EGK: You’ll soon be leaving on a cycling adventure all the way to the North Cape. What is your main objective for this bike trip?
Patrick Sumi: First and foremost, it’s a dream that I’ve wanted to turn into reality for a long time now. Cycling is undoubtedly the simplest and purest means of travelling. When you’re cycling, you have time on your hands; it’s our body and our physical capacity that set the pace for our days. You need to go slow to discover, meet people and explore. It gives the vagabond cyclist the time to meet others on an equal footing, arriving quietly without disturbing. For me, this journey will be a form of transition, a gateway between the before and after.
The former being a 23 year career at Nestlé with all that comes with it, responsibility, workload and the race to the top. I need a break because the last few years have been exhausting. Dealing with difficult situations has brought me to the brink of burnout.
The after is what I want to do once this journey is complete; I want to live a simpler, slower life, taking time for my personal projects by becoming even more involved in my association (Out'cha), for my sports projects and other journeys. It will also involve working, but within a framework better suited to my needs and values.
This journey will be a form of therapy, a means of finding a new balance. It will give me time to think, reflect and will force me to take a long hard look at myself. It will offer me what the vagabond prizes the most – time while thinking of nothing more than pedalling, eating and finding a place to stay for the night. The rest is just window-dressing.
“Living is turning your dream into a memory.”
EGK: The road ahead stretches more than 5,500 km over a period of four months (spring/summer). What are you taking with you and how will you carry your bags?
Patrick Sumi: I will only have 4 bags on my bike, which really limits what I can take with me, so I will make do with the essentials, which can be divided into 4 categories;
The equipment I need to sleep and make a comfortable camp: tent, mattress, sleeping bag, pillow, lamp… good nights are essential when you’re cycling or travelling. Rest is the very essence of a cyclist.
Cooking equipment because eating is important, so I’ll have a petrol stove, two ultra-light pans, a bottle of petrol (more practical than gas because you can find it anywhere), cooking utensils, condiments and cutlery, as well as some basic food for 2 or 3 days (pasta, rice, tinned food). I'll buy the rest as I go, but I also intend to take my little Italian coffee machine, because my morning coffee is important. It gets the day off to a good start.
Clothes, toilet bag and everything I need to protect against storms, rain, sun, the cold, the heat… I will encounter a wide range of weather conditions and I'll have to adapt to them every day. Gore-Tex jacket, waterproof trousers. I will mostly take woollen clothes, especially for the under layers, as they are more pleasant and don’t smell of sweat. I will keep my cycling clothes separate from my camp clothes, which I will keep nice and clean.
Then there is everything that might save my journey – all the things that will help ensure that the trip continues in the best possible conditions. You need to think ahead, anticipate what might happen, so a bike repair kit for all the essential repairs to ensure I don't get stuck due to a mechanical fault. You also have to think of the cyclist, who is at the heart of everything. I need to be able to care for myself with a first aid kit that can treat the inconveniences of such a journey such as falls, injuries, infections and stomach trouble, mosquito repellent, sun cream, plasters and a few medicines, including broad-spectrum antibiotics that my doctor will recommend to treat the most urgent conditions.
EGK: Such a long cycling trip is also a challenge for the body. What effects on your health do you anticipate and how are you preparing for the effort that lies ahead?
Patrick Sumi: It’s true that 5,500 kilometres might seem like a long way, but the human body is an amazing machine which adapts incredibly well. I have always done a lot of sport, I have taken part in cycling races and competitions in other sports as well. I train regularly and should be well-prepared for this adventure. In order to avoid muscle overload or fatigue or a tendonitis, I have planned to take it easy with relatively short stages of no more than 50 kilometres during the first 3 weeks. That’s the time it takes for the body to adapt so that travelling by bike becomes a new reality. The challenge will be to eat healthily and to avoid nibbling whatever I find simply because it’s easier and more accessible. I'll have to buy fresh, local produce, fruit and veg, and force myself to cook. In everyday life, it’s easy to fall into a kind of lazy routine of mediocrity that does no good in the long run with deficiencies, a lack of energy… I’ll take a few food supplements to make sure that I get all my essential vitamins.
I'll also make time every day to do some stretching and maybe a little yoga in order to stay mobile, because cycling causes you to stiffen up, so it is important to stay mobile, flexible.
EGK: Which stage are you most looking forward to and why?
Patrick Sumi: That’s a good question! I hadn't really thought about it… there are a few stages that I’m particularly looking forward to.
The first day – I’ve been waiting for this moment for over twenty years and I'm looking forward to experiencing and sharing this moment with my loved ones. I’ll be leaving Lutry at 10 a.m. on 1 April
Leaving Switzerland, my home country, having crossed it from west to east – I think that this will be the symbolic start of the adventure.
Naturally, arriving at the North Cape, but I'm fully aware that the road will be long and I can't look forward too far, as it’s already a question of getting started and pedalling every today just to make progress. The rest will follow…
And I’m looking forward to that unexpected stage that only a care-free journey can offer. My experience of travel has taught me that the best things happen by surprise – a meeting, a place, a moment… I will pay special attention to these unique moments that the journey will throw up.