Hello, and welcome to my trip journal. I assume you're one of my family or friends; or someone I met along the way. In case you don't know, I'm in the middle of a multi-year bicycle tour of the world at large.
Most of this page was written during my first month away. I'm updating my page after the first year of travel, so you'll find the updates in blue. Other than minor corrections, the rest of the text is as it's always been, since this is a record of the journey and not the destination. Occasionally, a reader will point out an error in the page. In such cases, I'll add a correction in this cyan color.
As of January, 2003 I just finished my second year of touring. I cycled 10,000 km (6,250 miles) through Vietnam, Australia, Russia and South Africa the first year, and a measly 3,000 km (1,860 Miles) the second.
You'll find a fair number of pictures on this and other pages. I have reduced the resolution and quality on the pictures way down out of respect for your bandwidth. The originals are over 1 MB each. If you see a picture you want, ask me for the original.
I'm a bit of a foodie (food junkie), so these reports will include descriptions of everything interesting I find to eat. I also spent a good part of my life around machines and heavy industry, so I'll be describing transportation and other interesting (to me) machines. I'll also be throwing in random thoughts, travel tips, and whatever else occurs to me as I go along. I tend to be a bit wordy, and part of this trip is educational for the kids on the list, so if you get bored with one section, just move on<g>. I'm also not afraid to throw down controversial opinions. If you agree or disagree with anything I say feel free to write and discuss it.
I appreciate comments, suggestions or any other type of feedback. I also like to receive random emails from
my friends or people I meet on the road, so feel free to send me anything you like except pictures, jokes or
any kind of large attachments. I sent out a broadcast email every month or two telling people where I
am, what I'm doing, and when new pages are available, which you are welcome to receive. For any of
these, write to me at
Please let me know where you heard about my page, or if you met me somewhere remind me of where and when we
Almost everyone I talk to about this trip wants to know the answer to four questions:
I'll try to answer these as well as I can.
The reasons for the trip are three fold. First off, I've been either working or going to school almost continuously since I was 12 years old, and it's time for a break. I don't regret my work life or the long hours I've put in most of my adult life, but it's time for a break.
Another reason is that I've wanted some kind of adventure for some time, but obviously not very badly since I never had one. My brother Steve and I toyed with the idea of a long bike tour ten years ago, but I decided to bury myself in a business venture instead. I figured it was time to stop talking, and start doing.
The third reason is that this is just a plain old mid-life crisis. Crisis isn't really the correct word to use. When people get into their 40s, a lot of them step back to evaluate where they want to go and what they want to do for the next part of their lives. I've been giving considerable thought to that very question, which could be phrased as "I can do anything I want, so what do I want". One thing I've found constant in my life is that my best personal insights have come while cranking away up a hill on a bicycle. Therefore, if I want more insights, I need to crank up a bunch of hills on a bike. Makes sense, right? By the way, if you are in or approaching your 40s, I highly recommend the book It's Only Too Late If You Don't Start Now by Barbara Sher.
I wrote the above paragraphs during the first week of the trip. Since then, I've managed to answer some of the questions I set out to answer, but you'll have to wait a bit for the answers. Suffice it to say that I am 100% glad that I made the trip, and I think everyone should do something like it.
Most of my friends are now convinced that "Midlife Crisis" has become a "Mid-Lifestyle Change". Starting year 2, it's tough to argue with that opinion. My best friend in Cape Town has come up with the perfect phrase to describe the experience: "Stepping Out Of The Machine". I'll talk more about that after the South Africa page which I haven't even written yet.
The total trip consists of:
As currently scheduled, the trip will last form Mid December, 2000 to May, 2001. There's a pretty good chance that it'll be longer than that, if I find a place I want to explore more.
Well, that plan didn't last long. I originally bought tickets all the way around the world to give myself a bit of comfort with the idea. For the first four months or so, when people asked me how long I intended to cycle I would answer "Six or eight months... or until I get tired of it". About month four or five I started saying "A year or two... or until I get tired of it".
