Day 18: Salses-le-Château to Montpellier (166km)

Je suis arrivé! The day started on nasty roads that I had to share with a lot of trucks. It took me quite a while to finally find the Eurovelo 8.

Around noon, I reached a landscape that was very comparable to the Camargue. A lot of water, swamps, little rivers and small roads without much traffic. Really beautiful.

It reminded me of the first day of this trip, when I cycled through a beautiful and totally empty national park which begins South of Lisbon.

Because of the many detours the route was a little longer than expected. However, I was pretty determined to make it to Montpellier today.

Despite of the weather forecast, it did not rain and I had a also a little bit of tailwind.

Since I am now 1,000km more North than Gibraltar, the sunset is about an hour later. Isn’t that amazing? I arrived by 8pm with daylight feeling a little tired but very content.

There were times on this trip when I doubted that I would make it. My left ankle caused problems at one point and I was surprised how quickly it healed. The level of donations was below my expectations which was and is a little frustrating for me. Around midway of this tour, my mental and physical energy felt pretty much depleted. It was not always fun.

There were times, when I even secretly hoped that someone could have stolen my bike forcing me to rest and fly home comfortably.

But another part in me was always determined to just hang in there and carry on. Little steps, hour after hour, one day after the other. It is amazing that if you carry on for enough days in a row you can actually cover huge distances.

Insight of the day: We are capable of so much more than we believe!

Day 10: Almería to Águilas (141km)

Today was an early start. By 8:30 hrs I was on the bike heading northeast. My family had send me this picture. It made me very happy 💕. It shows Carolin, my wife, Tabea and Samuel (Hannah and Kara are missing) as well as Fabio, our favorite Italian restaurant owner.

At the start, I first had to climb up to a very dry plateau which I had to cross over 60km. Towards the downhill part, I met to other cyclists and we chatted a bit. Once cyclists talk to you here, you can be sure that they are not Spaniards. Also here, it was an Englishman who started the conversation. He lives six months here during Winter. Seems to be a common and compelling concept.

Towards lunchtime I stopped in Carboneras. I was so tired that I almost fell asleep during the eating. So I went for a little Siesta under a tree and I indeed fell asleep immediately. Very refreshing.

Afterwards, there were only smaller climbs and rolling hills. A couple of times I was overtaken by a group of Swiss bikers. Then I caught them again when they were having one of their many breaks. Race biker are a very special group of people. If you want to belong, you have to comply with a special set of rules. If not, you will be ignored by everyone.

Insight of the day: When what you are doing is supposed to be fun – and it is actually not – then it might be time to change your approach.

Day 6: Algeciras to Ojén (130km)

This day was split into three parts, two of them being really positive and the other one, well you will see.

I was a bit traumatized from battling the storm the day before (yes, I am a good weather cyclist) and found myself procrastinating in the morning. I had stayed at a hostel for 30€ per night were normally foreign workers of the nearby petrochemical plant are staying. The host was a really nice guy who had been born in Germany and still spoke the language very well. Yesterday, I definitely cracked the 20 words threshold because of him. This does rarely happen if you stay in a regular hotel.

I finally got on the bike by 9am and the wind had indeed become much softer. Therefore it was cold and rained a little. First, I cycled into Gibraltar. On the way two local cyclists came by and we started chatting. I knew they could not have been “regular” locals because those fellow cyclists, if any, had ignored me constantly for the past five days. Indeed, one was a British pensioner and the other one was a retired policeman from Gibraltar. When they heard where I come from, they were apologetic for the weather and especially the wind. One said “You have to cycle up the Gibraltar rock. On a good day you can see the Sierra Nevada and a lot more from there “. They carried on whilst I stopped for pictures of this monumental freestanding rock in the sea which is a country by itself and even has a tiny airport.

The unemployment rate in this part of Spain is very high. 40% amongst young people. In Gibraltar in contrary, it is close to zero. As a result, many local Spaniards go there for work every day.

