Five Years DownTheRoad: a
April 11, 2007
(Sent From Port Macquarie, NSW, Australia)
AN EXTRA SPECIAL
MP3 Audio Interview with the Bike Tourist PodCast
Hello and welcome to this special 5 year anniversary
edition to our RoadNews
On March 30, 2007 Cindie and I celebrated the
completion of five years of living and traveling on bicycles including four
continents, nineteen countries, and countless amazing and often bazaar experiences.
We knew things would get wild but we never could have predicted the
adventures that were waiting for us or the unexpected hardships and obstacles in
our path. The experience of visiting different continents and meeting
locals from diverse cultures, religions, and political orientations has had a
profound affect on us. We have and continue to learn and grow every day. How could we not?
The long summer days of cycling on quiet
roads in Australia gave us the opportunity to ride side by side and talk. These conversations have focused
on our 5 year anniversary of this trip and
defining what this experience, good and bad, has meant to us and why we continue.
As a byproduct of this discussion we unexpectedly discovered that, for us, time and place have
fused into the same concept. I can say, "Do you
remember in Bolivia when I injured my back in a
remote village in the middle of the Altiplano?" and Cindie automatically knows
what month and year I am talking about. This
concept went on to create a list of fun facts that
demonstrates how time has fused into geographical location. For example, below is a list of
everyplace we have spent our travel anniversary and New Years Eve:
First Day March 30, 2002 left home from Prescott, Arizona,
New Years Eve 2003 Antigua, Guatemala
1st Anniversary March 30, 2003 Santa Elena, Costa Rica
New Years Eve 2004 Belen, Argentina
2nd Anniversary March 30, 2004 Bariloche, Argentina
New Years Eve 2005 Phnom Penn, Cambodia
3rd Anniversary March 30, 2005 Bac Giang, Vietnam
New Years Eve 2006 Long Phrabang, Laos
4th Anniversary March 30, 2006 Phang Nga, Thailand
New Years Eve 2007 Launceston, Tasmania, Australia
5th year anniversary March 30, 2007 Seal Rocks, Australia
After quizzing each other on this fun time and place
trivia our conversations turned to the deeper impact and meaning of our travels.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF ENDURANCE
This extended nomadic lifestyle has been both good and bad on our health.
Obviously, all the exercise and fresh air has been great for our fitness
but, of course, fitness is only one component of health.
The wear and tear that months on end of exposure to the elements and foreign
cultures breaks down our bodies and speeds up the
aging process. To last this long on the road takes a different kind of
International bike touring is less about cycling several
hours a day and more about being durable, adaptable,
open minded, and just plain old tough, Oh yes, do not forget a sense
of humor and the ability to not take it all (including yourself) too
Most people, including beginning cyclists, could easily
ride along with us. We are by no means super athletes. What
would send most companions home would be the hard living, months of sleeping on the
ground in a tent or dealing with the confusion and unsanitary conditions of
developing countries. Cyclists do not abandon international tours
because the riding is too hard but rather the time off the bike is
I jokingly suggest to touring cyclists who are
contemplating long term travel, in addition to time on a bike, prepare
by clogging up your toilet and removing the seat (Latin America) or just
digging a hole in the ground to squat over (Asia), purifying every drop of
water you consume including water used to brush your teeth, and trading your bed for a
camping mattress and sleeping bag.
WHAT HAS CHANGED OVER THE LAST 5 YEARS
Another concept Cindie and I talked about was that we are
past the point of no return. During the first couple of years we drew confidence to continue
on this trip by thinking that we could always stop, go home, and
find new jobs. We pictured this scenario in our minds occasionally when
road life became difficult. As the years have passed under our wheels, this mental
picture of us going home has faded to the point that we can not see it at
It is impossible to picture any other life except the one we have now.
We have arrived at the point where traveling is not a temporary episode of our lives but has
become our life and the only lifestyle we know. Too much freedom is intoxicating and addictive.
Play around with it for too long and you can never go back but also never
know where forward will take you. Today "home" can be found by
flipping through my passport and finding the most recent countries' entry
stamp and valid tourist visa. By this definition we are always going
home but can never really arrive there.
Cindie and I have also changed the way we discuss out trip
with people we meet. During the first few years, when we met people and they asked, "Where
did you start?" or "How long have you been traveling?" We would explain the
entire trip starting in Arizona.
Now, after 5 years, we prefer to talk about only the past few months.
For example when we are asked these questions here in Australia we
answer, "We landed in Adelaide (Australia) in mid September." This draws
much less attention to ourselves and makes it easier for us to fit in.
Of course, if people probe enough the whole story can be pulled out of us but
we generally prefer not to discuss our travels beyond the country we are in.
This way our story is much more digestible and believable.
During our conversations we agreed that what
is important to us on our bicycle tour around the world has nothing to do
with riding a bike. We are not consumed with kilometers ridden, speed through
regions, number of flat tires or obtaining bragging rights. These kind of
superficial goals could not sustain us this many years on the road.
This is an educational voyage.
When we listed what we had achieved over the last
5 years and what we wanted to
accomplish in the future cycling related accomplishments were not included. We
can generally estimate the total kilometers we have ridden, about 45,000
(28,000 miles), but we have no set goal to complete
a certain distance. Our journey is not about
anything tangible or something that can be organized into rows and columns
of a spreadsheet. We do like to ride but
it is not a goal of our travels. Riding a bicycle is just a tool to bring us deeper into the
authentic sections of each country and closer to the people who live there. We seek the opportunity to meet the people of the world and learn
their outlook on life from their unique perspective. This actually
requires a lot of time off the bike.
So you may wonder
what is important to us. In a single word "culture" is what we seek on
our bicycles. Of course, culture covers a broad spectrum of components
which I partially discuss below.
We try to learn languages which helps
us to interact with locals, this gives us a deeper understanding of how
everyday people think and see the world. We have concentrated on
retaining our knowledge of Spanish and Mandarin Chinese but also have
learned basic words and phrases of many other languages. We have been
exposed to several religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam.
This has given us a better understanding of what is important to people and
how these often mysterious beliefs and cultural traditions shape everyday life. Economics and politics
topics I have always found interesting. They directly influence each
other. In our travels we have witnessed a variety of political situations
and experienced different economic systems. The same political view and
economic system does not work for everyone. Finally in my partial list,
we have been delighted to learn about and witness a wide variety of
climates, ecosystems and
wildlife. This also influences local cultures in the way people eat
and adapt to the elements.
I am left wondering where we will be 5 years from now. Until