I ended up spending more time in Vietnam than I planned, and by the time I got ready for New Zealand, I had decided to keep going. I threw away the tickets to NZ, Hawaii and back home and went to Russia instead... but I'm getting ahead of myself.
The Trip evolved as it did through a long process of accretion. The original kernel of the trip was the bike ride through Vietnam. I've wanted to visit Vietnam for a long time, but never badly enough to drag someone else along with me. Connie and I have been doing adventure vacations for the last five years or so, and I found I liked them quite a bit (thanks Connie). The idea for biking Vietnam came when she got a brochure from a travel company offering a bike trip from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). Once I saw that, I was convinced that I wanted to do that. Everything else has been built around that ride.
So there you have it. Probably more than you wanted to know, but life's full of compromises.
I bagged New Zealand and added Russia and South Africa about halfway through the year. I'll explain why I chose them when I get to that section.
The primary and most important part of doing a trip like this is to make it important and make it happen. I'm firmly convinced that anyone that really wants to do something like this can do so. Noelle has been in France for three months, and she's not all that well off. You may have to do without something else in your life (do you really need a new car or more clothes or lots of dinners out), but once you've made it a priority it all just works out. I think everyone should do this every few years. I also suggest you don't wait until you're in your 40s before trying it.
If you are interested in specifically how to travel without spending a zillion dollars, take a look at The Practical Nomad by Edward Hasbrouck. You can find this at any good bookstore, or at Amazon.com. In fact, this book is worth reading for anyone that travels for business or personal reasons. It's full of good advice on dealing with the things you'll find when traveling, and it also has a very complete explanation of the black art of airline ticket pricing, along with suggestions about how to work the system.
For multi-stop travel, you can save a ton of money by using a ticket broker. Airfare and hotels are likely to be the most expensive parts of any vacation, so these are the things you want to focus on when trying to save money.
When I priced my itinerary using a normal system like Travelocity or Expedia, it came out between US$4,500 and $6,000. Doing the same trip using a highly restrictive "Round The World" fare on one of the major airlines came out between US$3,600-4,500. The same itinerary from AirBrokers cost $2,500 and it would have been less than $2,000 if I'd done it a month sooner. This is for a 36,000 mile (55,000 km) trip with stops in seven countries, on six different airlines.
These brokers show lots of "Round The World" trips on their website because it's what most people are familiar with, but they can book any kind of trip you like, not just those that go all the way around the world. Don't get obsessed about your flights. Start with the places you really want to visit, then talk to one of these guys and see what they can do for flights.
Since I left on this trip, I've also found airline tickets are sometimes cheaper outside of the U.S. For example, after extensive research the best price I could find for a ticket from Sydney to Moscow was from an ordinary travel agent in Alice Springs. Try contacting a travel agent outside of the U.S. just to see what you can get. They can always mail you the tickets.
I've had quite a few questions about this topic of making a trip like this work, as well as a lot of people just writing in admiration of my ability and/or bravery exhibited in making it work. My MAIN OBJECTIVE with this page is to try to get YOU to go out and travel. I've learned a tremendous amount about life through traveling, and I think everyone should do it. I particularly would like to see more Americans travel. 80% of all Americans don't even have a passport, and the vast majority of all travel from the U.S. is to only about a dozen Western European cities.
I am quite happy to share my experiences with those that just want to read about them, but I would be even happier to push someone over the edge to the point where they get out and travel somewhere they would not have before reading the page. So PLEASE if you would like to travel but would like some advice on overcoming your fear or reluctance, or even practical advice on how to make it work write to me. I've had a few conversations on the topic already, and will be happy to do the same for anyone. This applies to any style of travel. You don't have to be a cycling wackbat to enjoy travel, and you don't have to leave your old life behind and turn into a gypsy. Simply try to go somewhere that's outside of your comfort zone, and you will almost certainly be happy you did.
Next - The Bike