I crossed the border and there were in fact real bobbies checking passports and luggage. There were red doubledeck busses and London-style taxis. So funny. Right after the border, you have to cross the Gibraltar airfield which is closed when a plane lands. After that you get into the actual city which resembles Monaco very much.

I skipped the rock though because my legs were tired and instead turned North again, direction Marbella.

When I had prepared for this trip, I had heard in cycling forums that the coastal roads here were challenging for cyclists. On the other hand, the Eurovelo 8 cycling trail starts in Cádiz and goes all the way to Croatia. I had even downloaded the GPX data for my navigation system. So I felt in control and well prepared. This continued until my only option left was to cycle on the A7, a coastal highway, which looks and feels precisely like a very narrow and curvy German Autobahn. You have a space of about one meter to cycle on and the trucks pass you at 80 km/h or more. I was so scared and tense that I did not dare to press the “record” button on my camera. It was wild and lasted for 40km.

On my way, I got really angry about the officials of Eurovelo who market this route and it’s scenic beauty on the internet. Only by rechecking the site, I noticed in the fine print that the route was still “in planning”.

That part of the tour was very dangerous and this status “in planning” should be clearly spelled out by Eurovelo. It is irresponsible to propagate this part of the route further in the web.

I much rather cycle through the mountains from now on than repeating this experience. I did not stop in Marbella because I couldn’t stand any more cars and people. So I turned Northwest to climb up to Ojén where I had found a “Refugio” in a nature reservation area. Also, I want to visit Mark tomorrow, a fellow cyclist who I had gotten to know via a cycling forum in the net. He lives here and had invited me to stay with him.

The climb was rough but beautiful. Unfortunately, Rosinante had problems with her lower gears again which makes steep roads very challenging. However, I arrived at the Refugio in the last daylight – and I had a bathtub, the greatest luxury I could think of … until I saw the open fire place in the little bar. Life is good.

Over dinner, I started chatting with some hunters from Oregon who were here with a local guide to shoot a special type of Mountain Goat. They seem to be doing this regularly all over the world. That’s a different concept for vacation. Very nice people and I did enjoy the conversation even though my views on many things including politics will probably differ a lot. I find it always very interesting to meet people with a different perspective about the world. That’s way easier once you let go of mental categories like “right” and “wrong”. However, thanks to them and the cyclists in the morning I again easily cracked my 20 word threshold. And I had a good laugh. Mission accomplished.

Insight of the day: Believe the last person who has climbed a mountain more than the map.

Article on zis in “Mannheimer Morgen”

Gratis die Welt entdecken

19. Januar 2019 Autor: Sibylle von Kamptz

Mit Zuschüssen für die Reisekasse ermöglichen europäische Institutionen Jugendlichen einen kostenlosen Urlaub.

Wer die Welt entdecken möchte, der braucht eine Portion Mut und Eigeninitiative – und das nötige Urlaubsgeld. Ein paar Hundert Euro Zuschuss sind da immer willkommen. Bei diesen sechs Organisationen können sich Jugendliche um ein Stipendium bewerben.

Die Europäische Union (EU) plant ein Geburtstagsgeschenk für alle Jugendlichen, die 2019 18 Jahre alt werden: Unter dem Motto „Discover EU“ können sie sich um ein kostenloses Interrail-Ticket bewerben und damit 30 Tage lang ganz Europa bereisen. Ziel ist es, europäische Kulturen und Traditionen zu entdecken. 27 000 Travel-Pässe wurden 2018 in zwei Runden – im Juni und im Dezember – verteilt. Für Deutschland standen – abhängig von der Bevölkerungszahl – knapp 2000 Tickets zur Verfügung. Auch in den kommenden Jahren soll das Programm fortgeführt werden.

