The question that should be asked here is not “What Is It That Attracts You To Bicycle Travel?” but instead, “Why Do You Keep Coming Back To It Time And Time Again?”
There are a number of reasons myself and others are attracted to long-distance bicycle travel. It’s cheap, fun, rewarding, environmentally friendly and good for the body.
Some people care about racking up an impressive number of miles… and others travel by bike so that they can visit beautiful locations around the world. Others do it simply as a vacation – a break from their normal lives and an escape from their occupations.
I, on the other-hand, have long ago stopped recording (or even caring about) the distances I cover on my bicycle. And while I’ve seen plenty of fantastic sunsets, looming coastal ranges, and high mountain peaks over the years, majestic scenery and escape from my life back home is not what I am seeking.
Ultimately, what attracts me so much to bicycle travel and what keeps me coming back to it time and time again is the belief that bike travel is one of the best ways to learn about myself and the world around me.
As someone who came to bicycle travel as a shy and sheltered seventeen year old, I saw traveling by bike as the extra push I needed to get out into the world and truly discover who I was and what I wanted for myself in the future.
So many young people nowadays get rushed from high school to college… and from college into the workforce. From there, they get married, have kids, buy a house, and before they know it, they’re living a life that they did not create for themselves at all. Instead, they just kind of fell into their current existence… and now they feel trapped.
Maybe this isn’t how you see your life unfolding, but this is a story I heard time and time again on my early bicycle adventures. The people I met while on my travels told me repeatedly just how “lucky” I was to have the time and freedom to do what I was doing. Over and over again people told me how their job, family, friends and financial situations were preventing them from going after the things they really wanted in life.
After hearing this same story hundreds and hundreds of times, the message really began to sink in with me. It sank in so much that I spent much of my early bike tours thinking about this predicament and pondering exactly what I wanted for myself as I grew older. Much of my on-the-bike thinking was spent devising a plan for myself that would prevent me from falling into the traps that so many others seem to have fallen into for themselves.
It was on these early bike tours that I decided for myself that as I grew older I wanted to continue to have the time and freedom to pursue the things that I was passionate about. And since the very beginning, I have been determined not to let society, work, friends, family, money, or anything else hold me down.
None of these things are necessarily bad (if that’s what you want). It’s just that I was determined not to fall into the traps that so many others had warned me about.
I realized that if I approached life in a certain way I could have, be, and do anything I wanted.. In many ways, I decided at a very early age that I would aim to have not just one or the other… but both!
What I am trying to say here is that bicycle travel gave me the opportunity to think about what it was that I wanted in life. Starting young gave me a unique advantage in this regards. But even to this day, traveling with my bike gives me the opportunity to reevaluate the direction I am heading in life… and the direction I wish to travel in the future.
To summarize: The reason I am so attracted to bicycle travel… and the reason I keep coming back to it time and time again is because:
1) It forces me outside of my comfort zone – which makes me do things I would not normally otherwise do. Bike travel challenges me to think in ways I would not normally otherwise think. It makes me question myself and the world in which I live… and it forces me to become a better person. I travel by bike because it is an incredible way to learn.
2) I also like to travel with my bike because it gives me the opportunity to think about what I want for myself both now and in the future. Coming back to bicycle travel time and time again allows me to assess my progress over the past several days, weeks or years… and it gives me the opportunity to think about what moves I want to make as I move forward in life.
So, there it is! That’s why I travel with my bike… and why I keep coming back to it year after year.
But now I want to hear from you! Why are you so interested in bicycle touring? And what do you personally hope to get out of the experience of traveling with your bike?
Click here to read why Alastair Humphreys, Kate Harris and Tom Kevill-Davies love traveling by bike.
0 thoughts on “What Is It That Attracts You To Bicycle Travel?”
I am with you, Darren. I recently made the jump from career-oriented office job to long term traveler and life-liver in part through your website’s resources. I am in my late 20’s and free from house payments, pets and children so the jump was considerably easier for me than for some others out there. What I found surprising in the process was how many of my peers felt so uncomfortable when I told them I was quitting my job to travel indefinitely. That kind of a life choice just doesn’t enter into most people’s realm of options. Even though they were in the same financial situation they commonly said that they “could never do what I was doing.” On the other end of the spectrum I can’t tell you how many older folks heralded the choice. They saw the great opportunity that I was taking that they had missed out on and were extremely supportive of the decision. So far I am only 2 months in and have spent the time rock climbing nearly every day in Thailand (my other passion besides bike touring). Come June I am heading to Europe to meet up with my bike and start my first tour.
“So many young people nowadays get rushed from high school to college… and from college into the workforce. From there, they get married, have kids, buy a house, and before they know it, they’re living a life that they did not create for themselves at all. Instead, they just kind of fell into their current existence… and now they feel trapped.”
That is such a good statement and one I wish governments etc around the world would take some time to tell the young people of the world. It should form the core to every careers guidance meeting that young people go to. I was lucky enough to go to a slightly different than normal school in the UK and this was a message that was given to us at a very early age. As a result the people I went to school with are very independant people and we have formed a bond that will last a lifetime. We have all lived very interesting lives in our short 26 years but it was all thanks to what we were given at an early age.
All my very close school friends are very interested in the ideas of cycle touring and just visiting other places in general. I think living in Europe we have such a wealth of thing to see and places to go all of which are very accessable by bike.
I think people should not necessarily be put off a normal job as long as it let’s them have a balance. I mean you can’t go cycle touring without any money, it may be a cheap way to travel but you need some money. For example I am trying to get a job as an officer on cargo ships. This is a job that would give me great challenges, rewards etc but also money and most important for cycling a lot of time off, typically 6 months a year though not all at the same time.
That’s one example of a job that is not at first glance one that allows freedoms in life but in actual fact allows much more than a lot of other jobs.
I guess what I am trying to say is that first you need the drive and desire to do things like cycle touring and second you need the time and money to be able to do them. Lot’s of jobs allow both, it’s just a matter of finding them.
For me, it is a vacation. I don’t feel trapped at all by my mortgage payments, wife, and child. They are the loves of my life and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. However, we all need a release from time to time. Taking a week or two away from things on a bicycle tour is cleansing and fulfilling. I find that when I come back I am energized like never before and the time away from my family makes me want to see them even more.