The Best Moments Of 2014 - Plus, The Lessons I Learned Along The Way – Bicycle Touring Pro

The Best Moments Of 2014 – Plus, The Lessons I Learned Along The Way

2014 has been a pretty amazing year… and I wanted to take a moment to look back on everything that’s happened.

Over the last 12 months I have cycled across 15 different countries on 3 different continents (North America, Europe and Asia); I published the new and improved version of “The Bicycle Touring Blueprint” – which is now available as both an eBook and a paperback book; I’ve been featured on the cover of Ventana magazine and in dozens of different sports/outdoor/cycling/lifestyle website articles, blogs, magazines and podcasts; I’ve met a ton of amazing people along the way; and I’ve been able to help thousands of people from across the planet conduct their own incredible bicycle touring adventures by way of the website here at Bicycle Touring Pro.

Please take a moment and scan through the content below to see a summary of the things I accomplished this year as the Bicycle Touring Pro. If you’re interested in learning more about a particular event, bike ride, or tour, just click on the accompanying photo and you’ll be taken to a page filled with additional information.

Featured On The Cover Of Ventana Magazine

2014 started off well… and I was kind of blown away when I discovered that I was being featured on the cover of Ventana magazine (a local lifestyle magazine in Southern California). I knew they were going to write an article about me and my cycling exploits for a story inside the magazine, but I had no idea that they’d put me on the cover. The image they decided to feature on the cover is a self-portrait that I took during my 2013 bike ride across the small African country of Lesotho.

ventura california bicycle path

Cycled Down The California Coastline

On January 1st, I moved out of my condominium in the resort town of Park City, Utah, USA and drove to Southern California, which is where I would spend the first several months of the year. I had rented out my condo for an entire year, which would give me the time and money to travel… so I spent the first few months of the year living with my parents at their home in Ventura Country. While I was there I conducted several short bike rides down the coastline, including a memorable day ride with a close family friend and his daughter who were conducting a bicycle tour of their own down the Pacific Coast.

Darren Alff working in flower garden

Worked In Preparation For My Bike Tour

The main reason for me being in Southern California was to work and prepare for my European bicycle tour later in the year. One of the reasons I’m able to travel as much as I do is because I do a lot of work up front, and then once I hit the road, I allow the work I did several months prior to continue generating an income for me. So while I was in California… I was working. But I also made time to catch up with some of my old friends from the area, as well and go and visit some of my relatives who live in Southern California.

coronado-island-bridge-bike-path

Visited Coronado Island, California

One memorable trip I took during my time in Southern California was when I drove down to Coronado island and visited with my aunt and uncle for several days. I brought my touring bicycle down with me so that I could ride around the island and do some training for the much long bicycle rides that I would be doing once I reached Europe and Asia later in the year.

dragon chasing cyclist

Anza-Borrego Desert Trip With My Aunt & Uncle

While visiting with my aunt and uncle on Coronado island, we decided to take a short 3-day trip to the nearby Anza-Borrego desert. I loaded my bicycle and a bunch of my camping gear inside my uncle’s VW camper van and then the three of us drove out into the desert. While we were there, we went on a couple short hikes, enjoyed some home-cooked meals, and I got some pretty amazing photos with the large metallic artwork that has been scattered throughout this remote region of Southern California.

bicycle touring how to guide

Published “The Bicycle Touring Blueprint” As A Paperback Book

Just a week before I was scheduled to leave for Europe, I published the new and improved paperback edition of “The Bicycle Touring Blueprint.” This book has helped thousands of people from all around the world conduct their own self-supported bicycle touring adventures… but up until this time it was only available in ebook format. I was incredibly excited to see the first copy of the book when it arrived, and I was shocked at just how big it was (412 total pages). No wonder it had taken me so long to write and put together! If you are planning a bicycle tour of any kind, this is the book you want to read before you hit the road. It is a complete how-to guide to bicycle touring – with information on what to pack, how to plan a safe and enjoyable route, how to find a good travel partner, safety tips and a whole lot more. Get yourself a copy right now if you haven’t done so already.

