“Ultimate freedom. An extremist. An aesthetic voyager whose home is the road.”
People always ask me where I am going. Not just that day or week, I mean, overall. How long will I be on the road, what countries will I be passing through… It is understandable, I mean, you see a gal on a bike and you figure she has a destination, right? And I do always have a plan, my plan just tends to change dramatically on a monthly (sometimes even daily) basis.
I had it all figured out when I left. I had exactly three years, as the university classes I had already completed, as well as my entrance exam scores for nursing, would expire after that. So, I would spend a year in Asia, traveling East from India, then a year working in New Zealand, then, for my last year, I would cover South America from top to bottom. I have now changed my mind about nursing (which is a whole different topic for another time), which means I have absolutely no time limit. I have also done incredibly well at living cheap. Though I had a small budget to begin with, I have been able to stretch it farther than I thought possible, and as long as I continue to live this way I will be able to travel for longer than a year before I am desperate to find work.
So here is my new plan. I will cycle through the rest of Nepal, spend some time in the Eastern mountainous region and trek for a few weeks, before heading back across Nepal again (picking up my boy who shall be arriving in March along the way), in order to make it back to the Indian Himalayas by mid-May. I will spend the summer in Ladakh and Kashmir (norther India), before flying out to Kazakhstan, where I will spend a few months cycling through Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. From there, I will have to fly (or take a boat) over the Caspian sea to Georgia where I hope to spend the winter teaching English. Once the weather starts to warm up (by April), I will hit the road and cover Turkey and the Balkans, ending up by the next winter in the Czech Republic, where, once again, I will spend a few months teaching English. By spring I will head back out and into the Alps (working a bit as I go, picking fruit and farming), notably through Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and France, finally ending my Eurasia tour in Spain. By then, three or so years from now, I will be broke and finally ready to head to Australia, where I will spend a year making as much money as I can (and of course cycling through the country as well). With money again in my pocket, I can head out to do a year in South America following the Andes. Oh, and I need to add New Zealand in there as well at some point, I just haven’t decided when yet.
For those of you who just counted up all those years, I am pretty sure there were at least five. For a girl who doesn’t even know where I will be sleeping tonight, never mind next week, this seems slightly ridiculous. But that is just how I am. When I think of an idea, I get excited, I figure it all out, and I am a hundred percent sure I will do it. Until, a few days or weeks later when I find an even better plan, scrap the old one, and find myself a hundred percent sure of the new and improved version. Maybe I will break my leg and suddenly my plan needs to be changed. Or maybe, in a year, I will be sick of traveling and want to go home (highly doubt this one). Or what if National Geographic comes knocking on my (tent) door with an irresistible job offer (alright, I have a feeling this one wont happen either). You get the point. Who knows where I will be, what I will feel like, and what my plan will look like in a year, never mind five. But I need a direction, at least I need to know which way to head as I am cycling, so right now, after heading East through Nepal, I will be changing my original route and begin heading west through Central Asia than Europe.
Why has my plan changed so dramatically? Well time and money is what stops most people. I now have all the time in the world (whereas before I had a three year limit), and though I can’t say the same about money, when I realized that I could cycle the world for five dollars a day, 2,000 dollars a year (not including visas or flights mind you, so more like 4,000 a year), well, money becomes less of an issue as well. So, with time and money out of the way, my plans are mostly based on what I want (the mountains), and what I have heard from other cyclists. Before leaving on this trip I had no idea that Kyrgyzstan is a very popular and supposedly amazing place to cycle tour. Nor did I know that Georgia, Turkey, and the Balkans are just about every cyclists dream. And I definitely would not have considered Iran until meeting countless other tourists and tourers alike who have told me just how friendly, safe, and wonderful it is there (unfortunately, due to my citizenship, Iran is not going to be possible for me). Though I live cheap, I will also need to work along the way a bit (before Australia I mean), and had I not met other travelers who have done it as well, I would never have known that Georgia and the Czech Republic are currently hot spots for English teachers.
There are a few other key factors that play an important role when creating a “plan,” especially when you plan to live out of your tent most or all of the time. Weather is probably the most challenging, but also the most important. I want to be everywhere during the best season, which is absolutely impossible. I want spring or summer in Eastern Europe (particularly the Balkans, Turkey, and Georgia) as well as summer in Ladakh and the Alps to be able to cycle and camp throughout the mountains. Which leaves winters. So, since I have all the time in the world and need a bit of money, I have decided I will spend my winters along the way working in countries such as Georgia and the Czech Republic where I will be during the coldest winter months. Of course, I won’t be making much, a few hundred dollars in three months at most, but it will be more for the experience, a place to call home for a while, and free living than anything else.
Another unfortunate issue to take into account are visas. For instance, I wanted to add Iran to the list (before Turkey) as it is an absolutely wonderful country to cycle through), but as an American, and even Canadian, the visa is practically impossible to get, especially in Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan where I would be applying. So, unfortunately for me, Iran is out. India is also quite frustrating with its visas, as are Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, so I will be spending weeks in a few capitals along the way begging (and bribing) my way through.
So the real answer, when someone asks me where I am headed and how long I have is I have absolutely no idea. I have all the time in the world and a whole lot of countries out there to explore, so ask me again, in two, five, or seven years, just what exactly my route ended up looking like.
I’m interested in how cheaply you’ve managed to live as I know that my own plan will be dictated by money, and whether I get tired of riding or not. Have you had to work hard to live so cheaply or is it easy than you expected?
I want to try to string together a route that is the reverse of your route – from Europe, to Turkey, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, across the Caspian to the ‘Stans. That bit I can figure out, but then riding south, via China, to the Karakoram Highway into Pakistan or into northern India and then Nepal seems less clear. Many people heading East from Europe seem to head from the ‘Stans across northern China, which doesn’t appeal that much to me. I think if I went north I’d end up wanting to be in Mongolia. Anyway, I wondered whether there is a particular reason that you will fly from the Indian Himalayas to Kazakhstan, rather than ride the Karakoram Highway into China?
Hello! I have met many people who are doing and have done our route! The reason I am not riding up and flying instead is because I do not want to ride through Pakistan or Afghanistan, hence the flight. Mongolia is definitely on my short list as well as a must see country!
Also, it has been easy to live for five dollars a day, but that is because I want simple. I want to live out of my tent, eat only local food, or cook for myself. Of course you need to enjoy this simplicity, if not, you could still easily do Asia for ten or so with more comfort!