While searching for a place to camp in the woods south of Brugge, Belgium, I stumbled across an old drunk man on a bicycle who was had fallen into the road and struggling to make his way home. I stopped and spoke to the man using a few German/Flemish words that I know, but was unable to communicate to the man that he was beyond drunk and should probably not be trying to ride a bicycle while in such a condition.
It was around this time that the man in the photo above came cycling down the bike path and I waved him down to help me. I quickly explained to the man that the old man on the bicycle was drunk and had fallen into the street and that maybe we should help him. But this second, much younger, man insisted that the old man was fine and that we should just continue on our way.
It was then that I explained to the man that I had been bicycle touring in Iceland and England for the last month and had just recently crossed over into mainland Europe. When he discovered that I was searching for a place to spend the night, he called up his wife to ask for permission, and then invited me to spend the night camping in his backyard.
After accepting his kind offer, I followed the man a short distance across town before walking my bike through a narrow wooden door and along the side of a nearly hidden brick home. In the man’s small backyard I set up my tent and was then invited inside for a much needed shower and an evening around the dinner table.
Over a giant bowl of pasta and fresh-made vegetable sauce, the man and his wife told me about their own bicycle touring adventures in Belgium. They showed me some photos from a picture album and explained that they felt little need to travel to other parts of the world because they had so much to see and do right in their own backyard. This mentality reminded me a lot of the way many Americans feel about traveling overseas.
In the end, I had a great evening with the couple. I got a warm shower, ate two plates of delicious food, and had some interesting conversation. Afterward, I retired to my tent and slept soundly after a full day on the bike.