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The story of how I saved money, quit my job, sold my possessions, and set off to endlessly travel by bike around the world. My Plan

My 3 Books
I write, self publish and sell books about touring

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Places I have been
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How can I afford this?)

India and Neighbors
May 2010 to present

Alaska / Canada / USA
May 2008 to April 2010

New Zealand
Sept 2007 to May 2008

Australia
Sept 2006 to Sept 2007

SE Asia / China
Nov 2004 to Sept 2006

South America
June 2003 to June 2004

AZ, Mexico, and Central America
March 2002 to April 2003

How I started
The 5 years before I left


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 Written on the road as I travel around the world on my bicycle


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Equipment Pages Index

Introduction
How Much to Bring and Weight
Some Advice About Advice
A Note to Perspective Sponsors and Gear Suppliers
(See more about Sponsorship)

START HERE for Touring Bikes and Commuting Bicycles
Custom Touring Bicycles and Bike Upgrade Buyers Guide
Bicycle Touring Frames 
The Steel Repair Myth.
Steel and Aluminum Derailleur Hanger Repair.
Bicycle Touring Wheels
Phil Wood: The Best Bicycle Hubs

Panniers / Bike Bags
Cargo Trailers Vs Panniers
Tires for Bike Tours..
Bicycle Touring Saddles.
Women's Specific Bike Touring Saddles
Brooks Leather Touring Bicycle Saddle Care and Conditioning
Bike Computer
Touring Handlebars, Bar Ends, Adjustable Stems, and Padded Grips.
Kickstands
Sealed Cartridge Headsets

How to prevent flat tires
Bike Route Trails and Maps

Camping
Buying Camping Equipment
Tent and Ground Cloth
Sleeping Bag
Sleeping Pad
Camp Stove
Pots and Pans
Water Filter
First Aide Kits
Solar Power for Camp

Clothing
Bike Touring Shorts

Electrical
Short-wave Radio
Computer
Internet
mp3
Bicycle touring lights

Books
Packing list
Pictures of Equipment Failures
Shopping


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Sponsors - Economizing/The Fugal Traveler - Stealth/Free CampingBudgeting - Charity or Cause - Receiving Donations - Health Insurance - Dreaming of Travel - Leaving It All Behind - Videos About bike tour Finances - How I pay for long term bicycle touring main finance page

Dreaming of Endless Travel

Bicycle touring is magical; anyone who has ventured off on two wheels has felt it.  Few activities combine the benefits of exercise with the excitement of travel and personal growth.  These special feelings are as individual as the people riding their silent machines on the back roads of the globe.  A common denominator has to be the feeling of freedom; where life is boiled down to its simplest of terms.  Only a few possessions can be carried so there is less to worry about.  A steaming plate of spaghetti by a campfire is more enjoyable than an expensive night out on the town.  Spring cleaning is riding in the rain.  Keeping up with fashion is remembering to put on a different shirt every day.  On a bike tour stress melts away and life is beautiful.

I have absolutely loved the simplicity and freedom of my own tours.  My only complaint was not flat tires or rain but instead every tour ended and I had to return to normal life.  At first I went through withdrawals but eventually a monotonous daily routine was reestablished and another journey entered the planning stages.  Working and saving money, even if it took many years, was just an intermission to my episodes of really living life.  It was like listening to a radio station that ran 95% commercials while the remaining 5% played my favorite song.  I have experienced these highs and lows far too many times but felt powerless to do anything about it.  Many years would pass before I discovered a way to endlessly ride my bike throughout the world.

I have to go back in time to explain how this happened.  I met my wife Cindie in 1995 while attending graduate school at Northern Arizona University.  We had a two-wheeled romance with our first date on a mountain bike ride which led to more cycling outings.

Early in our relationship, I took Cindie on her first bike tour around the Yucatan Peninsula in southern Mexico. I took the cheap way down, riding a bus to Cancun, and met Cindie in the airport well after dark. I unpacked her bike and assembled it. She was excited to have a romantic getaway and asked if we were going to one of the beaches Cancun is famous for.  I have never liked touristy beach resorts and explained we were going in the opposite direction.  When she asked where we were staying for the night.

