CELTIC WAY | FROM NANTES TO DUBLIN
Written and pedaled by Cristian Agnoli, PH Ambassador and much more..!
I DON'T WANT TO CHANGE SYSTEM
The Celtic Way from Nantes to Dublino by Cristian Agnoli
2 Maggio 2023
Bike trips are trendy, much like all endurance activities, and storytelling is also becoming adapted to the narrative of the social media era, self-publishing, followers, and communities. The audience for bike travel remains niche, and speaking of a "mainstream phenomenon" may be daring. However, it is enough to awaken the desire to embark on a journey in many people... but only a few, almost always the same ones, actually do it. And they tell their stories too. All cycling vacationers elsewhere!
But how? TripBook or Docutrip? Live on Facebook or a carefully edited video or any of the various methods in this world? Every time I return from a bike trip, taac, I receive messages from friends about the latest Docutrip by the talented Lorenzo Cherubini, also known as Jovanotti, not to mention Dino Lanzaretti or Lorenzo Barone. The final blow, however, came from my mother-in-law, who has become an avid follower of "Aracataca" in the morning strip on Rai 2... and who knows how many other over 70s who know nothing about bike travel!
Blessed are those who, with "liquid" TripBooks, adapt to modernity and even derive economic gratification from them. True to my style, I don't want to change the system and I still prefer the traditional, uncompensated storytelling. I'm not yet ready (but I'm working on it) to keep a small camera running for 6-7 hours a day, "video narrating" on the go. And even less so on platforms like TikTok and the like. Perhaps because I can't handle the weight of a GoPro frame and I fear seeing my face when I'm cycling. Does authenticity get lost or gained by filming oneself? Who knows!
I still prefer to recount the essence of a journey, in fragments, organizing my disjointed bursts of writing in the inevitable paper travel notebook. Old-school, narrating in the shadow's crest, for the few readers I reach with my unpopularity. But as the late radical Marco Pannella used to say, "sometimes one must know how to be unpopular in order not to be anti-people."
Amidst various discussions on storytelling in the age of digital platforms and bikepacking gurus, the desire to embark on a journey, observe, take notes, enrich oneself, tire, recover, pitch a tent, warm up some soup, continue, pause to take a photo using the self-timer, wasting 10 minutes each time to find the right frame... (and for goodness' sake, buy a damn tripod or selfie stick!) or balance the bike in the middle of the road using the helmet as a base instead of using a nice side kickstand, remains unchanged.
What drives a person to leave their home and comforts to explore new places and face challenges?
If we exclude #tripporn, which means traveling by bike to create either healthy or unhealthy envy in those who stayed at home, and #sensationseeking, the frantic search for strong stimuli and emotions, I limit myself to traveling by bike to silence primary needs - eating, drinking, sleeping - as well as secondary ones, such as outdoor life and leisure. But occasionally, it also includes those superfluous ones, like achieving a KOM (King of the Mountain), a few more kudos than usual, and, above all, becoming the local legend of various well-known and lesser-known locations.
Trying to be serious, but not too serious, I graze on two wheels in search, sometimes in vain, of my path, which ultimately represents finding peace in the heart. It's about finding comfort in discomfort, relaxation in effort, one's own home in a tent. It's a pleasant routine of folding a wet tent and heating up a vegetable broth with a camping stove, almost like savoring a Michelin-starred dish prepared by that rascal Bruno Barbieri.
The "perfect" journey is the result of a delicate balance between romanticism and adventure, between discomfort and effort.
So, for me, in bike travel, bivouacking and cooking something are fundamental. That's why I'm still attracted to multi-stage journeys rather than conquering non-stop ultra-distances and mega-traverses. Forever a passenger! Yet, in trail mode, I do exactly the opposite. Perhaps, through cycling, I am atoning for my guilt about ultrarunning!
After 9 days of hard work, more or less improvised bivouacs - some more comfortable than others - and many breathtaking landscapes, I successfully completed my Grand Traversé as planned.
Sure, perhaps I covered a few fewer kilometers than I had anticipated, but definitely with more excitement than I thought I could still experience. More sunny days than expected, fewer difficulties than I had accounted for. The moral of the story is... I'm already ready for the next journey.
I leave you with a poem written by my son Beniamino and published in the school newspaper L'Arenetta, titled "An Important Message":
Men and Women,
Small and big,
Rich and poor,
All equal Forever.
Help each other, Don't fight!
This is a SERIOUS message Of PEACE.
What satisfaction it is to go on a bike ride for your inner journey and come back home with a poet son.
Once again, I have earned the title of Father of the Year, or if you prefer, Dad of Distinction.
After all, that's why the executives at PH Apparel continue to call me an Ambassador, even though I practically do nothing and often wear clothing from other iconic brands.
And be thankful that I spared you the stories of France 50 (October 2021), Lunigiana on my bike (February 2022), Occitanie 51 (October 2022), and Escape without Northcape (May 2022)... I cherish the notebooks with notes, bursts of writing, photos, and routes.
"Some travel stories are ones you can never go back to."