“Not all those who bicycle are lost.”
The other day I read an article by a fellow Eugenian who is also cycling around the world, and I couldn’t help but laugh because every single myth she busted is true for us as well. In honor of that, I’ve decided to dispel many common myths about cycle touring from my own perspective.
Didn’t you get lonely? Isn’t it dangerous?
There is absolutely no time to get lonely when you are traveling alone! Between the travelers you meet, the families who take you in, and the time it takes to do simple tasks (such as setting up camp and doing laundry in the river), there are simply not enough hours in the day to feel alone.
And no, it is not inherently dangerous to go alone either, even through countries such as India which have an abysmal reputation for women. Of course, some precautions are necessary (such as wearing the local appropriate clothes and asking women, and not men, when you need help), but I have found that as a young women I am taken in more often and have more people looking out for me, so really, going alone my first nine months proved to be an enormous advantage.
Now that I’m no longer alone, the biggest misconception about cycling and camping as two is that it’s romantic. It’s a great relationship builder, it’s fun, and we absolutely love it, but it’s anything but romantic. By the time we crawl into our tent each night we are stinky, muddy, and sometime soaked. We are usually tired and sometimes grumpy, and instead of a a nice bed to curl up together on, we have two very separate sleeping bags. Its a wonderful experience to travel as a couple, but it’s definitely not romantic.
Isn’t it hard? Don’t your legs and butt hurt?
It’s funny, before I started out I too figured that cycle tourists were extremely in shape and were basically super humans to do what they do. Now though, I see that you certainly don’t need any training beforehand, and that it’s really up to you to choose how fast or hard you push yourself. Kevin and I are pretty slow in the sense that we don’t cycle too far or too far in a day (on average about 70-110km on paved roads, 40-70km on unpaved), and that we take lots of breaks to trek, work in hostels, or more deeply experience the culture of a place.
I too thought my butt would hurt, but my hard leather Brooks B17 saddle has done the trick. The only time I ever got saddle sores was when we cycled for a week in the 45C heat here in Georgia, and since I was sweating so much constantly, the sweat accumulated into sores. Besides that I have had a single problem with pain in the bike yet!
You are too young!
Nope, I’m the perfect age for this. I don’t have a house to pay off or children to care for, so logistically, these next few years represent the freest years I will ever have. I also believe that the best time to start traveling is during ones late teens or early twenties because what you see and experience in different places will shape how you see and live in the world for the rest of your life. That being said, if I was thirty, fifty, or seventy-five, I could easily argue why those are the best times to cycle as well. There are children cycling with their parents, couples in their thirties who quit their jobs and rented their houses in order to experience a different sort of life, and retired couples who have chosen life on the road as their retirement plan.
You must know a lot about bikes! Were you a professional cyclist before this trip?
I had never changed a flat before this trip and knew absolutely nada about bikes or bike maintenance. When I bought my bike in Oregon, the amazing shop owner set me all up, giving me new break pads, cables, and anything else he knew I would need for later down the road. This way I had the necessarily supplies to keep my bike running and could just find someone more bike savvy than I to install them when needed. And now, of course, I have Kevin (who happens to know a whole lot about bikes) along side me as my personal bike maintenance professional.
I’m anything but a cycling professional – even after fifteen months I wouldn’t call myself a cyclist – I’m merely a girl with a bike. The reason I chose of cycle is not because I’m bike obsessed (though to be honest I do know love it) but because it’s such a great way to travel and live.
Are you doing it for a charity? Are you sponsored?
Nope! Selfish right? But here is the thing. By living my life simply and happily, I feel that I can bring about more of a positive change than if I was to suddenly label my trip “for something or other.” This is my time to explore and develop my ideas about our world, and what I learn from this trip, will impact what I choose to do forever more. This trip isn’t about finding myself (I “found myself” on my last trip through South America and since I know myself now, it only seemed natural to live this life), breaking records, or proving anything to anyone, it’s simply about living as happily as I know how.
As for the sponsorship… that’s unfortunately a no as well. Though I hadn’t realized it before embarking myself, there are thousands of other bike tourers setting out each year, many of whom have much more “impressive” journeys than my own. Because of that, no company really has any reason to sponsor me. That being said, so many individuals have helped me out along the way so I often feel like I am sponsored by the whole world.
You are brave!
Probably the most common misconception about cycle touring is that you have to be brave to do it. There is absolutely nothing brave about it, the hardest part about this whole thing is leaving, but once you do, the rest comes naturally.