Today I feature an amazing story of someone who is not only travelling the world, they are actually doing it on a bicycle! Please meet Thomas Andersen of Cycling The Globe.
What is your name?
Which country do you come from/call home?
Are you a backpacker/long term traveller/business traveller/live and work abroad?
You are cycling around the world? When did you leave and what is your route?
I left Copenhagen in October 2010 by bicycle. The first part of the trip went through Eastern Europe towards Turkey and the Middle East. I was lucky to make it through Syria, Jordan and Egypt just before the Arab spring in 2011. I then flew to India and cycled across this fascinating sub-continent. In South East Asia I made it across Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia before catching a short flight to Darwin in Australia. I cycled across the vast Outback towards Melbourne and Sydney.
I’m now in South America, cycling from Ushuaia in Argentina to Newfoundland in Canada. As we speak I have made it as far north as Ecuador.
How do you fund your travel (savings/work whilst travelling/other)?
When I left Denmark I had saved up money enough for one year of cycling on a 20$ a day budget. This was enough time to get me to Australia where I discovered the Working Holiday Visa. This visa basically lets you work for a year if you are under 30 years of age when you arrive. Luckily I was 29.
I ended up working 9 months on a huge cattle station in the middle of the outback. It was a true adventure in itself as you can see by my video.
After working in Australia I was able to continue my cycling trip in South America.
What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?
I’m certainly not from a traveller’s family as we always had our holidays in Denmark when I grew up. The advantage is that I know my own country very well. I do remember going on a bus trip to Venice in Italy when I was 13. It was all very exotic to cross the Alps and see the Mediterranean for the first time.
How is travelling on a bicycle a different experience to a more conventional method of travel?
Cycle touring is a very independent way of travelling. You choose when and where to go – no more waiting around for the bus that never comes or is way over-crowded. True, you have to put in a physical effort to get to your destination, but I think this will make you appreciate to arrive even more. Then it’s a very cheap way to travel as you only have expenses for food and sometimes a hotel or a hostel if you don’t stay in your tent. For me it is quite simply the best way to travel.
Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
I was lucky to cycle through Syria before the civil war broke out. As I got closer to the border between Turkey and Syria I was rather nervous about what I would find on the other side. Even back then Syria had a questionable reputation. To my surprise, what I found was only amazing hospitality from the locals who would invite me into their homes for a meal or for the night as soon as I stopped to ask for direction. I often wonder what happened to these wonderful people after the war.
What are your essential travel items?
On my bicycle the equipment I’m carrying is a tent, sleeping bag, stove, cooking equipment, and tools for repairing the bike. I also have a small netbook computer and a camera which I wouldn’t travel without. One of my favourite items is my Kindle ebook reader; so many books in only a few hundred grams, and the battery will last for weeks.
Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?
After travelling for 4 years I really haven’t met anyone who wanted to hurt me. Well, I lost my mobile phone to a beggar in Peru, but I should probably have looked better after it.
Do you have any funny travel stories?
I had special experience in Malaysia. When I arrived in the country I only knew one guy. I met him for dinner one night, and he introduced me to his friends in the next city. That night we were 10 for dinner, and I wasn’t allowed to pay for the food or for my hotel room. The next day things went crazy. My new friends had arranged for two police officers on motor bikes to escort me. Apart from the police, there were also several other bikes and cars that followed me the whole day. Amazingly enough the police stopped the traffic so on red lights I could just continue through. When we stopped in towns I was shaking hands with mayors and tourist directors, and even signing autographs and giving interviews. It was my 15 minutes, or actually 5 days of fame. Now I think I know how it is to be a VIP. After crossing the border to Singapore I was just a normal guy on a bike again.
Which is the worst place you’ve been to and why?
Cycling in India can be very challenging. The traffic is simply crazy, and privacy doesn’t exist. There were days cycling on busy highways around major cities where I was questioning what I was doing there.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
Once again I would say India! Yes, it is very much a love/hate relationship I have with this place. Most other countries try to be like the US. In India they don’t care much; they have their own food, their own clothes, their own movies, and their own traditions, all of which they see as much better than what we have in the West. I might be changing slowly, but for now India has the strongest identity as a country I have seen.
Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?
On the road I have plenty of time to think about future adventures. When I was in the cold mountains my plans seemed to include trips through hot and humid jungles. Now that I’m near equator my plans seem to have moved towards the Arctic. We will see…
Can you imagine life without travel?
If you were not travelling what would you be doing instead?
I used to be a telecommunication engineer before I left, so I might very well have ended up working long hours in a big IT company. I’m glad I didn’t.
What is the name of your travel blog and the url?
My blog is called Cycling The Globe and can be found on www.cyclingtheglobe.com
When did you begin your website?
I started my blog as I left home in late 2010.
Why do you write (for money/connecting with people/therapeutic/fun)?
I write to share the adventure with friends and followers around the world. If I can inspire a few people to go bicycle touring on their own I would be very happy. On the other hand the moral support I receive from my readers is also something that is very important for my own motivation – especially on hard days when the going gets tough.
What makes your site so unique and why should people read it?
As a cyclist you get to see every part of a country – not only the places mentioned in Lonely Planet. My blog is a chance to get to know places where no other tourists would go.
What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?
I like to take photos and they are a fundamental part of my blog updates. I think the summary of my 25 Favourite Places and Moments from Cycling Around the World has been my most shared post.
What is your favourite mode of transport? (plane/train/boat/car)
My bicycle of course!
Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?
The hardest thing about a trip is to get started. From all those 30,000 km I have cycled, the first 10 kilometers out of my hometown were by far the hardest. Once your trip is underway, everything seems to fall into place nicely. Also don’t over plan. I used to look a lot on maps before I got to a country, but now I usually just show up and talk to a few locals and other cyclists about the best routes. In my case, planning on the go works much better.
What has travel taught you?
When you watch the news on TV or on the internet, you always hear horror stories of disaster, tragedies and war. After seeing these places with my own eyes my experience is that the world is not perfect, but basically a peaceful place where people like to get on with their normal lives.
Quick fire questions:-
Favourite airline? Air Arabia
Favourite country? India
Favourite city? Sydney
Favourite beach? Palolem, India
Favourite food? Asado (Argentinian BBQ) with a glass of local red wine
Favourite language? Spanish
Please provide the following:-
Website url? www.cyclingtheglobe.com
Twitter handle? @cyclingtheglobe
Facebook page? www.facebook.com/cyclingtheglobe