Sitting at a desk in Adelaide, a world bike journey may seem like a world away. Stress, deadlines and meetings make days blur into years. Want to make a change and step off the merry-go-round for a while? Well, this is for you. Some tips for cycling around the world.

Approaching the pass

A quiet road in the back blocks in Uzbekistan

  1. How to I actually DO it? Tell people about it!

You’ve heard stories of people making life decisions with mates at the pub after a few too many? You say what’s on your mind, and what you want to (and are going to) do. Then your mates keep you to your word. The cat is out, and now they’re watching you now follow through. No more letting time pass with inaction.

I decided that my bike trip was not just a dream when I told a friend, and excitedly she said she would come along too. At that moment I realised it was not crazy, and I could totally do it. My mind switched from it being one of those things you just dream about, to something that was going to be a reality. That friend ended up not coming along, but the more people I told about my excitement to do this, the more I knew I really would do it.

Road to Blinman

Approaching the Mawson Trail in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia

  1. How do I know what bike to take?

There seem to be two philosophies.

The first is take a totally standard bike with standard everything. Things will break and you will need to fix them – which will be possible. This philosophy relies on there being replacement bike parts wherever you are. Even if the part is not available (if you are on the Pamir Plateau in Tajikistan), but there are always people to help, makeshift tools to borrow, and hacks to be made.

The second is to buy an expensive high-end bike with ‘unbreakable’ parts that are built to survive a lifetime. If they break, the parts are so uncommon and unheard of outside of the western world, you will be stuck. Take spare parts of the most uncommon things and hope that everything really is unbreakable. This is the option for the total technically incapable bike user.

I am hopeless with bike maintenance and I followed the second philosophy.

Road to Mimili

In the aboriginal APY Lands in northern South Australia.

After going on a 1000km bike tour in Norway and my bike collapsing beneath me (spoke after spoke broke), I went to a bike shop I trusted and let them go through all the different options regarding bikes and their parts, and I ended up with the bike I needed for my adventures.
 

  1. What should I take?

Take photos of home and photos of your bike trip up to now to give to the beautiful people you meet on the way. They really appreciate it. It’s wonderful to share your trip with them, like they are sharing their life and home with you!
 
What else? It depends on where you go. I went through hot and cold areas. In the mountains and desert I needed to cook for myself and be more independent. In south-east Asia, there’s cheap and good food to be had everywhere, so I sent my cooking things home for that leg. A tent there is not needed (as it is too hot), but a hammock and mosquito net is a plus.

In general you will need a bike, panniers, a sleeping bag and mat, clothes and repair stuff. Most cycling blogs have a list of things they took. Here is my list: https://arctic-cycler.com/equipment/

Money money money

US$100 in Uzbekistan som.

  1. How do you prepare your route? What about the visas?

I read blogs. I got excited reading blogs. And videos. I’m going there and it will be amazing! I read blogs to see what the options are. In general, cycling from Europe to Australia, you go through Europe, Turkey, Iran (or Azerbaijan if you are American and can’t get an Iranian visa) and then either Central Asia and China, or India and Burma. From there, it’s down through Thailand and Malaysia to Singapore. Many people fly from Singapore. I cycled through Indonesia to East Timor – an absolute highlight. Here is my list of blogs that inspired me: https://arctic-cycler.com/links/
 
For visas, it is an ever-changing story. Iran, Central Asia and China are the most challenging. I was lucky enough to apply for my Chinese visa in Tehran in the short window of time they were handing out 90 day visas with no questions asked. I understand they no longer do this. The latest up-to-date information can be found on http://caravanistan.com.

Vero giving us tips on the Pamir Highway

The touring cyclist legend Vero in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

  1. How should I train for it? Will I be able to do it?

The bike journey is not a race – it is a life journey, and you have time to do it. Start slowly and stop to smell the flowers (there are lots around at the moment in the desert – it has rained a lot). Cycling will get you fit for cycling, and as you go on, you will do more, you will seek more challenging and amazing roads and places, and you will become more confident with what you can achieve.

I have met world cyclists of all ages from 18 to 72. I have met westerners, Chinese, Thai. I have cycled with people on budgets of $5 a day (including cycling in Australia). Sure, save some money up to do it, but don’t wait too long. You can start today. Who knows what might happen tomorrow. Your plans may be Trumped by a new situation, and your dreams may remain just that – dreams.

This was an article I wrote for the BikeSA blog in November 2016.

The thai cyclist

A thai cyclist we met that has covered over 100,000km by bike.

Update: The goat is spared

Posted: August 8, 2017 in Australia
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Crossing fingers has been ineffective. Prayers to the christian God, and other gods have been ineffective. The imaginary goat has been ready for sacrifice for some time now, as part of a policy to try all avenues, including sacrifices. Last Friday the goat was spared, and I was offered a job. The goat, who lives in Adelaide, is happy – I am told.

Some happy people

Some happy people

People often ask what happens to cyclists after their big bike trip. Like many others, I left my job and got rid of all my possessions to do the trip. Now I’m at the other end of the adventure. This is the third update of the ordeals of a world cyclist starting a new life post-cycling adventure. (This is the first update, and this is the second.)

