A Decade Down the Road: My ten year anniversary reflections
March, 2012 (Sent From Rajasthan, India)
Previous letters can be found at
Please COMMENT on this letter
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
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
(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
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
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.
Bikaner, Rajasthan, India
One of our first dates in Katmandu, Nepal in April 2011