I answered, "We will see what comes our way and take our first opportunity to camp."

She showed incredible trust when she nervously climbed on her bike and followed me into the Mexican darkness.  We found a construction site and set the tent up. In the morning, we met friendly Mexican workers and shared our coffee while joking around. She was starting to see that traveling could be more than pre defined tourist destinations.

We rode from one small Mexican village to another, camped on the beach, and visited several famous Mayan ruins including Chitzen Itza.  One morning while staying at a ranch house, I woke up to find the grandmother teaching Cindie how to make tortillas by hand even though, at that time, Cindie spoke no Spanish.  This did not stop them from communicating friendship and cultural sharing.  The magic of bicycle touring is not always about riding a bike but also the unforeseen situations that traveling slowly creates.  She saw the raw beauty and the simplistic freedom of the road and was hooked.

Upon returning home she bought a used road bike and learned to draft behind me then progressed to pace lines in group rides.  She was not afraid to expand her cycling skills by trying new things.  I saw a lot of potential in her as a partner and a cyclist.

Two years later our relationship changed when Cindie expressed an interest in buying a tandem with me.  At that moment I knew, as a life long cyclist, this was the ultimate sign of commitment because when a couple buys a tandem it means they plan to ride together for life.  It was time to ask her to marry me.

I proposed during a bike ride by simply pulling up next to her and nervously asking, "Will you ride with me the rest of your life; will you marry me?" 

She answered, “Yes, if you can catch me” and shifted up and sprinted away.  

We were married in a Las Vegas drive thru called, "The Tunnel of Love." The ceremony consisted of us riding up on single bikes, the Justice of the Peace spoke, and we switched to our brand new tandem and rode away. We have been joined in this symbolic way ever since and don’t have to be on the same bike to be connected.

While living in Prescott, Arizona Cindie found a job as a Geologist in a consulting firm and I worked as a Special Education Teacher.  We bought a modest house and all the stuff to fill it but beyond that neither of us liked buying unnecessary things. We worked out how much we were earning and our expenses.  We calculated that we could live on 25% of our income and the remaining 75% could be saved every month.  With our savings growing we had choices.  At first Cindie wanted to pay cash for a new truck but I longed for the magic and freedom of the road. 

The secret to being able to save this aggressively was simple. We cut out the big-ticket items that other couples with similar incomes were buying on credit including cars, electronic gadgets, or anything that would create a balance on a credit card. The only debt we allowed was the mortgage for the house. We purchased a small two-bedroom house that was half of what we could afford and four times less than what lenders suggested we borrow.  We had no use for a big showy house with payments that consumed a substantial percentage of our income.  Financial bondage wasn’t our American dream.

Talking Cindie into giving up her successful career, comfortable house, and committing to a multi-year bicycle tour was not easy but on March 30, 2002 we set off to peddle our way around the world.  At this point in time I still saw my bike tours as temporary so, for our trip, we estimated we had saved enough money to travel cheaply for seven years.  To make this money last we had to live on a total daily budget of US$20 to $25 a day.  This was a huge adjustment for a couple who had professional jobs.  We learned to copy the habits of locals by eating where they ate, shopping in open air markets, and staying in the same hotels as truck drivers.  Between cities we became experts at finding hidden places on the side of the road to free camp for the night.

We spent the first year traveling through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.  After a six week break to visit family, we spent the second year riding through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile.  It was the freest I had ever felt and I was intoxicated with it. 

During the initial months of the trip we defined our journey in terms of stamps in our passports, miles ridden, and drawing a line on a map.  It didn’t take long to embrace the deeper rewards of travel; spending time with locals and observing how they live.  For example, being invited into a family’s home because we looked wet, cold, and lost was a journey deep into the religions, traditions, and food customs of the region.  What they cooked and how they ate told volumes more about their lives than taking pictures out a bus window.  Traveling on a bicycle placed us on the ground floor of society but that was not enough.  In order to absorb the culture around us, it was just as important to have time off the bikes as time in the saddle.  Riding bicycles became a means of meeting people rather than a goal in itself.  Interacting with locals reduced our daily mileage but we gladly made the trade.  We did not care about the fastest route but instead chose a route well off the beaten track that guaranteed immersion into the colorful cultures that define each region.