Erzählen per Theaterstück

Ob Naturschutzprojekt in Australien, Englischunterricht in Marokko oder Theater-Workshops in Brasilien: Der Verein Experiment vergibt mehrere Stipendien in Höhe von maximal 2000 Euro. Gefördert werden Freiwilligenarbeit im Ausland ebenso wie interkulturelle Ferienprogramme, Au-pair-Aufenthalte und Schüleraustausch. Wer sich bewirbt, muss sein Interesse unter Beweis stellen, indem er ein persönlich konzipiertes Projekt durchführt. Dies kann zum Beispiel ein Vortrag in der Schule oder eine Aktion in der Kirchengemeinde sein.

Seit 1956 finanziert die Stiftung ZIS Auslandsaufenthalte von Jugendlichen zwischen 16 und 20 Jahren. Allerdings darf für die mindestens vierwöchige Studienreise kein Euro über den Betrag des Stipendiums hinaus verwendet werden – das sind derzeit 600 Euro. Wer nun mit dem besten Freund auf Tour gehen will und für die Anreise auf eine Billigfluglinie setzt, der kommt nicht weit: ZIS-Reisen werden allein unternommen und es gehört auch dazu, „sich der Distanzen bewusst zu werden, die zwischen Heimat und Gastland liegen – der Land- oder Seeweg ist dafür besser geeignet“, heißt es in der Ausschreibung. Außerdem müssen die Teilnehmer während der Tour ein selbst gewähltes Studienthema bearbeiten und dies schriftlich oder auch als Dokumentarfilm, auf einer Website oder in einem Theaterstück präsentieren. So befassten Jugendliche sich bereits mit dem Zusammenleben von Serben und Albanern im Kosovo oder mit den Auswirkungen der Brexit-Debatte auf das Leben von Jugendlichen in Liverpool.

Die ZIS-Idee geht auf den französischen Verein Zellidja zurück. Mut, Eigeninitiative, Neugier und Französischkenntnisse sind auch hier Voraussetzung, um an den vergleichsweise hohen Betrag von 900 Euro für eine mindestens vierwöchige Reise zu kommen, die auch nach Madagaskar, Marokko oder Estland führen kann. Wer einen besonders guten Abschlussbericht abliefert, der darf noch einmal auf Tour gehen und bekommt dafür sogar 1100 Euro. Bewerben können sich 16- bis 20-jährige Jugendliche, die in einem Land ihrer Wahl ein selbst gewähltes Thema recherchieren.

Den europäischen Gedanken will die Schwarzkopf-Stiftung Junges Europa fördern. 600 Euro stehen Jugendlichen zwischen 18 und 27 Jahren zur Verfügung, um einen drei- bis sechswöchigen Aufenthalt in einem europäischen Land zu finanzieren. Neben diesem klassischen Stipendium gibt es noch einen zweiten Weg, Europa zu erkunden: In Kooperation mit der Deutschen Bahn unterstützt die Stiftung Jugendliche zwischen 18 und 27 Jahren mit einem Interrail Global Pass. Das Ticket im Wert von gut 400 Euro gilt in 30 europäischen Ländern, einschließlich Russland und der Türkei. Engagement ist auch hier Bedingung.

Frankreich-Fans sollten beim Deutsch-Französischen Jugendwerk (DFJW) vorsprechen. Das DFJW will jungen Menschen bis 30 Jahre die Möglichkeit geben, ihr Nachbarland besser kennenzulernen. Dies ist im Rahmen vielfältiger Programme möglich – etwa bei einem „Stipendium für ein ausbildungsbegleitendes Praktikum“ oder unter dem Motto „Ferienjob in der Partnerstadt“. Bezahlt werden je nach Angebot Zuschüsse zu den Fahrt-, Aufenthalts- und Programmkosten oder ein Taschengeld.

