You’re Doing What!? Cycle Touring Where? Why?
Updated: Apr 21
I was restless, I wanted more. I’m not sure what that more was but I knew I needed to take a leap. To throw myself out there, take a risk, and see where it’d lead me. In hindsight moving to the UK on a working holiday visa wasn’t quite the leap I was chasing, but it did lead me to start cycle touring.
In May 2017 I moved to London. I had made the tough decision to quit my very secure, much loved job in Australia. I sold my excess possessions and moved to the other side of the globe. I believed what I needed was travel, and lots of it.
Quit my job in Australia and off I went.
Life in London
My initial plan was to travel through Europe as much as possible using the UK as a base. I envisaged taking short job contracts in the UK and then bouncing off to Spain or Romania for several months, before returning to find another job contract.
It was soon pretty clear that this would not be the reality for me. So, before settling into the 9-5 routine with yet another standard job (I shouldn’t complain), I managed a 6 week backpacking trip around the Balkans.
What does backpacking around the Balkans have to do with cycling halfway across the world you may ask? It was in Albania that I met Nick, a young English guy who was planning to cycle to a friends’ wedding in Canada. We chatted about all things bike travel. How he got started, how fit you really need to be (not very), and basically something sparked in me.
In Australia, I had seen the odd person cycle touring, but I always thought they were insane. “Europeans, only they would do something as stupid as to cycle across Australia” was my usual thinking. Yet something had stirred in me.
I went back to London and continued to build my 9-5 life there – work, friends, travel, repeat. I loved my life in London, made amazing friends, and traveled loads. I even developed professionally, although it was never a career move as such. I regret nothing of my time living in London, but something was left unsatisfied in me – and I just couldn’t shake this idea of cycle touring. Adventure travel was thoroughly circulating in my mind.
Life and friends in London was pretty good.
I always knew that my time in the UK had an expiry date. In two years my visa would expire and I’d head back to Australia. As I came to the end of my two years I began to get quite sad about the thought of leaving the UK and the life I’d made there. What better way to smother the sadness than by planning another trip.
Smother Disappointment by Bike Trip Planning
My original plan was to backpack my way through South America for a year en route to Australia. To me, backpacking through South America still seemed like a bit of a wild adventure full of challenge and excitement. I stuck a world map on my bedroom wall with thumb tacks and mused over my journey back to Australia, I wanted it to be something big, and challenging, not just travel. Adventure travel offers many benefits after all.
Several years earlier I had joined a horseback trip through Central Mongolia. I love horses so Mongolia was always on my travel list but I became fascinated by the historic Mongol empire and the nomadic peoples of the steppe. I considered traveling through Central Asia but soon discovered that budget travel options were limited, organised tours expensive and I wasn’t keen on hiring a car or driver.
I did, however, discover that it has become a popular cycle route for the more adventurous – tick. With the idea of cycle touring still lingering in the back of my mind I pounced on this and let my imagination run with it.
That was it, I had decided. I would cycle Central Asia.
The Evolution of a ‘Crazy’ Plan
I considered logistics and thought, well if I’m going to cycle Central Asia I may as well cycle TO Central Asia from London. Europe could theoretically be my training ground, a kind of warm up for the long haul – brilliant.
My brain just kept whirling around. If I’m going to start a bike trip all that way I might as well just keep going, I thought. I’d be part way back to Australia anyway, and after cycling Central Asia, surely South East Asia would be a walk in the park.
Hell, I could do it almost entirely overland (with the exception of a flight to Australia from somewhere in South East Asia). I’m not entirely against flying, but this could add an extra element of challenge (yes, long haul flights are terribly bad for the environment, but as an Australian who likes to travel there are limited options).
Now when people choke, splutter, and exclaim ‘you’re doing what?! Why?’, I just explain because I can and why not. Life after all, is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. Why not start a big bike trip.
Then I started the actual planning, and with that all the challenges of pushing through self doubt.
Trip planning in my teeny tiny London bedroom