At the end of the second year I could not escape the thought that I only had five years left to travel.  I should have been happy with the remaining time but instead I was scared.  The world is a big place and five years was not enough time to see it all. This magical feeling of freedom had an ending point just like my previous trips.  We would eventually have to return home and save up for another adventure.

Cindie also loved life on the road with its daily discoveries and endless opportunities to learn and grow.  These two years pushed her passed the point of no return and she didn’t want our trip to end either.  We repeatedly asked each other, “How can we sustain our travels while living on the road?”  As with every challenge we faced we worked together as a team and looked for the answer.

Like many other bike tourists we tossed around the idea of creating a book.  I was regularly writing for our web site and enjoyed expressing myself in this way and it seemed to be a logical progression.  When we asked others, who had written similar books about its feasibility, we were discouraged to hear horror stories of stacks of unsold books, lost investments, and were consistently advised not to attempt it.  We were told, "Having a good story to tell in an entertaining way is not enough.  The book has to be sold in high enough numbers to make it economically viable”.  Discouraged, we looked elsewhere for solutions.

While in Latin America, we came across a few travelers who played guitar with a hat out or sold handmade jewelry on the street.  They were some of the most interesting drifters we had met. They had guts, faith, or something special because they appeared to be just scraping by.  I admired their creativity and tenacity to stay on the road.  Cindie and I had none of their skills.  We don’t sing, play instruments, or make crafts.  We had to find our own answer to our puzzling question of sustainable travel.

Instead of thinking of what we couldn’t do we forced ourselves to think outside the box and focused on what we could do.  When we thought about it, our web site, www.DownTheRoad.org, received thousands of visitors each month and was similar to publishing a small magazine. 

The question changed to, “How do we sustain our travels utilizing the internet and our web site?”  We often traveled in places where electricity was scarce and had as little as an hour of internet connection time every two weeks.  Despite these limitations an internet based solution still held promise.  We worked hard at finding advertising similar to magazines.  A lot of deals fell through but in a month we had worked out a small but growing income.  We were on the right track and knew we just had to open our minds a little more and see what else was outside the box.

We sold third party books through Amazon’s bookstore commission sales program from our web site.  The 4-5% commission didn’t add up to much but the total number of books we sold each month was in the hundreds.  Our thoughts returned to writing our own book and selling it directly from our web site.  Inside the box we were afraid to create a book because of the failures of others but outside the box we knew we were different.  We had a busy web site to generate interest in our story.  This meant a book could not only be fun to write and provide a wonderful creative outlet but could also be profitable enough to sustain our travels indefinitely.

Cindie and I agreed that we could not bare another trip ending and decided to, once again, chase a seemingly impossible dream and self publish a book about our travels.  Working together and overcoming all of the challenges we faced while traveling through Latin America was our source of confidence to jump into this huge project because we knew, as a team, we could do anything we set our minds to.  To self publish a book we had to take a substantial gamble with our remaining travel funds.  If our book failed financially we would have to go home early but if it was successful we could earn a tour of the globe that never had to end.  It was a gamble that translated to how much or how little of the world we could see.  We worked hard to write and publish our first book, “The Road That Has No End” and our dream of endless travel was on its way to turning into a reality.

After South America, and the release of our first book, we toured Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, a nine month loop in China, Laos, back to Thailand, a three month rest in Malaysia where we started work on our second book, Singapore, a year tour in Australia, and eight months in New Zealand where we took a two month break editing our second book and enjoying the countryside.  Then we flew to Alaska and finalized and published our second book, "Down The Road In South America" before riding to the lower forty eight and a nineteen month tour of the USA and Canada, which as of 2009 we are currently on.

It was in Australia and New Zealand, some five years after we started the trip, our web site and book sales grew and we started breaking even financially and our temporary tour evolved into a perpetual bicycle touring lifestyle and the fear of this trip ending is gone.  I finally found the radio station that plays my favorite song non stop and all I want to do is turn it up loud and enjoy every minute of it.

