Go Your Own Way
By Sasha Reid
It is a glorious, idyllic summer’s day in Vienna. Plump, fluffy clouds loll indolently in an azure sky and a warm breeze caresses my skin. Water skiers gracefully criss-cross the Blue Danube, skimming the water in an aquatic waltz. There’s a faint hum of distant traffic, pleasantly drowned out by the cacophony of birds overhead and all around me the Viennese have taken to the banks of the river to catch the sun’s rays. My freshly issued touring bike is propped against a convenient tree as I break from my reverie and return to the perusal of my route notes.
I will spend the next six days in the saddle, cycling 330 kilometres from Vienna to Budapest. I’ve never done anything like this before but am reassured: this is an easy, classic ride. The route is relatively flat, the daily distances moderate and the cycle paths well-marked. My route notes are meticulous and my luggage has probably already reached today’s destination 50 kilometres away in Bad Deutsch Altenburg. Nevertheless, I feel a frisson of excitement. I am looking forward with delicious anticipation to riding triumphantly into the Hungarian capital next week, but what happens between now and then is up to me. Let the adventure begin...
From humble beginnings in 1974 taking groups overland into the Hindu Kush and on to Kathmandu, Exodus has built a formidable reputation as a pioneering adventure travel company, and as a small group travel specialist. Small groups are as popular as ever, but lately we’ve noticed something: a growing demand for self-guided holidays; in particular self-guided cycling or walking trips. The numbers may yet be small, but the early significance of this trend had our Product team sitting up and taking notice. So much so that for 2013 we are offering 22 brand new self-guided itineraries across our Cycling and Walking & Trekking programmes.
When asked about the appeal of “going your own way”, Walking & Trekking Programme Manager Chloe Knott says “The best thing is that there is no timetable. You get to set your pace, leaving your accommodation when you are ready, stopping for lunch at a time or destination that suits you and if you want to spend more time enjoying your surroundings – no problem. With the help of detailed route notes you are your own guide and in control of your own adventure.”
Exploration on foot or two wheels also affords the precious commodity of time – quality time – in your destination, to maximize as you see fit. Even more compelling: setting your own pace and (to a certain extent) your own path in turn sets up opportunities for highly personal and treasured encounters.
Back on the road, my luggage once again transported ahead, I spend the morning cycling through vast sunflower fields before stopping at a little village corner store for a drink. There’s an elderly man out the front chewing the fat with the store owner and, gesturing to my bike, he wants to know where I am headed. I show him the map and watch his eyes widen as I point to Vienna and along the route following the Danube. He is curious to find out more, but the language barrier is proving insurmountable. “Hungarian?” he enquires hopefully. I shake my head apologetically. “Russian?“ He tries again. “Italian?” I shrug helplessly and before offering “Australian?” He looks delighted: “Ah! Kangaroo! G’day mate!” Perhaps not insurmountable after all. He clasps my hands and wishes me well on my way. And off I go. My own way. Bound for Budapest.
Exodus Direct Marketing Manager Sasha Reid travelled Cycling the Danube – Vienna to Budapest