Flew to Poznan, Poland For The Start Of My Bike Tour

Then the day came for me to finally leave home, board the plane and fly to Europe for the start of this year’s big bicycle tour. After boxing up my bicycle and all of my belongings, my parents drove me to the airport and I said goodbye. Leaving on the trip this year was a little different for me because I left not knowing when I would come back. My parents and I both knew that it might be a good year or more before we would see each other again.

girl on bike with castle in background

The Danube Waltz Boat & Bike Tour With Kasia

After flying to Poznan, Poland, I spent three short nights there and then flew to Munich, Germany for the start of the week-long Danube Waltz boat and bike tour with a company called Rad & Reisen. This was an incredible bicycle touring vacation in which my friend Kasia (who joined me on the tour) and I were escorted down the Danube river on a large river boat filled with about 200 other bicycle travelers from all around the world. The boat would stop at various points along the river and then we’d get out and ride our bikes. During this short but incredibly enjoyable tour, we went to four different countries and three major European cities. This is a bike tour I would love to go on again with my parents (or at the very least, my mom. I know that should would love it!).

bigfoot-coffee-shop-poznan

Making Friends & Playing Table Tennis in Poznan, Poland

After finishing the Danube Waltz boat and bike tour, I flew back to Poznan, Poland and stayed there for two short weeks. While I was in the city, I worked on the Bicycle Touring Pro website, took ping-pong lessons at a local school, and socialized with my growing group of friends in the city. I was also using this time to prepare for the next major leg of my travels, because I knew that once I left Poznan it was going to be a long time before I would have access to the comforts of home (a shower, electricity, Internet, etc).

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Bicycle Toured Alone From Poznan to Gdansk, Poland

The time finally came for me to leave Poznan, however, and I enjoyed the solo cycling adventure from the city of Poznan to nearby Torun and then finally the city of Gdansk on the edge of the Baltic Sea. Some of the highlights along the way included a short 1-night stay at the home of a friend, camping in the woods, and taking photos of my travels and sharing them with the world (thanks to my new smartphone and a Polish SIM card).

European cyclist with teddy bear on bike

Cycling With Dodo Across Poland & Lithuania

The day I left Gdansk, Poland, I ran into another young bicycle traveler who was heading in the same direction as I was. We decided to cycle together for a while… and we ended up staying together until arrived in Vilnius, Lithuania. Dodo (that wasn’t his real name, but it was the name he asked me to call him) was a good, strong travel partner, who had left his girlfriend at home for a few months so he could cycle around the Baltic Sea.

Romantic Latvia house scene

Cycling Across Lithuania and Latvia On My Own

I stayed in Vilnius, Lithuania for a few days, while Dodo continued cycling north on his own. He was on a schedule, so he had to leave me behind. So when I finally left Vilnius, I too had to readjust to cycling on my own. Luckily, I enjoyed bicycle touring through Lithuania… and I found my time in Latvia to be quite enjoyable as well. I loved the forests in these two countries. The people were friendly as well, the prices were affordable and the food was relatively good.

Happy man on bike riding through forest

My Self-Supported Tour Of Latvia & Estonia With CityBike Ltd.

I then spent two weeks traveling on my own as part of a self-supported bicycle tour with an Estonia company called CityBike Ltd. The company offers this self-guided tour to people from all around the world… and I must say, it’s a good one! The route isn’t the most interesting route in the entire world from a scenery standpoint, but if you had a friend or loved one to cycle with you, this would make for an excellent bicycle touring holiday. I stayed in charming hotels and B&B’s each night, cycled across several of Estonia’s largest islands and, overall, had a very good time exploring the European countries of Latvia and Estonia on my bicycle.

tired-bicycle-travelers

Cycling 650 Kilometers Across Finland With My Friend Rob

After finishing CityBike‘s self-guided bicycle tour in Tallinn, Estonia, I then took a ferry boat over to nearby Helsinki, Finland and met up with my friend Rob, who flew in that same day to meet me in the city. We spent two nights in Helsinki, and then we cycled north together for 650 kilometers. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Finland or not, but it turned out to be one of my favorite (if not my absolute favorite) destination that I visited this year.

bicycle camper

Mucking About & Making Friends In Central Finland

When Rob left me in Central Finland, I conducted another short 3-day self-guided bicycle tour with a company called Upitrek, and then I had a choice of either cycling back to Helsinki or simply staying in the area and getting some much-needed work done. As much as I would have enjoyed the bike ride back to Helsinki, I decided to stay in central Finland, get some rest and do some work. Turns out, it was a great way to spend the week. I got a lot of work done and I had a blast sleeping in the forest, bathing in nearby lakes and practically living at the public libraries I found along the way.

cyclist riding in mountains on the isle of man

One Week Cycling On The Isle Of Man

When the time came for me to leave Finland, I had to take a train from central Finland back to Helsinki. I then spent two nights in the city and then flew to Dublin, Ireland, where I immediately jumped on a boat and was ferried over to the nearby Isle of Man. Before this trip, I had never even heard of the Isle of Man, so I wasn’t sure what I was going to find there, but my trip to the island turned out to be a good one – even if it was super cold, wet and windy most of the time that I was there. I spent five nights on the Isle of Man and then took the ferry back to Dublin, Ireland.

