People ask this question more than any other. I’ve heard it hundreds of times:
Are you crazy?
I rode a desk in misery from kindergarten to cubicle and nobody batted an eye. Now I ride a bicycle around the world I love and people think I’m insane. That is crazy.
But why are you doing this?
I’m traveling by bicycle because it’s my dream. Obsession. It’s not about cycling or camping or the open road, though I adore each immensely. It’s about the way touring makes me feel. From the saddle, I catch my reflection in the world and I love what I see. With my legs and a bit of stubbornness, I can conquer wind, rain, heat – even mountains. I amaze myself and am amazed at everything around me. It’s perfection and somehow I’m a part of it.
Why go now?
I’m blessed to find both my pocketbook and my knees in good health. I figured I’d hit the road before one or the other starts to crumble.
Where are you going?
I have no idea. I began my journey in Inuvik, NWT, in June 2009 and have been biking on a roughly eastern course ever since. Where I’m going is mostly irrelevant. I only want to enjoy where I am today, not tomorrow or a week or a year from now.
How long will you be gone?
I dunno. I budgeted to be on the road for three and a half years, but that doesn’t mean the trip can’t be extended or cut short. When the time is right to return home, I’m sure I’ll know it.
Why do you travel alone?
I’m not opposed to the idea of biking with another person. I just need to meet someone who doesn’t piss me off.
Why did you start in Inuvik?
The trek was conceived as a Victoria to St. John’s find-yourself tour that would take about four months. Then a friend of mine took a motorbike from Saskatchewan to Central America before riding a bicycle back to Canada. I was floored. The idea of north/south travel had never occurred to me, and when it did, it just about knocked me over. So, I started devouring books on the North, and the more I learned, the more I fell in love with the area. It captured my imagination so much that there was no question where my trip would begin.
Why didn’t you go to Africa?
I think Africa is its own trip. If I’m lucky enough to do another extended tour someday, that’s where I’ll go.
How much does a trip like this cost?
When I was growing up, my family never discussed politics or money. I kinda like that.
Okay. But how did you save for the trip?
I lived below my means for a long time. I moved into an ultra-cheap bachelor suite, ate almost nothing but rice and potatoes, stopped buying new clothes and avoided money vampires like cellphones and cable TV. I’m also single and debt-free, and I’ve spent most of my life trying to avoid car/house/alimony payments.
Of course, limiting the money going out doesn’t do much good if moolah ain’t coming in. I had a government job that I stuck with for more than two years because I knew it was my ticket to the road. I also picked up other part-time jobs – bartending, cooking, washing dishes – to make a bit of extra cash. It meant 14-17 hour days, but eventually my coffers did fill up.
I want to save money to travel. Any advice?
Work hard, save harder.
How did you get so much time off work?
I have all the time in the world. I quit my jobs.
You quit? During a recession? Are you a moron?
Nope. I think most people spend their lives toiling at jobs they hate so they can buy products to patch their youth. They have made their choice. I’ve made mine.
How far do you cycle each day?
This depends on many different factors – terrain, weather, time of year, traffic, border delays, etc. With a tailwind, I’ve cycled close to 200 km in a day. An average summer ride is around 125 km and a day of farting around drinking Slurpees is about 60 km. It all depends on where I’m headed and how badly I want to get there.
Do you cycle at night?
Only if I must. Bad things happen on the road at night.
What do you eat?
Rice is the only constant. It’s the perfect cycling food – lightweight, packed with carbohydrates and easy to prepare. Plus, it’s cheap and even the smallest jerkwater store carries it.
Have you lost any weight since you started?
I’ve lost around 20 pounds since I began my trip. I need to eat more rice.
Where do you sleep?
Anywhere as long as it’s safe. I’m a big believer in free camping so I try to sleep outside whenever possible. I’ve slept in fields, abandoned buildings, forests, gravel pits, cemeteries and under bridges. You name it, I’ve probably pitched a tent there. If I can’t find a spot outside, I’ll gladly surf a couch or crash on somebody’s floor. Hotels are a no-no because they’re just too expensive, though this may change as I get away from North America and Europe . . .
Where do you shower? You do shower, right?
I’ll take a shower anywhere and as often as I can. Lakes and rivers are my favourite bathtubs, but I’m not opposed to sneaking a freebie at a campground or a YMCA. People sometimes invite me into their homes, too, which is fantastic.
How do you communicate in other countries?
Some people pick up languages easily. I don’t. Besides English I speak basic French and Spanish, plus the small amount of Farsi I managed to pick up in the Middle East. For most countries, I learn a few simple phrases and hope they carry me to the next border. My secret weapon, when all else fails, is this little gem. It has been a lifesaver.
Do you listen to music when you ride?
No. Right now, the world sounds wonderful on its own.
What are you, some kind of Luddite?
Meh. Luddites wanted to destroy technology. I’m happy to ignore most of it.
Don’t you get lonely on the road?
Loneliness isn’t quite the right word. I miss people, but I don’t wish them here or want me there. All that stings is a desire to share the beauty of my experiences with the people I love.
Does your bike have a name?
Yup. Anything that spends that much time between my legs had better have a name.