When cycling around the world, the good things easily outshine the bad, otherwise I wouldn´t be doing what I am doing. But there are ups and downs, listed here in random order…
Riding through country after country and experiencing the cultures: The people, the customs and rituals, dresses and clothes, the religions, the buildings and architecture, the history, the food, the markets, the celebrations, the way people make a living and the way life is lived on planet Earth.
Many hours on the bicycle everyday takes you through amazing scenery: Mountains, forests, deserts, prarie, tundra, steppes, jungle, farmland, rivers, lakes and oceans. Very often I camp in the wilderness and waking up to the beauty of our planet can be a major treat. Did I mention the star-filled sky at night? Or the amazingly colourful sunsets? Or the many animals that we share the planet with?
They are curious, they ask you questions, they are friendly and helpful and you get a lot of interaction and communication with the local people around the world. Especially in less developed or rural regions, where people don´t see that many foreigners. Several times during a day you light up in a huge smile due to their friendliness, their funny curiosity and questions, their body-langauge and their positive attitude even when their lives can be very challenging.
Spread the smiles, break the cultural mis-trust
Cycling around the world, your pass through many rural undeveloped regions and countries, often where they seldom or never have seen The White Man. You interact and “talk” with them, eat their food, crack jokes, show some maps, tell your story and exchange smiles. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to bring so many smiles to so many people, day after day. And maybe break some of the inter-cultural mistrust that is way too present on our planet.
Learn, learn and learn some more
You are constantly on the move through new regions, cultures, landscape, history, archeology, architecture, political systems, geography, weather, food ,values, family patterns, languages, religions, conflicts, ethnicities, agriculture, clothing, ideas, products etc etc etc. Your knowledge about planet Earth expands steadily day after day. You can call it an “Applied PhD in Current Planet Earth”.
I am trying to follow the season, so often the weather is nice and the outdoors are comfortable and enjoyable. No endless sections of rainy, grey, windy days.
Doing what you like, having the world in front of you with no boss and no strict plan is really a wonderfull feeling. Wanna go to the mountains? Or the beaches? Or the cities? Wanna stay another day? Want a party? Or Serenity? Do what you like!
The happy physical challenge
Cycling around the world can often be a physical challenge in a lovely way. Apparently, researchers point to the fact that exercise releases endorphines in the brain, (guess that’s something like our natural happiness drug). Maybe that’s why most runners love to run when they are actually running, though the thought of it beforehand, can seemed tedious. And the feeling of accomplishment when you’ve crossed entire countries, mountain ranges, giant deserts and endless highways, powered by your own legs, operating a fairly unsophisticated but rudely efficient vehicle.
Makes you happy to exercise, to sweat and feel and fight: to cycle.
Visa and bureacracy
The ”Free life and no strict plan” can be seriously compromised by the bureacracy of entering certain parts of the world. You have to apply, pay and wait for visas, sometimes you need a stupid ”Letter of Invitation”. The visas are often time-restricted so you have to estimate where you will be a month from now and are forced to stick to the plan.
In your face
Yes, the local people are interested in you. Sometimes too much. Way too much. You get no private sphere, they surround you, they ask you millions of questions, they mess with your bicycle and they insist on how you plan and do things. Sometimes you are exhausted during a tough day of cycling and wish you could just get 5 minutes of peaceful rest without being incircled by an entire village.
Terrible gravelroads, endless sections of potholes, heavy traffic with reckless drivers and a speed that simply won´t get you anywhere. The roads can be bad and when they are, you are forced to constantly focus on the road, leaving no attention for the beautiful scenery.
Seriously, if I was ever granted ONE wish, it would be to speak all languages in the world. It can be troublesome to explain your needs when there is no common language other than body-language. You don´t understand their questions so you can´t answer. And it is such a shame, often I have just as many questions about their world as they do about mine.
Anybody who has used a bicycle for transport would agree. On a touring bicycle, loaded with gear, you have a very large catchment area for the wind, making you very sensible to this terrible meteorological phenomena. Yes, tailwind is great but sidewind can be almost as bad as headwind. So statistically, the wind is working against you from 3 out of 4 directions.
Lack of comfort
Days on end without a shower when you are filthy and glued in your own sweat. Living from the mess in your bicycle panniers for years. Camping in hidden places days-on-end and having your tent swarmed by army-ants. Bug-infested, dirty, cheap ”hotelrooms”. Weird basic local food when you sometimes just want a damn pizza. Cycling around the world isn’t always easy.
Boredom and monotony
Sometimes the cycling just gets monotonous and it sucks and is boring. 6-8 hours every day…Yes, you CAN get tired of it!