Returning to Adelaide, months later.

Returning to Adelaide, months later.

I have been offered and accepted a job as medical writer at NPS Medicinewise (https://www.nps.org.au). NPS is a not-for-profit organisation that provide independent information on medicines and medical procedures for medical professionals and the general public. Their goal is to improve healthcare delivery in Australia. I am really looking forward to starting the new job this Thursday.

I ran past the opera house a lot.

I ran past the opera house a lot.

It took ten months to find a job. That’s if you count from the time I finished my 41483km bike trip from the Netherlands to Adelaide, Australia. If you count from when I got really serious, moving to Sydney and sending off many, many applications, it has been 5 months. I applied for 63 jobs and was invited to 11 interviews. I also had 3 job recruiters that put my name forward for positions that didn’t lead to an interview. I have been to three networking drinks, volunteered opening envelopes on multiple occasions, and given a motivational talk for runners training for a marathon, raising money for cancer. Many friends have helped, and for all their support, I am truly grateful.

This has been a journey every bit as tumultuous as the 2-year bicycle trip. I left my life in Europe mid-career and mid-life (I don’t think it was a mid-life crisis though). I arrived in Australia with a good CV but no professional network in Australia, and a two-year gap on my CV. I was interested in working in communications in the not-for-profit sector, and found myself in a dilemma. Not-for-profits are typically small and pay poorly. No-one believed I would stay in a job like that, and so I didn’t receive any offers. Jobs in the communications market in general are hotly contested given the number of skilled, experienced journalists who have been made redundant as the journalism industry goes online and is undergoing fundamental change. For these jobs, experience in Australia is valuable, as is an Australian network. So, here I was, watching my savings dwindle, and applying for jobs. Lots of jobs.

View from Mrs. Macquarie's Chair

View from Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair

My mood was like a rollercoaster. When interesting jobs were in the pipeline, I was happy. I
spent my time with my new partner Aaron, and running in the glorious sun (which has been shining here all winter). There were days when my irons in the fire all dissolved and left me returning to square one. Again.
‘You are a very strong candidate, but..’
‘There was an amazing number of really great candidates, and unfortunately..’

Being unemployed and looking for work, I felt like less of a person. All around me were people working, contributing. Although I have never really been extravagant with money, I noticed myself looking after my money more than ever, and even becoming angry at this consumerist world. All the while, I was thankful for my family, friends and partner, and wishing for this period to be over.

The email must have arrived (although I was offline) when I was at Frazer Beach. I saw the email a few hours later. I tentatively opened it. I had opened many emails like this before. I was great, but.. And, in this one, I got the job. My worries washed away, and I was happy. Now, the next phase of my life can begin. 🙂

Frazer Beach

Frazer Beach

The bike trip took 2 years, and spanned 41483km to Adelaide and about 43000km to Sydney. It was the best thing I have ever done in my life, and I am so, so happy to have done it. I never felt any other way about this during and after the trip. If you know what your dream is, do it! I am now excited about the next chapter of my life. Bring it on!


It was morning, the sun was shining, I had a big tailwind, it was flat, and for the first time cycling for a long time, I put on my Infected Mushroom music. The kilometres hurtled by. The energy music from my adventures in Borneo and Sulawesi was fitting for today. I felt the strength in my body, the blood pumping through my veins and I saw the road whiz past. I laughed with joy. I was on the way to Tin City!

Tin City, Stockton

Tin City, Stockton

Tin City is a collection of little tin shacks plopped in the middle of an endless beach with massive, rolling sand dunes. It feels like the end of the earth, with the wind howling, and the sand blasting against your skin. Popping out from Boyces Trail which led me through the scrub to the start of the mountains of sand, the strength and raw beauty of the nature was imposing before me.

Boyces Trail

Boyces Trail

The dunes start

The dunes start

Scurrying up these sand monsters and down the other side, I feel like in my own personal playground. I stand on the crest looking out over the expanse of sand, all to the backdrop of the howling wind.

The sand dunes

The sand dunes

I spoke to Al, often the only person here. Today he had a few guests. He looked rough like the wind and sand, and had an inner peace. He felt comfortable and at ease. I could tell that he belonged here.

Tin City, Stockton

Tin City, Stockton

Tin City, Stockton

Tin City, Stockton

After a fight into the same wind that had blown me here, I was in the train from Newcastle, and back in the hustle and bustle of Sydney. What a contrast!

Tin City, Stockton

Tin City, Stockton


They’re offering me a job! There I was with this amazing email, in Swansea, 30km from Newcastle. I had just returned to civilisation after a beautiful solitary jaunt along quiet roads through the national park. Beaches and scrub galore. And now, they’re offering me a job! My excess of free time is approaching an end.

Through the scrub

Through the scrub

The mission is to find a cycling and camping experience suitable for my new partner Aaron. I now have found a satisfactory route from the train to the beach. Not too hilly, and an acceptable amount of traffic. After Budgewoi, the nature starts – the Munmorah State Conservation Area. Scrubby, sometimes wooded, hills along the coast. Getting to the Freeman’s camping ground is not too hilly. After that, it is too hilly, but Frazer’s beach with a nice camping ground is beautiful.

