Like anything in life our journey started with a plan, a very loose one, ‘To Travel’. One of my favourite past times is Triathlon, for those of you that don’t know, this involves the combination of three different sports; swimming, cycling and running (or in my case a ropey fast walk). This is held in different distances all around the world from small sprints to Iron distance, most notably the Ironman branded triathlon which involves a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle and a 26.2 mile marathon run. There are some crazy people and companies out there who do many different variations of this, from double the distance right through to the Norseman where the swim is started by jumping off a boat into the Nordic sea!
One of my aspirations has always been to complete an Iron distance triathlon and with training I was lucky to have done so in 2015 with the Nottingham Outlaw in a somewhat slow time of 15hrs 20mins, my marathon time was an earth shattering 7hrs + due to general fatigue. The next step for me was to complete an Ironman branded race, which I wanted to do with style, and a relatively flat course: so enter Ironman Copenhagen. Like most races I had to sign up the day it got released to ensure that I have a space in the race.
After 140 miles of grueling Danish pain, jellyfish and hail, I managed to complete the race within 40 seconds of my Outlaw time from last year.
Anyway, I digress, I am sure I will write a blog post about it in the future as you can tell it is something I am passionate about. What this meant however, is that we had a focal point to shape the journey, in that we needed to be in Copenhagen for the 21st of August where I had an apartment booked for a few nights before and after the triathlon. This meant that we could trace a route through Belgium, Netherlands and Germany on the way to Denmark.
From there we had a choice, either turn around to backtrack and head south to pick up Southern Europe or head north into the vast Scandinavian expanse. For me it was an easy choice: North. Almost anyone you speak to has heard of the rumors about how expensive Scandinavia is, especially Norway (SEE HERE). So how best to make use of the campervan than in a country where it would be a fortune to explore in both public transport and hotels where even the average dorm bed is around £20.
Luckily Scandinavia has it enshrined in law that every man (and woman) has the right to camp where they like as long as it is for no longer than 24 hours and it is in open land more than 150 meters away from any building. Even if your chosen spot happens to be near a building you can stay there as long as you ask permission first. It provides an amazing opportunity to explore and discover these countries on a level that you could not elsewhere.
As this was the start of a momentous journey for us, my In-Laws were to travel alongside us in their car to see us off and to support me in my Ironman. This meant we could fit in a long awaited, albeit somber, family visit to the gravestone of my wife’s great-great-uncle who gave his life in the First World War so we could enjoy the freedoms we do today. Sat in the small Belgium village of Stenwerck amongst the village’s family plots was a small group of white headstones of some brave English men who all gave their lives on the same day. We paid our respects, and my wife and I decided that whilst on this tour we would take the opportunities to pay our respects to how the war has shaped life in many different countries, something we should never forget.
From this, we took our first night abroad in a hotel in Ghent, which naturally meant a stretch of the legs. Unfortunately it did not capture my attention as much as its history steeped cousin Brugge, but in true travelling fashion if you don’t like somewhere you move on, next stop Amsterdam!