The more I read about and meet people bicycle touring, the less out there it seems. However, I still have yet to convince the whole world to try it. It feels a bit weird at first to tell people you’re riding your bike around the world, because either they wonder if you’re trying to get a reaction out of them, or you get a big reaction out of them.
Here are some of the questions we often get.
Caveat, this is still early on in our experience. It will be fun to create a follow-up post to this a year or two from now to see what’s changed.
1. What do you do when bicycle touring?
Other than spending anywhere from 3-10 hours/day on the bike, we take lots of rest stops for water and to re-up on food and supplies. It’s fun going to the grocery store every day (this is Erika talking), maybe even a couple times per day. You live life in smaller, slower chunks, mostly planning out only a few days in advance.
On our shorter trips we make a point to visit pubs and have more money to go out. Now being unemployed, having more time on our hands, we spend more time cooking, looking for cheap food, and weighing up cheap/free places to camp. We also spend lots of time just being.
One of my big goals which aligns nicely with this trip is to live slowly and be more present, enjoy stillness in nature, read books, people watch, and just watch life go by. The concept seems to be so foreign when we think about life in the city. I’m convinced we should all spend less time being so driven to achieve, and try living slowly.
2. Where will you go?
For now our plans are to ride from Seattle to Singapore, going across the US, then flying from Boston to Portugal in December, and then ride from Porto to Singapore (plus a few ferries). After that we’re unsure how much time will have passed and how much money we will have left, or we may have completely changed our plans.
We hope to ride through Australia, New Zealand, and then possibly South America or Africa. Who knows, maybe in Singapore we will turn around and go back to Europe via a different route. That’s one of the best things about low-cost bicycle travel is that you have a lot of freedom to change plans, and it’s often not about one single destination, but the many stops along the way and the time you spend on the bike watching life around you.
3. Will you quit your job?
Yes! We did, and we loved it. Neither of us really cared for our office jobs and have no plans to return to that kind of work. While on the road we may pick up some work here and there and do some work exchange through sites like Workaway, WWOOF, or Helpx. Or we can come house sit and care for your pets when you’re on holiday!
4. How will you afford it?
Since this has been a dream in the making for over three years, we’ve been able to save a good amount of money and paid off all of our debts in the process (around $40k AUD, mostly college loans!). However, we are challenged to spend wisely, and want to have some money left over and for emergencies. Our budget is on average $30-50AUD per day, depending on the places we visit. That means some days could be $80 and some $10! We used the Kelley’s nifty adventure travel budget over at Adventure Possible, another site where we found our inspiration for bicycle touring. I have become quite thrifty in my quest to see the world, and don’t mind spending a bit of extra time to save some money and to make it last longer.
5. Will you work while bicycle touring?
At first no. We wanted to not have to worry about working, unless the right opportunity came up. We worked tirelessly over the last few years and felt that while that allowed us to save and pay off debt, we were unhappy. If we find we need to work to keep going we will consider it, but for now we want to spend time being on the road and have lots of down time away from technology. If anything, we are interested in trying out more traditional work, doing work exchange on a farm, working in a garden, with animals. I also have a yoga teaching certification and hope to use that during our travels.
However some bicycle tourists do work on the road, and if it’s something you want to consider, there’s a lot of opportunity out there for remote work, work exchange, freelancing, and trying your hand at new trades.
6. Where do you stay?
We opt for a balance of cheap to free campsites, Warm Showers, Couchsurfing, and wild camping. It’s taking me a while to get comfortable with wild camping, but practice makes it easier each time, and it does save us a lot of money.
In Europe we plan to spend a few months doing work exchange in one place, maybe during winter.
7. Isn’t it too hard to ride a bike with all that stuff on it?
It can be, but the challenge is half the fun, and burning all the calories, we get to eat good food, and eat often! During each trip we learn a bit more about what we need and what we can go without. For this longer trip, we do have a few more comforts, and look to balance it out across 4 panniers and a handlebar bag each. One of us carries the tent, and one carries the banjo and guitar (yes we brought some lightweight, travel instruments with us, figuring we have the time to get better). Check out the rest of our gear list.
Moving slowly and steadily is key, and over time we have built more endurance. Needless to say touring has kept us in decent shape. We also made a point to buy bikes made for long days in the saddle as well as learn the right positioning and fit for our bikes to protect joints and see that we can keep touring as we get older.
8. Is it safe?
Yes and no, but bad and unfortunate things can happen anywhere and everywhere. We have at times paid a bit of money when we decided we didn’t feel great about where we were wild camping. We also try to ride on quieter roads with a bigger shoulder, and have time for detours to bicycle paths to ensure we’re riding on better roads for cyclists. We understand the risk in what we’re doing. Goes without saying but we feel it’s worth the risk, and choose to see the good side of it. We are bound to have the ups and downs, and a little worry can lead to good decision-making. What’s the point of worrying too much? I can worry at home or on a bike seeing the world.
9. Won’t you get sick of spending so much time together?
Something we joked about beforehand, but we do spend a lot of time together while traveling. When we first met we traveled together. We had our disagreements and times where we went our own ways. Spending lots of time on the bike gives you solo time. We feel this is enough for us, and enjoy experiencing most things together. Some days we do our own things, and then make plans to meet later. A bit of independence and lots of patience are required for bicycle touring with someone. 🙂
10. Can you ride in the winter?
You certainly can, but we haven’t yet and the aussie winter doesn’t count. We will have to spend winter somewhere to get across the world. We’ve planned to head to southern Europe or north Africa during the winter, and then “winter” down the road in southeast Asia. We’re tempted to try a real winter trip one day, but maybe after we are thick-skinned and experienced bicycle travellers.
We are sure to encounter a number of seasons and kinds of weather. I am looking forward most to riding in northeastern US in Autumn. We have brought wet weather gear, and figure it’s all part of becoming more resourceful and resilient. Not letting the weather get to us keeps us going. We also dream of wet days where we cozy up in the tent, hunker down in an american diner, or find a little corner of a local library where we can wait out the storm.
What are some good bicycle-touring questions you’ve been asked? What questions do you have about bicycle touring? We’d love to hear from you.