In the future we plan on visiting all the bike-able places we have not been to yet including, but not in order, India, Central Asia, Russia, The Middle East, Europe, Africa, and more.  Along the way there will be more books and there is even talk of a DVD movie project.  We have no plans to stop traveling, writing, and exploring new opportunities!

Obviously, traveling this many years is having profound affects on us but not in ways many would think.  These changes are not static but instead happening slowly, as we experience more of the world and constantly reevaluate our values.  Peering deep into ourselves is the true journey instead of the superficial line we draw on a map.

When we were on temporary trips the simplicity and freedom of a bike tour was a vacation from our regular lives of working, and surviving the rat race.  Looking back at the years leading up to our departure we wonder how we juggled all the complexities of modern life.  There were bills to mail, cars to fix, schedules to keep, bosses to impress, and a million other things to get done before the end of the day, month, or year.  We used to say, "There aren't enough hours in a day to do all the things that need to get done."  Now we have far less things to worry about and feel like we have all day to see what will come our way.  After several years of living a simple life on bikes with our possessions being limited to what can be carried we have evolved into a very simplistic yet open minded way of looking at life.  Everything is beautiful in its own basic way and the great weight of worry and stress has been lifted from our shoulders.  We are free to explore, learn, and drift. 

Before this trip we needlessly complicated the world around us by over analyzing everything until we found faults and became angry.  Traveling has caused us to make peace with our surroundings.  For example, in our own country, instead of seeing good and bad politicians and political parties we see a democracy and a healthy debate.  Instead of seeing National Parks that need infrastructure upgrades we see pristine mountains.  Obviously if everyone were like us nothing would get done but we have never wanted everyone to be like us.  This is our dream and our reality; we have made it as painless as possible.

Another big change we have noticed is our growing freedom from "want."  During the years on the road, visiting rich and poor alike, the idea of "I want" will never be the same.  We used to walk through stores and fight the urge to buy all the things we thought we wanted with that little piece of plastic in our pocket that promised immediate gratification.  It was stressful to want something, ponder the consequences, and use restraint to deny the purchase or, give in to our desires and buy it and often feel guilty later.  So many people in this world live on a fraction of what citizens of developed countries consider the bare essentials and yet find far more happiness in their lives.  The most content people we have met in our travels all have a clear sense of the difference between want and need.  After riding in their countries and staying in their houses we have learned to open our minds to new perspectives.

The answer is not to make or borrow more money in order to have more possessions because acquiring material things will never satisfy wanting more.  There will always be something else to want.  The secret to happiness is to be content with what you have and not want things you can not afford.  It is much more fulfilling to feel fortunate when your work has earned enough to cover all your real needs and have something left over for extras.  It is a shift in perception from agonizing over wanting something like a new TV to being excited when the household's finances have gone so well that you can have something extra.  The TV is no longer wanted every time it is passed in the store but rather an unexpected reward for a job well done.

This many years on the road have taught Cindie and me to throw away the big list of things we would like to own and be content with what we have.  We now find happiness in the simple pleasures of life and don't seek our identities in the things we own.  It sounds so simple and idealistic but the results have been monumental.

After reading this you may be looking at your own life and thinking of ways you can live out your dreams.  Dreams are individual so there is no specific advice I can give, no blue print to success, no ten steps for achieving your life's goal.  The solution is as individual as the dream.  I can only suggest that there are probably creative ways, often unimagined out of the box ways, to turn your dreams into reality.  Patients, creativity, and guts are the tools that will take you anywhere you want to go.

You can experience the places we have been to with thousands of pictures, Cindie’s daily journal, videos, and learn how our future travels unfold by visiting our web site wwww.DownTheRoad.org

Sponsors - Economizing/The Fugal Traveler - Stealth/Free CampingBudgeting - Charity or Cause - Receiving Donations - Health Insurance - Dreaming of Travel - Leaving It All Behind - Videos About bike tour Finances - How I pay for long term bicycle touring main finance page

 

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