A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single stepConfucius
The most important thing is not to think too much about the round the world journey as a complex trip but to take the first steps towards day 1:
- Get some inspiration from other touring cyclists;
- See what kind of equipment they use;
- Check the visa requirements for those countries where you need a visa;
- AND actually just quit your job as soon as you have saved up enough money for the trip, because it really doesn’t matter what starting date you have chosen, you will never feel 100% prepared and ready for such a great challenge.
About one year before the start we downloaded a countdown app on our mobile phones so that we could keep track on how many days there are left until February 1, 2020. We named the upcoming event “Bike around the world” and somehow it sounded way too mighty. Don’t get us wrong, we want to have a real mighty ride, but it’s our adventure that should be mighty and not the stress around it. So Valentin made a little change on the countdown app and the event was renamed to “Start biking around the world”. It might sound silly, but this little difference is a really good help for us to overcome a lot of fears and doubts that we still have around the journey. And as Alastair Humphreys said: “If you can cycle 5 km or 10 km then you can even cycle 100, 1000, 10000 km and so on.”
To be very honest, we cannot imagine that we will have cycled around the world in a few years’ time. And that’s not our goal either. We consider this journey as our new job. New tasks, new challenges, and we won’t get a salary in the form of money, but the rewards will be encountering different cultures, seeing beautiful landscapes, eating local food in all those countries we will bike through. When you start a new job, you don’t think of the last day of your employment say five years later either. You don’t think of what kind of hard tasks you have to solve in one year or in two years. The same goes for us. We don’t care about the high climbs in Tajikistan yet, because we haven’t even left Stockholm. At the same time it’s good to have some part goals in case of having a bad day and you have to remain in high spirits. For us it’s visiting Iran, famous for its hospitable people, or stroking koalas in Australia. 🙂
Most of the adventurers say that the hardest part of the trip is leaving. We really hope that the journey itself will be easier than everything we are going through now. Because the main issue with the leaving part is that it is both hard and a very long process! You begin giving up your current life and leaving for the great adventure already the day when you make the commitment: OK, let’s start planning the journey and let’s leave in one or two years! And these years have tested our nerves and personalities greatly. We have had to adopt ourselves to a totally different lifestyle, where everything we can see around ourselves in our apartments, at our offices, in our neighborhood will disappear and we will bicycle in pouring rain and through hot deserts. We have to carry enough water with us, we must eat way more than we do now. We must ride our bikes carefully on a busy road where the risk is very high to get hit by a truck. We will sometimes not have the opportunity to take a shower after a long summer day and fixing a puncture in a snowstorm is not the funniest part of the journey either. BUT! After almost two years we have realized that all these things won’t happen at the same time and we are going to experience a lot of funny and beautiful things too. It still feels a bit unrealistic that we will be able to switch from a very comfortable lifestyle to a sometimes pretty harsh one. A long-distance bicycle trip is not a long holiday. It is a very hard physical and mental work but we recently read a wise quote on the internet: “If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not great enough.”
What did cycling across Sweden teach us?
This summer we biked from the northernmost town of Sweden, Kiruna, to the last outpost of this incredibly long country before the Danish border, Malmö, 2055 km in total. It was a very eventful and hard biking trip with unexpected challenges. People somehow don’t talk that much about Northern Sweden, most of the tourists visit only Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. The massive Northern parts of Sweden are still undiscovered even for most Swedes. Oh my God, not for us… We biked through the unforgiving wilderness of Lapland in heavy rain where there are only untouched forests and crystal-clear lakes between the small villages. And of course we witnessed the midnight sun above the Polar Circle.
Swedish people are said to be distant and not so talkative but we experienced the opposite during our trip. If you appear on a bicycle anywhere and anytime, curiosity and hospitality will surround you. People gave us food, coffee, even money (!) that we in the end had to accept although we rejected it. We made the most of the unique “freedom of roaming” law (Allemansrätten) in Sweden: we could pitch up our tent anywhere and anytime as long as we didn’t disturb other people’s private property.
We thought that camping out would be difficult. The last time we slept in a tent was in the nineties. So we were a bit worried about how comfortable we would feel with that part of the trip, but after having cycled 90-100 km every day, we could fall asleep anywhere. 🙂
Can you imagine extreme heat in Northern Sweden? 34 degrees and right those days when we were pedaling on the hilliest part of the whole trip on the High Coast (=Höga kusten). A telling name, right? We felt exhausted many times during the first half of the adventure, but all those nice encounters with friendly people and the flat roads of Central and Southern Sweden compensated us big time! So what was the lesson? Pedal hard but not too hard. Eat a lot but actually even more than you think you need to. And just rest as much as you want, because a biking adventure is not Tour de France. 😉
We already now feel strong because we have taken the very first steps towards this unique journey. How it will go, God knows, but we will do our best.