“What are you doing?”
I’m cycling around the world. But as I don’t have enough money to do it in one go, I’m stopping in some countries to work (as an English teacher or any other job I can find). That’s pretty much as far as the plan goes…for me this is an adventure where I can learn new things, meet new people, hear new stories and see new parts of the world. I really want to make some small changes in the world for the better, and to do that I believe you have to understand as best as possible how it works in its current state.
“Where are you going?”
That’s a good question…I’m not really sure. My original plan was to cycle from Spain to Thailand. But in true rambling style I haven’t planned much more than a few squiggles on a map. I wake up in the morning, look at the map and decide on somewhere to go next…or just stay in bed.
“How many punctures have you had on your trip?”
ZERO! Can you believe it? Over 17,000km and counting… One. Ahhh…I got my first puncture at ~23,000km. It was a slow puncture though. Nothing lasts forever eh.
“How many countries have you been to?”
At time of writing 30 something but I’ve only cycled in 30 I think (all consecutively and without taking a plane).
“You must be really fit?”
I have a six-pack and arms of steel. My friends call me TANK.
No but seriously, I’m not that fit. And at the time of writing, I binge drink basically every week (come on…I’m Scottish) and I’ve smoked nearly every day for almost 12 years. I’ve tried to quit smoking so many times that quitting is basically part of my life.
My C.V. says:
Hobbies: cycling, playing piano, quitting smoking
Update 5/12/16 : I haven’t had a cig since Sept 2016! (Hopefully it lasts this time)
“Where do you sleep?”
Usually I just rock up with my tent and sleep anywhere suitable. In cities however, I usually stay in hostels or couchsurf.
“Isn’t it illegal to just camp wherever you like?”
In most countries, yes. But it’s also legal in some countries to kill people for “witchcraft” (Nepal, India), get sentenced to death for selling drugs (Thailand) or kill people under the age of 18 (Saudi Arabia). Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right. And just because something is illegal doesn’t make it wrong.
I’m from Scotland, and like many of the “northern countries” in Europe, it’s perfectly legal to temporarily camp basically anywhere you want…provided you don’t destroy something, leave a mess, or kill the farmer’s granny. And that’s the way it should be.
“How do you carry everything?”
I don’t take a backpack. There is a pannier rack attached to the back of my bike, which carries two pannier bags. My tent usually sits on top of that. And at the front I have a small bar bag on the handlebars. I used to carry five bags, like most round-the-world cyclists, but found it more inconvenient and annoying than anything. You can read a little about the equipment I carry here.
“Do you travel alone?”
Technically, yes. In practice, not really.
Whenever you travel, you always meet people, great people in fact. Sometimes you make friends for life.
Here are some examples: I met a guy in a hostel once who cycled with me across The Netherlands and Germany for three weeks. Another found me in Croatia and we cycled around for a few days. I cycled with someone from Germany to Switzerland too. And Slovakia to Hungary, in Portugal and from Albania to Kosovo. There are more but you get the idea. There are also way, way more people that I just meet wherever I am and end up having awesome memories with. So why not in a group? You don’t meet as many people, and I also enjoy the solitude. I guess it’s preference in the end. Who cares? Go cycling.
Unfortunately goodbyes are hard when you meet such nice people, and there are a lot when you travel for such a long time.
“Do you cycle the whole way? Or do you ‘cheat’ sometimes?”
I cycle the whole time. Getting from England to France was difficult though. (In other words, I make exceptions to cross water, obviously. And no, you can’t drive/cycle through the tunnel…I don’t know why everyone thinks this!)
“How do you navigate? GPS?”
Cheap maps and a compass. There are many benefits to this over GPS, but occasionally I’ll use GPS on my phone. On a map, you can see a wider area and decide in the moment to make a detour to a national park, lake, castle or other point of interest. You don’t need to recharge them. I also sometimes use one of these 12 ways of free navigation. Again, it’s all preference.
“How do you afford to travel?”
So far, I’ve been saving up a bunch of money and then travelling and then working again. There are plenty of ways to make it happen: teach a language, work in a hostel or farm, be a dog walker or nanny, or even volunteer in exchange for free food and accommodation.
On the other side of the coin (bad pun intended), I don’t spend a lot when I travel. Travelling by bike is free. If I “wild camp”, sleeping is free. Think about it. Free travel and free accommodation.
“How do you use your mobile abroad?”
Generally, I don’t use my phone other than to connect to the wifi. With the advent of Whatsapp and Skype, there’s really no need to make regular calls any more. I would need to buy a sim card for every country or spend a small fortune on roaming fees.
As much as I hate them, McDonald’s and Starbucks are good places to get free wifi and often the staff don’t notice (or don’t care) that you’re there, so you don’t have to buy anything! If you hate them too, use their toilet.
“How many miles/km do you cycle a day?”
I honestly have no idea. I used to count, almost religiously and it worked out at about 100km a day. Sometimes it’s more (record is 220km from just outside Berlin to Poznan, Poland) and sometimes it’s ridiculously less. Like I’ll go 5km to the next town, look at an interesting tree for half an hour and decide I want to camp next to it.
What I’ve started doing more recently is measuring how long I’m on the bike for. Five hours a day is pretty normal…so if I’ve done less, I’ll push on until it hits 5. If I’ve done more and feeling tired or lazy I’ll just stop. You’re your own boss when you travel alone, so it’s important to set some kind of target or you’ll never do anything.
“Have you had any problems?”
Every day I’m faced with a new set of challenges. They have been, in one way or another, overcome.
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