A world cycle. It will change your life – at any age.

At the top of an amazing windy road overlooking Kotor Bay, Montenegro.

At the top of an amazing windy road overlooking Kotor Bay, Montenegro.

People leave on a world bicycle trip at all ages, leaving everything behind to see the world on two wheels. The article on my 41000km and 2 year bike trip from the Netherlands to Adelaide was well received, so here is a longer article. A world bike trip – you can do it too. Everyone can, and it will change your life!

‘I have a mortgage and family.’
‘I have debts to pay off.’
‘I’m too old to do it.’
‘I don’t think I’m physically capable.’
‘I have a good, secure job. I’m afraid I won’t find such a good job at the other end.’
That last one was what I was afraid of. There is always a reason not to do it. Leaving on this 2 year bike trip was the best thing I have ever done.

On September 13 2014 I left the Netherlands – my home for the last 21 years to cycle home to Adelaide – where I was born and grew up. Australia – family and friends were calling. It was time to return to live. The trip took two years and two weeks, and covered 41483km, and on September 27 2016 I stood on the Brighton jetty in the heart of where I grew up so many years ago.

I am very lucky to have grown up in a country where education was (almost) free, and to have worked in countries where the value of money is high. My savings were worth so much more in most of the world. Unlike many, I have no commitments, I have good health, and I have some savings. I was able to leave. But most of all, I am so lucky to live in a world of beautiful, welcoming people. People who open their doors and their hearts. Muslims, Christians, rich, poor. Wasn’t I afraid or wasn’t it dangerous? No. I wasn’t, and no, it’s not. There are people everywhere to help.

The Iranian shepherd

In Iran a stranger we met while crossing the road arranged that we stay with his uncle, then his sister and then his friends. We had friends waiting in every town on our way. Friends that would show us around, cook for us, arrange music recitals for us and welcome us like family. The Iranian people are caring welcoming people, and very well educated. They just want to be citizens of the world, but are held back by their government.
After all that entertainment over days we were exhausted and snuck off to camp secretly in a field. Only a solitary shepherd saw us. We set up our tents, cooked, and went to bed at 8, ready for a long night’s sleep.
‘Mister! Mister! This is for you!’
Wrenched from my sleep I opened the tent. There, at the entrance was the shepherd and his son, holding a plate of food.
‘This is for you, mister!’
Such a smile of kindness you could never hope for.

Iranian shepherd near Marand, Iran

Iranian shepherd near Marand, Iran

Millionaire in Brunei

‘Come and stay with me! And come to dinner!’
He stood on the side of the road with his motorbike as we were entering Miri – the border town in Malaysia on the Brunei border in Borneo. He treated us to a feast and took us back to his house to see his collection of bikes – almost never used.
‘This is $10000.’
‘This has electronic gear shifting.’
‘These shoes were signed personally by Cavendish.’
He was a millionaire businessman. Cycling was one of his fads, and his collection was impressive. He almost never cycled though, and most had never been used. Over the next days he would spend thousands on us, cycling with us across Brunei. We ended being treated to a weekend of luxury and hedonism on Labuan – the taxfree island Malaysian state off the coast of Brunei. No Sharea law here, and the rich from Brunei made the most of it.

Subsistance farmers in Flores

I slapped at yet another mosquito on Flores, an Indonesian island just north of Australia. The people had welcomed me into their humble home like family. We sat on the carpet circled around the arrays of delicious dishes. The amazing array of local, home grown food they had prepared for me!
‘Do you have malaria?’
‘Yes.’
‘Do you have dengue?’
‘Yes.’
‘Do you use mosquito repellent lotion?’ I asked as I smeared myself with the cream.
‘No. We can’t afford it.’
The cream costs $1.
That drilled it home. Subsistence farmers. They eat what they grow and earn a dollar or two selling fruit from a table in front of their home. They have no reserves for hard times. But they have each other, and they are utterly caring and beautiful people.
I gave them some money when I left. I hope they can use it to protect themselves from disease. Or buy food. Or clothes.

On my trip I have met other cyclists crossing Asia. All ages and all budgets. People in their early twenties. People in their 40s like me. I met a couple, the man was 72. They were about to embark on the toughest dirt track in Australia from Uluru to the Western Australian coast. I met a Turkish family who have travelled the world with their 2 infant children. I have cycled with people on budgets of $5 a day including everything (visas, boats, bike repairs etc.). It was these people’s dream to cycle, and that is what they are doing.

On the way to Coober Pedy.

On the way to Coober Pedy.

After two years of cycling it is now time for me to stop. And it is time. I’ve been a nomad for long enough. Stability and a fixed abode are fine things to have. I have made new friends every evening. I have bade farewell to new friends every morning. Now it’s time to make lasting friends, have a place of my own, and be with my family. It has been an emotionally turbulent time since I arrived at Brighton – the end of a life chapter. The end of one chapter and the start of the next. I have arrived.

If you’re up for adventure on your bicycle but don’t want to do it along, you can join Bicycle SA on the Outback Odyssey in May 2016 which takes you 900KMs through the Australian outback fully supported. Make sure you check out Matthew’s blog Arctic Cycler for more solo cycling inspiration. 

4 Comments. Leave new

I did a two-part European tour in 2012 and 2013, covering around 12,000 km, and toyed with the idea of trying to ride home from there. I didn’t do it for various reasons, but now sort of wish I had! I’d love to hear more about the practicalities of riding through the Middle East and Asia: visas, politics, etc. Perhaps an article covering some of those aspects would be useful. I have to agree with you that the bicycle is the best way to see most places, and that overwhelmingly the people of the world are generous, moral, and good.

Reply
Matthew Harris
November 4, 2016 8:52 am

Hi Jack.
Its never too late to cycle.. 🙂
Cycling in Central Asia is a bit of a logistical challenge – you need to get the visas sorted out in the right order, and get letters of invitation etc in advance. I made a little flowchart before I started so I could prepare everything in time. I only needed about 10 days in Tehran visa shopping.. 🙂 There is lots of information about visas and the like (which is more up-to-date than my experiences, which are now 1.5 years old) on http://caravanistan.com/.

I wrote an overview blog entry on Iran on my blog: https://arctic-cycler.com/2015/09/08/iran-overview/
I avoided writing certain things on my daily blog to avoid getting people in trouble (as the government doesn’t like people talking to foreigners), and wrote them in general terms in this Iran overview blog. I didn’t write a similar overview of China, which would have certainly deserved it. China was a very intense country.

All the best!
Matthew

Reply
George Kiroff
November 4, 2016 4:43 am

Matthew, loved your insights and I can see how you would enjoy it. I have just returned from a ride from Venice to Ancient Olympia in Greece. You would consider my approach soft since I did it with a group and van support. However your picture of the Bay of Kotor was very evocative for me, I climbed the same wonderful road!

Reply
Matthew Harris
November 4, 2016 8:53 am

Yes. That is an amazing road, and the view from the top is spectacular.
Everyone likes travelling in different ways. Every way is good, (especially if it involves cycling..). 🙂

Reply

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