Einen Überblick über weitere Stipendien bietet der Stipendienlotse des Bundesministeriums für Forschung und Bildung. 1450 Angebote sind in der Datenbank aufgelistet.© Mannheimer Morgen, Samstag, 19.01.2019

Why do I do this?

zis is a non-profit organization that has been operating for more than 60 years to give scholarships for study trips to young people between 16 and 20 years (

My travel gear in Scotland. It rained every single day …

My first trip took me to Scotland in 1997, where I worked on the subject “Fishing on the west coast”. In order to get there, I worked on a freight ship and cycled 1.400km across England and Scotland. In 1999, I went on a second trip to study the topic “Scientific Whaling” in Iceland – a very political topic. I even worked on a whaling station.

Working on a whaling station

In retrospect, the experiences I had made on these trips were invaluable for my development. There were numerous crises to cope with and it was necessary to be creative and to improvise. Skills that are very helpful in this world.

Having had a childhood with some challenges, I learned, that I can drive alone 1.700km by bike and get wet every single day without losing faith in my project. I have learned that I can spend 4 weeks with only 300 € and still had a good time. I have learned how it is to be threatened by deportation and how to turn this around into getting an interview with the State President.

I’ve understood for myself that limitations are only constructs in my head and these insights I would allow as many young people as possible.

Want to make young people more resilient? Here is how!

When I grew up many things were fine in my family and some things were not, just like for many others. As a child, I had always somehow felt that I was wanted and loved. However, for many years there was just too much alcohol and other drugs like tranquilizers being used at home. This created an environment of addiction and co-addiction at home of which I became a part. It created a secret behind the facade which we were displaying to the outside world as a family. It also created an environment where the really important things like emotions were not spoken about. As a child, you adjust to your environment and since you hardly have any comparison you just plod along, at least this is what I did. When everything at home is somehow fragile you are probably not very likely to become a rebel because you feel that your parents have just no capacity left to cope with any sort of trouble. Some weeks were worse than others. I recall that my mum was hospitalized at least three times because of acute intoxication. Once even during the exam period when I was finishing high school. Even when you get somehow used to it, events like these stick with you. Any attempts to talk about addiction and find an ally in my dad led nowhere.

A little nudge in the right direction

Not surprisingly, this climate of silence in the face of traumatic events had a lasting impact on me. It probably would have been easy for me to take some wrong turns in life. However, there were a couple of important events that have helped to find a good course. However, you often only realize this in hindsight. Through a school friend I had been told about zis, a non-profit organization founded meanwhile more than 60 years ago, which gives study grants to young people. The idea was that once you are being accepted with a topic which you want to do research on you were given about 325€ (650DM at that time) as a scholarship. You were not allowed to take own money with you and you had to travel internationally. Also, you had to do your trip alone and stay abroad for at least 4 weeks. Furthermore, you were expected to write a thesis on your subject and keep a diary to capture your thoughts and emotions. The entire idea dates back to the French architect Jean Walter. In 1899 he cycled 6,000 km from Paris to Istanbul and back because he just wanted to see the Hagia Sophia. Since he did not have much money he earned his living by playing the trumpet in the streets. He had experienced this as a very difficult but also utterly exciting endeavor which had changed his perspective on life. About forty years later, meanwhile he had become successful and wealthy, Walter founded an organization which would give study grants to young people to give them the opportunity to experience similar autonomy and that would promote their success both in their profession but also in live overall. He gave this organization the name “Zellidja”, in reference to the lead and zinc mines which he had discovered in 1924 and which his company exploited in the village of Zellidja Sidi Boubker in Morocco. About 10 years after the end of World War II the idea of Zillidja inspired the foundation of what is called ZIS today in Castle Salem, Germany. Marina Ewald, a teacher at this prestigious private school close to Lake Constance, was the driving force behind this. The organization still exists today. The only difference being that a study grant today is worth the luxurious amount of 600€.

Lifechanging experiences

About 30 years ago, two study grants from zis helped me to widen my horizon, stretch my understanding of what was possible and develop way more self-confidence. In hindsight, the experiences I made on these trips to Scotland and Iceland were priceless for my development. I learned that I could cycle 1.700km alone and stand to get wet every single day without giving up. I learned that you can live 4 weeks from just 325€ and still have a good time. I learned how it is to be threatened with deportation and how you can turn this around into getting an interview with the state president. Today the word we use for this is resilience – and I have made it my profession to help leaders all over the world to develop more of this inner strength.

