Many people have asked me this question. Why would anyone want to spend this much time on a bike instead of visiting the places through conventional means, i.e. plane, bus, car or train? There are actually several reasons:
1. Cycling Without Borders
The theme of the ride serves multiple purposes. The world is full of barriers – physical ones such as the Alps or the Pamir Mountains. Bureaucratic challenges, that will require me to apply for a good number of visas on the way (very much looking forward to it). Cultural barriers, including the belief that we are different to such an extent that some questions may not be resolved. And psychological limitations, which others or we may have imposed on ourselves. Biking (as well as long-distance running, another hobby of mine) has shown me that boundaries can be pushed further. Thus, the title is also an expression of a deeply held personal belief.
2. Always Wanted to Do It
That is a slight exaggeration I will admit, because as a little kid I certainly did not dream of this at all. But ever since my first bike tour covering the West Coast of the US from Vancouver/Canada to Tijuana/Mexico I was thinking about dipping my feet in the Yellow Sea after a long and most likely at times arduous bike trip. Makes that trip look like the butterscotch candy tour.
3. Affinity to Biking
Point 1 might have been an exaggeration; this might be a slight understatement. I’ve been doing road and mountain biking for a long time and later took up touring biking. These trips have led me to various locations (including Iceland, New Zealand, the US, Canada and through some European countries). I also find that biking is one of the best ways to actually get to know a place. The pace is slower and one can take in so much more compared to driving enclosed in a car; one gets to know the people because of one’s own as well as their curiosity; the surroundings – weather, topography – have a much more immediate impact.
This is a related point as the trip covers areas that are – for the most part and for most people at least – unknown areas. I was lucky enough to be able to visit some parts of Central Asia on prior trips during which I conducted seminars on the international criminal court / human rights and so was able to catch a glimpse of the life of people in some countries on the way. This trip is destined to go beyond these brief stints, getting to know national cultures and the circumstances of people’s lives outside the big cities that seminars usually take place in.
This curiosity was very much inspired by having been an exchange student with Youth for Understanding during high school. Ever since my return I have remained involved with this organizations in various capacities and various countries. This gave me the opportunity to get to know people from many different cultural backgrounds, many of which I have not been able to visit.
I will admit to having craving for freedom. All too often we are caught in a type of cage – in our jobs or in everyday life. On a bike, you are your own master, decide each day anew where your wheel is pointing (save for time limitations on visas).
Summing Up …
All of my trips have always been an extremely enriching experience and I would not want to miss a single one of them. This trip promises more of the same – and beyond. It is longer and provides more challenges – physical, psychological, cultural and bureaucratic ones. Cycling without borders …