I travel alone but this is not a solo expedition. In every country, on every road, I am blessed to meet incredible people who guide me on my way:

My family
Back home I have wonderful parents and a beautiful sister with a family of her own. Everyone was incredibly supportive as I planned and eventually undertook this adventure. They were nervous to see me go, but they bit their tongues and rallied behind me as I followed my dream. For that, I can’t possibly thank them enough.

Dutch Cycle from Regina, Canada
Freddy and his crew taught me a million things about cycle touring and set me up with a top-notch bike that still makes me grin like a fool when I look at it. If you’re ever in Regina, take an afternoon to discover the Dutch touch for yourself. These guys are second to none.

Karen from Nelson, Canada
As I was grinding over the NWT/Yukon border, tongue hanging out and legs burning, Karen pulled up and invited me into her vehicle to get away from the wind. Once I was sitting down, she took the lid off a pot and presto, I was eating delicious salmon and buttered potatoes. It was the only supper I got that night, and I was floored by her thoughtfulness. Karen, from one cyclist to another, thank you!

William from Dawson, Canada
Caught in a rainstorm and cold beyond shivering, I let myself into William’s empty hunting cabin to dry my dripping clothes. He arrived a short time later, but instead of getting angry or kicking me out, he invited me to spend the night. William is a saint. I spent the night in a cozy cot – my first bed in nearly two weeks – as a warm fire crackled in the old stove beside me.

Gerald and Jullian from McBride, Canada
This wonderful couple invited me to stay at their house, where they stuffed me to the gills with delicious food. Jullian even did my laundry! The next day, the two drove me to the foot of Mount McBride so I could get off my bike and do some hiking. When I asked what I did to deserve their generosity, Gerald smiled and said, “Nothing. It just makes us happy.”

Ralph and Sarah from Moerkapelle, Netherlands
My first day in Europe was a comedy of errors, and by late afternoon I was completely lost. I didn’t even know what village I was in. I sat for a while on a park bench, trying to make sense of my map, but eventually I gave up and walked to a nearby pub. There I met Ralph and Sarah, who insisted that I stay to watch the football match on television and afterwards sleep in their guest bedroom. Ralph even let me borrow an orange shirt so I would fit in with all the other crazy fans at the pub. And when the night came to an end, I dug into my pockets for my wallet, only to find that my new friends had paid my entire bill. Such kindness toward a complete stranger still boggles my mind, but I am forever thankful. Ralph and Sarah turned a miserable day on my bicycle into an affection for Holland I’ll carry always.

Dany from Vilvoorde, Belgium
Late one night, not far from Brussels, I found myself standing in the pouring rain with a broken tent pole in my hands. Soaked and without a place to stay, I resigned myself to a cold night on the streets. Then I happened upon Dany. He kindly invited me to his house where he insisted I eat supper and dry my gear while his son fashioned a new tent pole for me. The pair even gave me maps and helped me plan my route to the French border. I don’t often need to be saved, but I did on that night and Dany was my guardian angel.

The Ollersdorf Football Club from Ollersdorf, Austria
Soaked and cold, I pulled into Ollersdorf and asked if I could sleep under the awning of the stadium. The manager kindly agreed and I happily settled into my first dry night in a week. I was almost asleep when the senior team invited me into the clubhouse for post-practice drinks. They wouldn’t let me open my wallet all night, and when the last bottle was finally emptied, the players insisted I sleep inside so I could take a hot shower in the morning. It may have been a small thing for them, but it was a huge deal for me.

“Angry Mob” from the Azerbaijan/Iran border
This border exit was a single chain-link door blocked by hundreds of screaming and sweating travelers. The guards at the gate were enraged, cursing and pointing their machine guns at the crowd. Amid the chaos I found myself lifted by unseen hands and shouldered to the front of the queue. My bicycle followed a few moments later. Quickly the guards whisked me through the door, and as it clanged shut I turned to look at the mob that had pushed me forward. The faces I saw on that hot awful day just looked at me and smiled.

