredible! I think you’re doing a great thing. Proud of ya, man. Keep the updates coming. Stay safe, but make the most of everything.


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