Love Your Days – Entering Europe (Part I)

A Nine Minute Read


“The art of living well and the art of dying well are one.” ~ Epicurus, Ancient Greek Philosopher

On the road there is only the unknown. The only thing predictable is unpredictability. Sometimes my world seems like a fictitious playbook. Beautiful views and kind people dominate my days in larger than life experiences. Simple similarities between countries remind me of places months behind. From a quiet road to the sound of a car horn. These moments transport me back to times that feel imaginary. Portals of nostalgia drive me forward to the blissful yonder. Never riding the same road twice. Faces to never be seen again. Memories to last a lifetime.

On a cloudy cool morning I rolled out of Istanbul. A happening city. Bound towards the Greek border. The morning sunshine tried to peer out from the clouds with little hope as it spat rain. I rode early and quickly to escape the traffic. After crazy Indian roads, every moment felt like peaceful order. Sadly buying another delicious kebab from a street vendor I looked back from a hilltop over my morning work and a fading Istanbul. Bundled up warmer than ever, I pushed on through long straight hilly roads as light rain turned to flakes of snow. Melting on impact like a forgotten memory.

My first night out of Istanbul I was looking for a place to camp when it started to rain more heavily. I was hurrying along until I spotted a motel. Given the miserable conditions I decided to check the price and if nothing else get out of the rain. The owner, seeing me roll up was quick to welcome me inside. He decided to offer me a room for free. I couldn’t believe it. He quickly showed me to a warm room. Not long after he brought me a huge dinner and insisted I not pay for anything during my stay. Words cannot describe this type of kindness. I gave the guy a massive hug. In his limited English he said, “Gift from Turkey to Canada.” Fantastic!

Restored and rested, I left early the next day into a beautiful sunny morning. Riding through coastal towns and over big mountain climbs. The wind picked up around mid-day and blew a snowstorm in. Pushing up wet hills I made it along, wishing for goggles, missing warm weather. As daylight faded I tumbled into a roadside gas station cafe. I ordered the cheapest thing I could find from the heat lamps and slumped down. As I ate I gathered a small crowd of workers in the empty service station. Through phone translations, we sorted out the details of my journey. I asked if I could camp out behind the gas station. The one man said I could have his room for the night and again, no one would let me pay for my food or accommodation. Turkish people are unreal.

After another complementary breakfast in the morning I made a break for the Greek border. I rode over hills with a crosswind that I haven’t seen since the western deserts of China. With my bike tilted on a permanent angle I pushed on through northern winds that constantly drove me into traffic. Ten kilometres before the border I met a French couple. Heading towards the same place, we decided to ride together to Thessaloniki, Greece. Crossing the border we laughed together at the terrible winds. Finding a place under a bridge we set up camp and bunkered down to cook some pasta.

Over the next week we camped in icy conditions, riding along the ever beautiful coast of the Aegean Sea. Through picturesque towns we flew and up thigh crushing hills we climbed. Sunsets with dozens of colours lit the sky and cool mornings welcomed me awake in quiet fields. During long lunches we shared tales of the road and discussed plans for the future. Passing forgotten buildings, archaeological sites and derelict cemeteries, I wondered at the iconic history of Greece.

He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.” ~ Socrates, Ancient Greek Philosopher

However, it was not all fun and games. Minding my business riding along, my bike was struck by a truck on an empty road. Actually, it was an ice cream delivery truck. Through careless driving he blew my left bag completely off my bike and hit my shoulder with his mirror, scaring the life out of me and knocking me over. I now know what I sound like when I am terrified. Luckily he stopped to check if I was okay. How I walked away without a scratch is beyond me. I was also happy not to be alone. After a lot of shock and checking over the damages we sorted out a plan. Unable to continue with my broken bags, he drove me and my broken bike to the next town. He bought me two new bags and gave me some money for dinner. He was terribly sorry and very worried about me. I counted my lucky stars as the moment replayed itself in my mind long into the night.

Upon arriving in Thessaloniki I was grateful for many things. After a week of riding. I was desperately dirty and in need of a day off to unwind. In the miles after the accident, I had some serious hours to contemplate my journey. At first I wanted to outright quit. To pack it all in and call it a day. It really shook me up. But, after relaxing a bit, I began to think of it as a motivational tool. To understand the value of life and how quickly it can disappear. For over two years I worked towards this journey. I couldn’t let this freak chance send me packing. This is my dream. The last eight months have been the most exciting, educational and inspiring moments in my life. Another experience and valuable lesson. To which I say:

Be more than you can ever hope to be. Don’t waste your days with pointless worries and regret. Never regret. Fulfill the promises you make. Life is very short, but it can feel infinitely long if you live everyday the best you can. By being your own person you can achieve this. Follow that itching screaming dream inside. Awake that curious child we all once were. The one that laughed at silly things and asked too many questions. When life was an entertaining game and not an monopoly obstacle course. My ride around the world is simply my fun little game. I write all the rules and can put my wagon back in the box whenever I like. But, I’d prefer to pass GO and keep on riding over the next hill.

We can all be pieces of change and hope. Life can be as simple, happy and fulfilling as you want it to be. My hope is to leave the world a little bit better than the way I found it. I ride for love, challenge and hope. To be apart of that change and not the problem. Give someone else that same dream. Check out my experiences in Verdara, India and the site of the next school we are in the process of fundraising for with ‘Free the Children‘ by CLICKING HERE.

*To donate to my charity and give others that same hope CLICK HERE.

**Thank you to the hundreds of school kids in Canada for their active support of my ride and pursuit of making the world a better place. My family, girlfriend and friends for always being there. I smile in happiness from miles away, on that beautiful winding road of life. You are all amazing people. 🙂

***See new pictures below (Turkey/Northern Greece). Part #2 of my ride so far in Europe coming soon. Greece cont’d, Macedonia(FYROM) & Albania. Stay tuned!

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About markquattrocchi

My name is Mark Quattrocchi. This site is dedicated to giving people a look into the wonders of world travel. Through my experiences, thoughts and ambitions about adventure, I strive to give motivation to people to follow their dreams.

Posted on March 5, 2015, in Adventure, Around the World, Charity, Cycling, Greece, Inspiration, Motivation, Thoughts, Travel, Turkey and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Mark I can understand completely how you would want to pack up and just come home after a close call like that. Being hit by a truck–shakes you to the core. I’m so glad you decided to rest and continue your journey. You are such an inspiration to so many people back home. That accident could have been much worse–I can’t help think you are being protected and guided as you cycle each day. You’ve learned so much–come so far. Each blog seems to become wiser and wiser as you accumulate experiences on the road. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and pictures.
    Love Marina xxoo

  2. Mark, so glad to hear you were not injured when struck by the truck. Caught your journey on Global National, great cause, looking forward to reading all your posts here! Safe travels!

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