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Learn & Burn

Places we’ve been to or through in the last ten days: Roskilde, Ringsted, Tystrup, Næstved, Stensved, Nyråd, Vordingborg, Sakskobing, Maribo, Rødby, Rødbyhavn, Puttgarden, Burg auf Fehmarn, Heiligenhafen, Oldenburg, Lütjenburg, Schwentinental, Kiel, Preetz, Plön, Glasau, Lübeck, Ahrensburg, Hamburg.

It’s special, experiencing the world by bike. You’re not separated from it by a centimeter of glass, surrounded by climate control, radio jamming over the wind. You’re surrounded by every smell and sound, and every tiny Dorf of a town feels like a major checkpoint. I bet no one’s ever wanted to get to Lütjenburg as badly as we did that one night. It felt like we should have been welcomed by a chorus of nuns belting Hallelujah.

You’re absorbed by the sensation of being outdoors, sun on your skin, wind in your face. There’s wet earth smell combined with horse poo and every once in a while the mouth-watering grill aroma from a Gaststube. Flowers smile at your grimy ankles. Snails and slugs creep onto the bike trail when it’s damp. Sometimes you squish them, like an eighteen wheeler versus a banana.

That’s the biking, one half of what this is all about. We’re also making a movie, so we’re stopping in front of beautiful vistas, isolated roadside inlets that few feet every touch. We set up the tripod, Madison rigs the camera just so, and we go through scripted or unscripted lines, speaking over the wind, squinting into the sun. People honk as they drive by.

We exude grace and poise at all times.

We exude grace and poise at all times.

It’s a balancing act, literally angling your body against the equal weight of bike and gear. And metaphorically, playing a character (but not really because this is a documentary), always trying to exude positivity and charm. Hopefully no one sees through to the depths of fatigue inside. But there’s not really any point in hiding it. Travel, especially self-propelled, quasi-professional travel, is overwhelming.

We’re doing our best, and sometimes our efforts fall short. A whole interview transpires with the wrong sound activated. Or the shot’s too dark. Or our questions don’t sound as intelligent as we thought they would. But we’re not caving under the weight of Madulthood. We’re squaring our shoulders, bearing the burden of our mistakes, and instead of shrugging them off, promising each other we’ll learn.

To be honest, the sensory overload caught up with us a bit recently. This madventure is fun but far from easy. We’re making it up as we go along, and managing to stay a step ahead of the work load. Well, more like a quarter step. Every once in a while we trip on a cobble and we’re caught up for a whole six hours.

We biked from Lübeck to Hamburg on Wednesday and we’ll be here for a few more days. Axel Sylvester who I’ve been in touch with for almost half a year and his wife Tanja Döring of Fabulous St. Pauli have been kind enough to welcome us into their home in this vibrant city. Their one-year old son is a future maker. He’ll watch your hands at work with eyes as big as the two euro coin.

Welcome to Fabulous St. Pauli! The Fab Lab is open!

Welcome to Fabulous St. Pauli! The Fab Lab is open!

We had a very successful interview at Fabulous St. Pauli yesterday. St. Pauli is a wacky strip of town, home of the Hamburger Dom, garish amusement park, and Repperbahn, the red light district, where sex shops and Döner Kebab joints nestle side by side and punks with pink dreadlocks stare from under tattooed eyelids. After so many days on our bikes surrounded by sky and fields of yellow rapeseed it’s like an alternate universe where everyone dropped out of high school and joined the circus.

So we joined the circus too.

So we joined the circus too.

At Fabulous St. Pauli yesterday, Madison and I collected some great footage of Axel discussing the philosophical cornerstones of the Fab Lab movement. We spoke with Astrid Lorenzen about free electronics–a consumer’s dilemma if there ever was one–and how women are calmly fighting for equality in highly technical fields. Today we’ll get back out there with the camera to snag random people on the street and ask them to express what they love about Hamburg. It’s Tag der Arbeit (Labor Day), so the range of humanity should be out enjoying the holiday.

Astrid Lorenzen outside Fabulous St. Pauli in Hamburg.

Astrid Lorenzen at Fabulous St. Pauli in Hamburg.

We haven’t had a day off in a couple weeks, and it’s unlikely that we’ll get one for another few months. That’s Madulthood, man, the nature of working for free at something you love. All of Europe is on holiday, and we’re gearing up to make videos. It’s exhausting, but also liberating. This is the new twenty-first century workflow. We work from our morning coffee to our evening beer every day of the week. We work from grocery stores and cafes, the homes of friends we met online, random city courtyards. We can turn any curbside with internet into an office. It’s stressful, but it’s also hilarious. There’s a chaotic rhythm to it. We may be stubbing our toes as we jounce through Madulthood, but we’re also learning to pick our feet up a little higher.

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