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A Decade Down the Road: My ten year anniversary reflections

March, 2012 (Sent From Rajasthan, India)

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Hello Friends

March 30, 2012 will mark my 10th consecutive year of bicycle touring the world. A whole decade has passed since I started out. It's far longer than I originally expected when I left Arizona in 2002. A decade is a long time for anyone to dedicate their life to any single thing. I have been on a continuous bike tour longer than most people stay at a job, earn a college degree, or stay married. And I am not done yet.

Here is where I have been:

Arizona, Mexico, and Central America - March 2002 to April 2003
South America - June 2003 to June 2004
SE Asia / China - Nov 2004 to Sept 2006
Australia - Sept 2006 to Sept 2007
New Zealand - Sept 2007 to May 2008
Alaska / Canada / USA - May 2008 to April 2010
India, Nepal and Neighbors - May 2010 to present

When I look back through the trip pictures I can see myself age. I was a young 35 at the start. Now I'm a road weary 45. I've certainly grown older on this journey, body and mind. The aging process is documented in the thousands of pictures on my website, the journals, and my published books. Indeed, the website and books make up the bulk of the material possessions I've allowed myself to accumulate in a decade of bike travel.

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(LEFT) Friend see me off on the very first day in 2002
(RIGHT) Making friends in Guatemala during the first year

Pictures from last month 2012 in Rajasthan.

Another good indicator of how times have evolved as I've been adrift is the changes in technology. The internet was still in its infancy when I started out. I used to get online every few weeks via dial-up phone system. Later came internet cafes where I could connect with a network cable, then came the freedom of wifi. Now I can connect anywhere using a USB data stick. I've watched ATMs replace Travelers Checks, Skype and cell phones take the place of long distance phone kiosks, film made obsolete by digital cameras.

I consider myself very fortunate to be able to live in this extraordinary way for so long. I work for myself. I get to combine my three favorite activities: riding my bike, traveling the world, and camping. I imagine that thirty years from now, sitting in some hard luck bar, I'll listen to other old men talk about life’s lost dreams, the years wasted on chasing careers and money. I think I'll just smile and keep my mouth shut. I will always treasure my memories of vagabonding around. I'll never feel like I wasted my life.

I am proud that I made my life the way I wanted. No luck involved. No trust fund, lottery, or inheritance. I'm a self-made drifter and few people can say that. I could have used these past ten years to build my career and my retirement account. Instead I chose to live on a US$100 a week and lots of bad weather. The hard fact is that if/when I ever move back to Arizona, I will be materially poorer than had I not traveled. I will have substantially fewer assets compared to others in my age group. Basically, I'll live at the same level as the recently graduated college student (minus the loan debt). No material luxuries like a car, a hot tub in the backyard, or a redecorated kitchen. I blew my money and youth on traveling – and I have no regrets.

When I was a teenager I vowed I would never follow the herd. No 2 ˝ kids, no white picket fence. Call it idealistic, immature, unrealistic – but I kept my promise. I'm still living the only life that appealed to me as a rebellious and dreamy young man. This is not a conventional life choice but it is the one I was meant to live. I would not trade my traveling life for being an upstanding adult any day of the week. Money cannot buy the experiences I've had. I've lived the life of an adventurer and for that I have not a single regret.

My Sophmore year in High school1983 standing in front of my van.  I am the one in the black Campagnola bike hat and had already been racing bikes for many years

I have sent many of these anniversary letters through the years, so many that they seem redundant. Traveling on a bike in a distant country is magical. Reading back through my anniversary letters, the magic never seemed to fade. This anniversary is more complicated, as there have been some sad times recently. It seems that despite my perpetual motion, the drama that I thought only touched other people has finally caught up with me.

See all of my anniversary letter here

The biggest hardship the road has thrown my way was losing Cindie in India. After being together for 15 years, married for 12, and bike touring for 8, Cindie and I divorced. This was not my choice. I did everything I could think of to win her back. I offered to stop traveling and settle down in India or back at our home in Arizona. In the end, I failed. This was not about the long years on the road. It was about Cindie's decision to reinvent herself. Her new life didn't include me, no matter where we lived. Last I heard, Cindie sold her touring bike and remains in Dharamsala, India studying Buddhism near the Dalai Lama. I have described more on my web site. Don't worry, I am not mad at her and did not trash her. There are not many women out there with Cindie's accomplishments on a touring bike and I salute her as I say goodbye. We had a good 15 years together that I will remember fondly. I hope you find what you're looking for.

Will I ever go home?

I have been considering this more since the divorce. Ten years is a long time to live with just three pairs of socks. I am no longer an idealistic college kid looking for the wonder life. I found it, lived it, loved it but I don't think I can do this forever. The day will come when one of these roads leads home. I had to fight to keep my house in Arizona in the divorce settlement and that effort made it more valuable to me. It's still rented but all my stuff is stored – locked in a shed untouched since the day we left. Everything I need to set up house, down to the dish drainer.

But I predict that it would bore the hell out of me.

For now, I plan to ride into a new chapter of my life. The page has turned and I am still on the road. Gretchen, a beautiful and intrepid touring cyclist from California, has been riding with me through three countries for several months. What a relief to know there are still people out there interested in a life on the road, that I don't have to be alone to keep living this way. I'm still too raw from the divorce to get tied down. Luckily Gretchen has vowed to be eternally single. Our only solid plans revolve around the limitations of the Indian tourist visas that force us to be out of the country for a minimum of two months. In early June we're going back to Nepal to wait out the monsoon in Pokhara. Nepal may not have the most stable government, but they do have a very reasonable visa system. None of this application business at the embassy, not knowing what length of time you'll be issued. I can cycle up to the border, pay a standard fee, and suddenly there's another stamp in the old tattered passport.

Gretchen on the road in Bangladesh in Dec 2011

Recent pictures from Rajasthan, India

In November, after five months in Nepal, the plan is to ride south and tour southern India’s famous beaches, Sri Lanka, and possibly an extra tour through India's big northern mountains. Sometime in the summer of 2014, I will fly to the USA for a good two year meander around my own country. This is a journey I cannot help but look forward to. My last tour in America was full of speaking obligations and book promotions, not at all relaxing, no time to reconnect with old friends. This next American tour will be strictly on my own terms. One small comfort of being divorced is no longer having to compromise about routes and time schedules.

After that: who knows? I feel a slight urge to settle down and plant a tiny root. But there are still so many places I haven't cycled through yet: Europe, the Middle East, the African continent. Would I really be able to leave those places unexplored? I doubt it.

Many thanks to my faithful readers. I know I met many of you on the road and I appreciate all those who offered shelter, kindness, and company to this bicycle drifter. I wish you all good travels and adventures where ever your journey takes you.

Tim Travis

Bikaner, Rajasthan, India


One of our first dates in Katmandu, Nepal in April 2011

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