Read on for answers to common questions about our trip. But first we have a list of so many kind things that have happened to us on the road. Very often these things came to us from complete strangers, many of whom are now good friends. If you don’t see your question answered here, ask away!
Why are you doing this, and why by bicycle?
After six years of working in London we wanted a change of scene and also to take our lives back from the routines of daily work and commuting. We have always loved travelling and dreamed for many years of a “big trip” before taking the plunge. A bicycle really allows you to see a country and meet its people. The bicycle is also an environmentally friendly means of transport and gives you great freedom to go where you want, when you want.
Where did you get the idea from?
We were searching the internet for various ways of doing long trips and found a site by Alastair Humphreys. We loved the idea and ran with it. We had never bike toured before starting this trip.
How did you finance the trip?
We did not win the lottery and we were not born with millions of dollars in our bank account through family inheritance. We lived simply and saved as much as possible. We cooked most of our meals at home. We never bought things like clothes full price, waiting instead for the sales, and we didn’t worry about following the latest fashion trends or buying the newest mobile phone. We constantly compared prices on things took advantage of anything we thought would save us money. Perhaps most importantly we bought a house that was half of what we could afford and we overpaid on our mortgage as often as we could. Read more about financing your dream tour.
What is your daily budget?
When we started we were not sure how much life on a bike would cost and so we set a preliminary budget of ₤30 a day. After six months on the road we did our sums and discovered that we had spent almost exactly that, although this figure included some pre-trip expenses such as insurance, immunizations, moving our posessions into storage with family in Canada and buying some supplies for the trip. It also included going to a wedding and a fair number of hotels and restaurants as we found our feet with our new lifestyle. We budgeted €25 a day for much of our time in Europe, which we met but with difficulty. Once in Syria and Iran our spending plummeted by more than half. Our final cost for our trip worked out to $23 U.S. per person, per day.
Where do you stay most nights?
In more developed countries we mostly camp and the longer we are on the road the more wild or free camping we are doing. At first Friedel was very nervous about this and hardly slept at all! Now she is more comfortable with it and our free camping places tend to be among the most beautiful places we have stayed during our trip. In Europe we only took hotel rooms occasionally if, for example, it was raining and we were soaked through. Things don’t dry out well in a tent. In the Middle East and cheaper destinations we use hotels a lot more. A few times we have used home-stay websites like Warm Showers and the Hospitality Club to arrange stays with local people. Read more about our experiences with home-stay websites and wild camping.
Aren’t you scared?
We are asked this very often and we always reply by asking what we should be scared of. People come up with all kinds of answers. We should be scared of being in an accident, being robbed, being harassed and a large number of other things apparently. But if we’ve learned one thing from this trip it’s that people are nice. Yes, there are obviously bad people out there but the vast majority are kind and caring. As for accidents, well they could happen even if we never left our home town so travelling doesn’t put us at more risk.
What kind of camera equipment do you carry?
We use a Nikon D80 for most of our shots. We started with a a Tokina 12-24 wide angle and a 50mm fixed lens for us but the Tokina broke in late 2007 so we replaced it with an 18-135mm Nikon lens. We would have liked the fancier 18-200mm Nikon lens but you can’t have it all, especially when you’re not working! We also carry a Lensbaby set around with us but have hardly ever used it. It weighs nothing though and is so tiny we haven’t bothered to send it home either.
On top of that we have a Sony T9 but we really only use that for shooting videos and occasionally we use it to snap quick pictures if we don’t want to take out the big camera. Truth be told, we are not so pleased with it. It doesn’t always handle exposure well for the more difficult scenarios, like high contrast scenes.
We love our SLR, but having said that it’s more about knowing how to use the gear, thinking a bit about how to frame your shot, starting to “see” interesting pictures and then maybe doing a bit of post editing… much more so than “how big is your camera”.
Where post processing is concerned, we have the free editing program GIMP, which is every bit as good as Photoshop for the average user. We also have the free version of Photomatix, which lets you take three pictures (one normal exposure, one underexposed and one overexposed) and put them together to give you a rich photo.
How far do you go on a typical day?
We started with an average of about 60-70km a day and by the end of the trip we often did at least 80km and were comfortable with days of up to 120km. Once, we even did 160km but that wasn’t so enjoyable! We try to have at least one day a week completely free of cycling.
How long will your trip last?
We started in September 2006 and traveled full-time until September 2009, when we were a bit tired of being on the road.
I am going on a bike trip. Do you have any tips?
Here are a few “handy hints” we’ve learned along the way:
- Don’t get hung up on distances or the need to cycle every mile. Just make sure you are having fun, even if that means doing less than you thought or taking the bus once in a while.
- You can often find water from taps in cemeteries and public buildings like hospitals and town halls.
- Denture cleaning tablets are great for cleaning your bottles on the road. Pack a few. They’re light and cheap.
I want to travel around the world too by bike. Where should I start?
Read, read, read! Here are links to our favourite sites.