I met my host parents, Jim and Claire, for the first time in November of 2013, exactly two years from now. What began as a simple get to know each other dinner, turned into a heart-warming and enriching event that led into a very close relationship between us. We often have dinners together, go on adventures, and sometimes even meet each other in the other side of the world. With time, my friends at Quest, Jim and Claire’s children, and others have joined us in our adventures, which allowed our friendship to amplify even more.
This summer, Jim and Claire, went on a 10,000 km biking trip in Europe. They biked for a period of six months, encompassing many countries from Turkey all the way to Portugal. During their trip, however, as they were biking across Albania, we were able to meet and spend a day together. Jim and Claire even got to meet my parents and my little sister, Melodi. It was very exciting to see two different “lives” of mine, the Canadian and the Kosovar one, interact for the very first time.
Jim and Claire have been living in the coastal-mountain town of Squamish, BC for the past 18 years. They are outdoor recreationists and love to mountain bike, rod ride, hike, trail run, ski tour and paddle. Even though they are blessed to live in the recreational capital of Canada, this summer they decided to take their adventure somewhere further – all the way to Europe.
They began their journey in April in Turkey. After biking down the Aegean coast of Turkey they took a ferry to the island of Crete and then made it to Greece. Afterwards they biked towards north and made it to Corfu island. From Corfu island they took a ferry and made their way to the coastal city of Sarande, where they met my family and spent a beautiful day together. Afterwards, Jim and Claire biked towards north, visiting many Albanian cities along the shore. They were even able to go on a five-day school trip with an Albanian class in the mountains of Northern Albania in a town called Theth. Afterwards, they continued their journey towards north and made it to Montenegro.
After Montenegro they made it Croatia. While the road conditions were not the best, they were much better from what they had experienced in Southern Europe. After Croatia, they passed through Slovenia, and made it to northern Italy. They were amazed by the beauty of the mountains, quality of the bike paths, and hospitality of the locals. Finally they went to the alps, returned to Italy, and then went to France.
France was by far one the favourite places they visited due to many reasons, but baguettes were probably number one. They were surprised how in some small, remote towns they had vending machines that dispensed baguettes in exchange of a 1-euro coin. I thought that this was very funny since I had never heard of a baguette dispensing vending machine.
Afterwards Jim and Claire biked to Spain. That was supposed to be the ending point of their blog but since they had a few more days they decided to go all the way to Lisbon, Portugal. And it is right in Portugal that their long, 6-month, 10,000 km journey came to an end. After biking around Europe in sometimes really hot and sometimes really rainy weather, they finally made it back to Squamish in October.
And of course, even after such a tiring and long experience, they immediately went back to hiking the Chief and doing other adventures…
What an honour it has been to follow and support my host parents, Jim and Claire, as they planned, started, accomplished, and explained their 10,000 km biking trip from Turkey all the way to Portugal. Their determination, hunger for adventure, passion for travel, and love for new experiences is an inspiration to everyone regardless of age or nationality. Thank you to both, Jim and Claire, for sharing your adventures last night with many of us. As I saw your pictures, heard about your experiences, and listened to you thank my parents for their hospitality, I felt my heart fill with gratitude and appreciation. What started as a dream less than a year ago, ended up being a successful accomplishment and I could not be more proud of you.