ireland-wicklow-mountains

Biking & Camping In Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains

Back in Ireland, I cycled south through the Wicklow Mountains and Wicklow National Park. Because I had about 10 days to kill, I decided to live and work in the Wicklow area, rather than try and cycle around all of Ireland in that short amount of time. So like in Finland, I camped in the woods each night and then cycled down into the nearby towns during the day to use the Internet, bath in the public restrooms, and get food at the local supermarkets. It was cold and wet most of the time… and when I look back on the year, this was probably one of my least favorite moments.

camper doing a handstand

Cycling From Holyhead, Wales to Liverpool, England

The same day that Fee and Johanna left Ireland, I took a ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, Wales… and then I spent three days cycling from there to nearby Liverpool, England. This was my first time ever in Wales, and I was kind of surprised to discover that I liked it there much more than some of the other places I have visited in the UK in the past. During my first night in the country, I cycled up a steep mountain road and camped at the top of this mountain with some of the best views I have ever encountered on my travels anywhere in the world.

man in orange jacket riding a ktm motorcycle off road in romanian mountains

My Month-Long Hiatus in Sibiu, Romania

My plan at the beginning of the year was to spend an entire month cycling around Scotland after my travels with Fee and Johanna had ended in Ireland. But I wasn’t enjoying myself in Ireland and I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend another month in the area. So I changed my plans entirely and flew from London, England to Sibiu, Romania – where I rented an apartment and spent an entire month working, living and playing in the city. The highlight of my time in Sibiu was renting an enduro motorcycle and riding it up into the nearby mountains. It was a super challenging and incredibly memorable day!

english hikers

Celebrating My 31st Birthday With Jill, Shaun & Katelyn

After my month-long bicycle touring hiatus in Romania, I flew back to London, England and spent three days in the city with some friends of the family who hosted me and treated me like a king on my 31st birthday. They took me out to eat at a murder-mystery buffet lunch, fed me ice cream and Mexican food (my favorite!), took me hiking in the English countryside and helped me prepare my bicycle for it’s flight to Taiwan.

Shanghai China at night

One Night (And A Long Layover) In Shanghai, China

The flight from England to China was a long one, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it might be. I had a 21-hour layover in Shanghai before my connecting flight to Taiwan, so I used my time in the city to explore this new country. I rode the bullet train into the city center, found a hotel where I then showered and stashed my stuff, while I spent the rest of the night walking around Shanghai and taking photos. I was bombarded with people trying to sell me “sexy massages” and then I returned to my hotel for a quick sleep, before taking the subway back to the airport and flying to Taiwan.

Two bicycle tourists riding past an impressive Tao Temple in Taiwan

Full Circle: Cycling Around Taiwan For One Whole Month

My month-long bicycle tour around Taiwan went way too fast. Traveling with my friend Kevin (from Australia) was a challenge for me because I had to wake up earlier and adjust to cycling with a partner. But riding with Kevin was also a lot of fun. It was nice to have someone to talk with and ride with each day. He pushed me to keep going when I was tired and wanted to stop, and as a result, I really enjoyed our bike ride around the island together. Cycling in Taiwan was Kevin’s idea… and I’m glad he suggested it, because Taiwan turned out to be my favorite bicycle touring destination of any place I visited this year.

street scene Taitung Taiwan political elections

Working & Playing Table-Tennis in Taitung, Taiwan

After Kevin flew back to Australia, I stayed in Taiwan on my own for an additional 40 days. I took up residence inside a small hotel in the city of Taitung, Taiwan and I spent my days working, playing table-tennis with a bunch of the Chinese-speaking locals, and took several long bike rides along the beach. I even made friends with some of the people living in the city.

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2 thoughts on “The Best Moments Of 2014 – Plus, The Lessons I Learned Along The Way

  1. Danny says:

    Taiwan is awesome isn’t it?! Great people, awesome culture, decent living, edible food (most of the time), and near-perfect riding.
    Are you going to continue touring in 2015? If so, where?

    • Bicycle Touring Pro says:

      Yes, Taiwan was wonderful… and yes, I will continue bike touring in 2015. I’m planning to cycle through Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Bosnia, Denmark, Sweden, Norway… and maybe Finland and a few Caribbean islands as well this year. Stay tuned for more!

      2015 will be my 15th year in a row of bicycle touring all around the world!

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