“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they are, while in a motor car only a high hill will impress you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of a country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bike.” Ernest Hemingway
Some people might think that traveling long distances by bike is a bit crazy or unpractical. Why travel by bike when you can take a car, cheap bus, relax on a train, or fly and get there in an afternoon. In a car, bus, or train it will only take 5hrs to arrive at a destination 600km away, or just a few hours by plane, but cycling there will take you a week so you better be prepared for your plans to randomly change and expect the unexpected to happen. But this is something that makes cycling so attractive, not knowing what or who you will run into a kilometer up the road. You will meet the most amazing, kind, hospitable people who will invite you for a cup of tea or something to eat in return to hear about your trip. Strangers will offer you somewhere to put your tent, a barn to sleep in, or even a couch or bed in their home and a warm shower. Taking other forms of transportation it’s not often you even say hello to the people around you or learn about their stories.
Its almost like we live in our own small bubbles these days, going from the t.v in your apartment, to your car or public transport, to your workplace or school, back to your car, etc.. never really crossing from the boundaries of routine and comfort into freedom. Traffic jams on the motorways are really just thousands of people stuck in there little bubbles beside each other, going the same direction and not even able to say hello to each other. Our only communication is from the advertisements on billboards and radios.
As for backpackers or long term nomads, looking for escape or adventure traveling by bus or train most of the time can really burn you out. Sure they are fast but they go from one noisy city or town to another and don’t leave much opportunity to explore all the little hidden secrets in between, the places where the buses and trains don’t stop. Traveling by bike gives you that, under your own steam you can go almost anywhere you want when you want. Sometimes you can go to places that busses and trains don’t even go at all, places you can’t get to by car or even by walking but only on a bicycle.
With cycling, traveling is the adventure before your destination. You get to see everything, hear everything, smell and touch everything, like when riding through a fresh forest in the morning, feeling the breeze on top of a mountain, or the scent of the ocean along the seaside. This is much more rewarding then what is possible from the window of your vehicle, it allows you to be spontaneous. And when you have camping gear and food with you it becomes your home and way of life. Absolute freedom. It brings you back to the roots of traveling and surviving and makes you realize how alive and full of energy you are.
And on top of all that cycling is perfect for living a healthy life. It is great exercise and makes you more aware of eating well, getting plenty of liquids, and feeling good. With wars being fought over oil, rising gas prices and a rapidly decreasing world supply of fossil fuel, it only makes sense that our future needs more people traveling by bike. In cities, cars and busses create a lot of smog, noise, and pollution, and usually you can’t even find a parking space and are stuck in traffic. Bikes are a quick, clean, healthy way to get where your going, and you don’t need to pay a fortune for insurance and maintenance.
It was Louis J. Helle Jr. who once said “bicycling is the nearest approximation I know to the flight of birds. The airplane simply carries a man on its back like an obedient Pegasus; it gives him no wings of his own.”
Cycling offers you the trip of a lifetime. Across a country, continent, or if you have the time even right around the world! It’s irresistible.