A university student from Greece studying in Scotland cycled from Aberdeen to his home in Athens during the COVID-19 lockdown earlier this year.
Kleon Papadimitrious was stranded in Scotland as the country went into a lockdown and closed its borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At first, Kleon tried to book a flight from Aberdeen to his home in Athens, but it got cancelled. He then thought, even if he managed to find a connecting flight somewhere, what if the second flight got cancelled? That would leave him stranded far from home, leaving his family very worried about him.
But since Kleon is physically active, usually working out 5 days a week doing running, swimming and lifting weights he thought of a (crazy) plan – why not cycle home?
Lockdown wasn’t going to stop him and the route was straight forward. Cycle down south, through to England and take the ferry across to Rotterdam. From there, he would cycle through the Netherlands, into Germany and then Austria (with a few stops and detours to do some sightseeing), followed by a tour of the Alps into Italy. Once he reached the coast of Italy, he would take a second ferry to western Greece and from there he would simply cycle to his hometown.
Kleon packed all of the essential, including a jacket, a tent, a waterpack, chargers and some cycling garments. Keep in mind that everything he packed, he would have to carry for around 2000 miles. He would upkeep his hygiene by cleaning himself using wet wipes, though “not every night” he admits.
Kleon set off on May 10 and immediately started to experience problems. First, his knee started to hurt and then his neck from turning around to watch for traffic. So, he plays it smart and starts his day slow, first warming up his knee before picking up pace. He also took rest days, usually just once a week. When he reached his grandmother’s home in Germany he took more time to rest and recuperate – allowing his granny to pamper him a bit during his visit.
It was a smart approach to treat his cycling journey like a workout, rather than a commute. It allowed him to avoid the pain in his knee, however his neck still hurt! Quitting halfway was not an option, so he kept telling himself everyday: “I’ll just make it to the end of the day, and I’ll quit tomorrow”.
The trouble didn’t end there as he punctured his tyre in a forest in Germany – his 5th puncture in just 2 days. Tired, drained, with a flat tyre and still over 1000 miles away from home – it’s safe to say Kleon was feeling overwhelmed.
He had packed a tyre puncture kit and spear inner tyre tubes, but it stop any future punctures from happening. Angry, tired and very frustrated, Kleon was basically ready to give up at this point, but he had no choice other than to fix the tyre and get out of the forest.
“I had to take a few breaths,” he says, “I had to let out my anger by throwing a few rocks and breaking some sticks. I had no choice but to fix the flat and keep going.”
Kleon managed to fix up his bike and get back on the track, eventually getting out of the forest and pushing through to continue his journey to Athens. He makes a quick pit stop to replenish his energy levels with some canned sardines and bread with some peanut butter.
The peak of his journey up until that point must have been finally reaching Italy and being able to indulge in some delicious pizza and an ice cold pint of beer! Better than canned sardines and peanut butter sandwiches, surely?!
The trip took him 48 days to complete and he lost some weight and bodyfat in the process. Kleon didn’t gain any muscle and when he eventually reached Athens, he found himself to be much weaker in the gym than before he left. Weeks after reaching his final destination, Kleon’s blood tests still indicates muscle damage – which will take weeks of a combination of rest, nutrition and exercise to recover from.
He intends to return back to Aberdeen in September to continue with his studies once the lockdown is lifted. But until that time he’s working in a beach shop in his home country of Greece. It seems that despite the difficulty and frustrations on his last journey, he is keen to take on a new challenge. Kleon plans to scale Aconcagua in Argentina – at almost 7 km, it’s the tallest mountain in the world outside of Asia.
He has some advice for anyone looking to take on a challenge:
“Set a goal that is outside of what you think you can achieve. Do your best to get there. Even if you don’t, the reality is that you will have already gotten out of your comfort zone, and that is growth, and that is really significant.”
You can learn more about the entire journey from the start of the lockdown to him reaching Athens on Kleon’s Instagram.
This article first appeared on GYMNASIUMPOST.com on 26th August, 2020.