Yun from Yining, China
China overloads the senses and I felt inundated by the time I reached the northwest city of Yining. I saw thousands of faces, all of them curious and none especially friendly. Yun was the exception. He waded through a throng assembled around me and quietly asked if I wanted some company. We shared a meal that night and later he insisted on buying me a hotel room. In the morning he knocked on my door and thrust two bags of groceries in my hands. “For the journey,” he said before shaking my hand and disappearing down the hall. I spent five eventful months in China and that simple act of kindness is still my fondest memory.

Ben and Michelle from Yabberup, Australia
I had a short chat with Ben and Michelle on a lonely stretch of highway. A half hour later Ben reappeared in his truck and said he hoped I didn’t think him “weird” for asking if I’d like to stay at the couple’s house. I readily accepted the invitation. On one of the coldest nights of the year I was treated to dinner and wine beside a crackling fire, plus a cozy sleep in a backyard caravan. Why? Because Ben and Michelle are good people – the very sort you hope to meet – and there will never be anything weird about that.

Gideon from Nillup, Australia
With rain driving on his Hobbit feet, Gideon shook my hand and grinned, revealing toothless gums and a heart of gold. He said I was welcome to stay in an unused caravan on his farm until the storm passed. I later asked the clerk in the general store if it was a good idea, and she just smiled. “He’s nuts – sometimes he farms naked – but he’s harmless.” That was good enough for me. The next morning Gideon clapped me on the back and gave me a bag of oranges he’d collected from his yard. I realized it didn’t matter if he was crazy. His kindness meant everything.

The community of Lorinna, Australia
I planned to visit Lorinna for two weeks and ended up staying for four months. Though the valley was beautiful, what kept me there was the people. They patiently taught me so many things I never knew I wanted to learn, from tending sheep to gardening to the lost art of cribbage. Thanks to their hospitality, Lorinna will always be one of my fondest memories of my time in Australia.


3 responses to “thanks

  1. It was a pleasure and a privilege to meet and get to know you Mike. I am very happy that you have decided to go home and put all your wealth of experience into practise. Hope there isn’t as many rocks where you are but if there is you will be an expert on digging them out!!! One can only hope there will be a day when we meet up again and share a beer and a game of cribbage, until then stay safe and keep in touch from time to time. Many hugs to you from Julia and Dylan – still in Lorinna!

    • Julia, it’s so nice to hear from you! It’s funny that you mentioned my rock-pulling days in Lorinna. I was just thinking about that the other day and I decided that bicycle touring is soooo much easier. Did you receive the cribbage board that I mailed from New Zealand? The lady at the post office was a bit clueless, so I really hope it arrived. All the very best to you and Dylan. Say hello to the folks in Lorinna for me!

      • Hi Mike
        Yes we have just received the cribbage board and what a lovely surprise it was. In time for Dylan’s birthday today in fact. We have already had a game on it with Jack and my son Michael and it is very posh, it will be good with our games with Jack.. It was so very kind and thoughtful of you. I hope your trip back is going well and not too cold yet. Spring has arrived quickly and I need to get a move on in the garden. Both Dylan and I have been a little lazy for a few weeks and need to motivate ourselves. I will say hello to everyone for you. There has been lots of changes in Lorinna with a number of new families moving in, around seven, a number of houses being built and some for sale. Damien has knocked his place down and is building a new house. He has sold off 50 acres of his property and there is a house going up there. Marion sold and now lives with her partner in NSW, she has a baby girl about a year old now. We keep to ourselves these days and don’t see Damien very much although Jack still comes over fairly frequently. Sabine is back but over in NZ at present having difficulties in getting back into Australia. Dylan and I do in fact talk about moving and have been looking at land on the internet, probably somewhere closer to a centre and smaller. We look around on the northern coast of Tasmania. It is probably talk at the present as we still have lots to do but maybe we may just do it one day, we will see. Anyway keep safe and keep in touch whenever you pick up a rock and think of us, we love to hear how you are going and to know you are well and happy. Many hugsxxx

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