Turning Adversity into Advantage

How do you turn adversity into advantage? I think it has to do with refraining from giving in, despite all the hardship and the small chance of succeeding. About 30 years ago, when I was still a student, a study grant from zis allowed me to travel to Iceland to study the scientific whaling program there – a very political and emotional topic at that time. The conditions of this scholarship were that I had to travel alone and that I was not allowed to take own money with me. At that time, the amount awarded was the equivalent of 400€. However, there was one little problem: you don’t get to Iceland with 400€, not even 30 years ago. The only thing that was making this endeavor look less like just another foolish idea of a premature teenager was a recommendation letter from zis and the UNESCO stating that I was in fact on a mission and that it was ok.

Scarce resources foster creativity

So, I started contacting the Islandic embassy and asked for their help to get me to Iceland for free. I was turned down of course.  So, I started calling them and again was sent away. However, I kept on calling. Eventually they called me back and told me that I could go aboard a fishing trawler who would be leaving Bremerhaven in two days with a course set to Reykjavik. They did not forget to add that I should please never call them again.

So, two days later I headed North to meet the trawler. Once we took off, weather got really nasty and I was seasick for full three days until we reached the capital of Iceland.

From challenge to crisis

Once we had arrived I continued to live on the trawler for a couple of days in the harbor of Reykjavik. That was partially due to the cold weather – as it was still snowing in May. But mostly it was because the immigration authority who wanted to deport me because I did not have enough funds to pay for my trip home. Also, at that time I looked like a stereotypical activist from Greenpeace or even Sea Shepherd, a militant offspring of the eco-activists. In the year before, they had sunk two whaling ships in the Reykjavik harbor and sabotaged the central whaling station causing millions of financial damage to the whaling industry. To make everything even worse, the pope was coming to Iceland while I was there and I was seen as a potential risk to his health. The only thing that could save me from being deported at that time, was an invitation letter which the ministry of fishery had sent to me during the preparation for this trip. Obviously, this letter was at home, 3,000km away. And for the younger readers, this was the time before email and mobile phones. And even fax machines were nothing one would have at home. You had to go to the postal office to send a fax. It was quite a big thing. Imagine the upheaval my situation caused at home. My parents were probably petrified from their worrying about their only son. By the time the invitation letter finally arrived I had developed a good relationship to a nice lady at the German embassy who I had contacted in my dire straits.

From crisis to advantage

Once I was allowed by the immigration authorities into the country, I went back to the embassy to ask her a question. In a magazine, I had read an interview with Iceland’s state president Vigdís Finnbogadóttir (the name means “daughter of Finnboga”) about the scientific whaling program. So, I asked the lady at the embassy if she thought it was possible for me to have a chat with the state president of Iceland with regards to this interview. I still recall how she looked at me with a mix of irritation and amusement. Long story short, a couple of days later I had my meeting with the head of state including me signing in into the golden book of Iceland.  It might be worth mentioning that none of my close even remotely resembled a suit or anything formal. I was really sitting with her in my hiking boots. However, the meeting went well and it even opened the door for me to work on Iceland’s central whaling station, which had been sabotaged the year before.

What I have learned about life

In retrospect, the experiences I had made on this trip with 19 years of age were invaluable for my development. There were numerous crises to cope with and it was necessary to be creative and to improvise. Skills that are very helpful in this world. Today the word we use for this is resilience – and I have made it my profession to help leaders all over the world to develop more of this inner strength.

Having had a childhood with some challenges, I learned that I can spend 5 weeks with only 400 € and still have a good time. I have learned how it is to be threatened by deportation and how to turn this around into getting an interview with the State President. I’ve understood for myself that limitations are only constructs in my head and these insights I would like to make available to as many young people as possible.