The other night I went bowling with some of my old friends from high school. I’ve been away from home for almost a year now, so when I told my friend Adrienne that I was planning yet another bicycle tour, she gave me a puzzled look and asked, “Darren, when are you going to tell me how you find the time and money to go on all these trips?”
I laughed when she said it, because she isn’t the first person to ask me this question. In fact, I get it all the time! After all, I’ve gone a bike tour every single year for the last eight years. And now I’m in the process of planning for my ninth and largest bicycle tour of all time!
So how exactly do I make these bicycle tours happen every year? How do I find the time to go and the money to make it happen?
I’ll tell you! And I’ll use my upcoming tour as an example.
First of all, if you are a regular reader of the site, you should know that for the past two weeks or so I’ve been writing a multi-part series titled, “How To Plan A Bicycle Tour 6 Months In Advance.”
What you don’t know is that I’ve been writing this series because I am currently in the middle of planning a bicycle tour of my own.
In order to capitalize on my upcoming tour and give you a working example of how I plan for my bicycle adventures, find the needed time to get away, and build the necessary funds, I am going to use my upcoming tour to show you exactly how I put everything into place.
My goal with this article is not to brag about my upcoming bicycle getaway, but instead, to show you how I plan these things out, so that you can follow in my footsteps and begin planning your own bicycle excursions.
To Start, You Gotta Make The Decision!
In the first part of my series on “How To Plan A Bicycle Tour 6 Months In Advance” I stated that the first thing you have to do with any bicycle tour is decide that you are actually going to go. I wasn’t making this stuff up. This is how all of my bicycle tours have come to fruition. I’m usually just sitting at home, out with friends, or maybe on a run when I decide in my own mind that I am going to leave on a bike tour.
In this case, I had just finished my interview with Brook Silva-Braga, where I spent a good half-hour talking about traveling around the world. I was so pumped up after talking to Brook that that very night I decided I was going to go somewhere. I didn’t know where I was going to go, how I was going to make it happen, or how I would raise the necessary funds, but I did decide that a bike trip was in my future.
This is the most important step. Decide that your tour is actually going to happen!
Then Decide What Needs To Happen In Order For You To Leave Home
Once I had made the decision that I was going to leave home on another bike trip, I made a list of the things that might need to happen in order for me to get away. (You should note that by this point in time I was planning to be away for anywhere from 3-6 months)
Here is the list of tasks I need to accomplish before I can leave home:
· Rent out my condo
· Find an apartment or series of apartments to rent for 2 weeks – 2 months at a time in Europe or Central America
· Buy airplane ticket(s)
· Sell my car
· Sell other possessions that I no longer use or need.
· Set up online banking and know how to use it.
· Buy a new digital camera (My old one got damaged when I was in Aruba)
· Create a budget and raise money.
· Get all my marketing work in order so I can hand it off to someone else to do while I’m gone.
· Get finances in order so I can easily pay my taxes while overseas
· Organize the basement so all my stuff fits down there
· Buy new clothes
· Get new black panniers so my bags will match the briefcase/pannier
· Have at least a month’s worth of articles written before I leave.
· Let everyone (friends, family, bicycle touring readers, etc.) know that I am leaving and ask for free places to stay.
· Get systems in order so I can keep in touch with personal and business contacts via Skype, email, IM, etc.
· Contact the media about my plans and get press coverage.
· Input important coordinates into GPS
· Get the power and gas switched into the names of the people renting my condo
Just as I recommended in my series on planning a bicycle tour, I made a list of the things I thought I might need to accomplish. Then I moved onto the research.
Do Your Research – Decide Where You Are Going To Go
Now that I knew I was going away, the next step was deciding exactly where I was going to go.
Right off the top of my head, I had two different places in mind. The first place I thought of going was Central America. The second place I wanted to go was Europe. I had two great places that were both calling my name, but I wasn’t 100% drawn to either location. So what did I do? I created a list of the pros and cons for each location. It took me about five minutes to write out the list, but by the time I was finished, I knew where I was going to go. Here is the list I made:
· I know people there that I’d like to visit
· Easy access to the Internet
· Easy to get around
· Christmas Markets would be great to see
· I could learn German
· Winter weather
· I’ve been there before
Central America’s Pros:
· Summer Weather
· I’ve never been there before
· More of an adventure
· I have 1 free place to stay in El Salvador
Central America’s Cons:
· I don’t speak Spanish
· I would need to get a new mountain bike with touring capabilities
· I would need to get a new set of panniers
· Limited access to the Internet in some areas
· Safety traveling alone?
· Unknown foods (I’m a vegetarian)
Once I had made the list, I knew that I was going to go to Europe. I’d love to go to Central America, but at this point in time I need to be connected to the Internet on a daily basis. I have contracts for work that need to be kept and I can’t afford to be out of touch for more than a few days at a time. In Europe there is an Internet Café on practically every corner, but In Central America I have a feeling that finding Internet access would be a bit more difficult.
After only five minutes of thinking, I knew that I was going to spending the winter in Europe. Now I just needed to figure out how much this whole trip was going to cost.
Create A Budget
As I suggested in my article on preparing a budget, I always begin by looking at how much money I currently have and how much I can afford to spend, and then plan my trip in reverse.
In this case, I’m going to be traveling in Europe on an incredibly small amount of money… and I’m doing this for two reasons.
The first reason I want to do this tour on a super tight budget is because I really don’t have that much money to spend at the moment. I’ve got a number of other projects I am investing in and I barely have the funds to go out and eat, let alone the money to spend on things I don’t really need. I’m going to be frugal because I just don’t have the funds to be lavish.
The second reason I’m planning to travel so cheaply is to prove to you that a 3-6 month vacation does not have to cost a lot of money. I want to prove that world travel can be done at incredibly low prices.
I’m not going to share my budget for this trip right now because this is something I walkt to talk about in further detail at another point in time, but for those of you who are interested, I’ll be updating the site here at BicycleTouringPro.com every month while I’m away with the exact amounts I’m spending while overseas. You will then be able to see exactly how much money I’m spending and what I am actually spending my money on.
Finally, Plan A Route
The final step to planning a bicycle tour is to create a route. This is usually my favorite part of planning my bike tours, but in this particular instance I won’t be planning my route far in advance.
My plan for traveling through Europe is to rent out small apartments for anywhere from 1 week to 2 months at a time. I’ve already found a renter who has signed a lease to rent my condo in Park City for 6 months, so I’ll likely be in Europe for approximately that amount of time.
Unfortunately, because I plan to sublet apartments on a short-term basis, I won’t be able to plan my adventure too far in advance. Instead, I’ll try and find a place to stay about a month or two before I leave and then start planning the rest of my route around that first destination.
Because I don’t yet know where I am going to be staying, where I will be living, or where I will be traveling to, it’s nearly impossible to plan anything out on paper.
Instead, I’ve planned the trip in my head and hope that the pieces fall into place. I’ll be playing it by ear, hoping for the best, and making due with what comes my way.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to answer your questions, provide quality information on bicycle travel, and keep you posted on my own touring adventures.
I hope this article has in some small way inspired you to start planning your own bicycle tour. If you have a question in regards to anything I’ve discussed in this article… or in my series on “How To Plan A Bicycle Tour 6 Months In Advance,” please leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.