Frazer Beach

Frazer Beach

I had a lovely chat while eating my lunch. The guy was interested in my bike trip, and I told him a few stories.

The road to Frazer Beach

The road to Frazer Beach

After the park, the Pacific Highway was as big and busy as always. There is a wide shoulder, but, it remains unpleasant. Goal for today was Newcastle, all ready for the Tin City on Stockton Beach tomorrow. It looks like a cool, spacey place. http://365project.org/onewing/365/2016-07-26


There are beaches out there. There is dense bush. There are cliff-faces. My job applications are sent, and the sun is shining (like it has been for weeks). Rather than waiting for the phone to ring at home, I dusted off the adventure bike for a trip up north.

Manly Beach

Manly Beach

My new partner Aaron is returning from China next week, and I want to show him part of the life on the road, disappearing into nature. I want to do it right – I want him to like it. For a first time cycling the mini-Himalayas are not on the menu. Neither are multi-lane highways. For a first time camping, some facilities are needed – this is not to be a toilet and shower-free stealth camping experience. I want to get there without a car. All these requirements make for a difficult proposition. This is not bike-friendly Europe.

Dee Why Beach

Dee Why Beach

The coastline around Sydney is hilly with alternating cliff-faces and beautiful beaches. The nicest coast roads are blocked by rivers or cliffs, pushing the cyclist to the (very) main roads slightly inland, that avoid the detailed twists and turns of the coastline. I followed these roads thinking this is too hilly and there’s too much traffic for a pleasant first bike experience.

Then I hit the end of the Palm Beach peninsula, caught the ferry, and left the feel of the endless Sydney beach suburb, and entered the bush.

Palm Beach Ferry

Palm Beach Ferry

On this dead-end bushland peninsula, in the Bouddi National Park, the traffic is gone and the bush is out. It was beautiful and peaceful, and also steep up and down. I couldn’t cycle with Aaron here yet. Maybe bushwalking? I stayed at a beautiful camp spot on the beach.

Sunrise at Little Beach

Sunrise at Little Beach

Continuing north, I joined the main road again and left nature. Roads, suburbs and big caravan parks followed the coast – until the next Conservation Park north of Budgewoi – Munmorah State Conservational Area. Another beautiful place to explore.

Birdie Beach

Birdie Beach

I need to find a good way to get there from the train line that runs 15km inland. The route I took to the train to return home, along the Pacific Highway, isn’t the answer. Maybe when I continue this trip next time, I will find a better solution.


I will finally get a job when it falls off, I said, not usually one to believe in random charms. Around my wrist are the last remnants of a yellow ribbon giving me luck from a monk in Laos. That thread has been hanging on grimly for ages. Sydney has not yet given me a job, but it has given me new green and black ribbon from a lovely new partner.

My new green and black band

My new green and black band

When I stood in front of the Brighton Jetty in Adelaide, after a two year and 41483km journey from the Netherlands, the last two years overwhelmed my mind. Every day I was living a new story – a new piece of the journey. I felt like I had more memories of the last two years than the preceding 44. Eight months later, the cycling adventure has receded to become an episode – a really cool one – of my life. The following (and current) episode is challenging me – finding a new life is harder than I thought. I am ready for it, but my new life is not ready for me yet, telling me ‘no’ time after time. So, as well as writing job applications, going to interviews, volunteering and doing some maths tutoring, I am going on long runs.

Running to the airport.

Running to the airport makes me feel I am on holiday again!

Royal National Park

Royal National Park

I have been invited to interviews for a comms job at an eco-tourism organisation aiming to protect endangered species. I didn’t have the Australian journalist network another candidate had. With an aboriginal organisation, they wanted a combination data analyst (I have 12 years experience) and comms person (4 years experience) to help drive their policy development. For that job I didn’t have practical experience making infographics. For an organisation giving youth education scholarships, I didn’t have the experience in the Not-For-Profit space.

Getting ready for a job interview.

Getting ready for a job interview.

This is disheartening, but I am consoled that I am not alone. I am not alone, as there are thousands of other professionals out there hearing ‘no’ a lot too. More importantly, I am not alone as I have my loving family and friends, and a wonderful new man in my life.

Me and Aaron.

Me and Aaron.

I expected that the last update would be the last before my ‘I have a new job post’. Maybe this one will be. When I get a job, I’ll move these posts to the top of my blog. Next for me is moving out of my flat away from a flat-mate personality clash, and spending more time getting to know my new partner, Aaron. Life goes on. I live in happiness that I had cycled my dream, and, when the universe is ready, the next stage will be amazing too!

My run to Bronte Beach.

My run to Bronte Beach.


Six months ago I stood on Brighton Jetty in Adelaide and burst out into tears. I had arrived. Two years of incredible adventure – but now it has ended. Many ask how it’s going. I haven’t written any blog posts. I’ve been quiet on Facebook. I felt I had nothing to say. I felt a bit empty. Now, this is the journey that everyone is interested in. What happens after the trip? I’ll take a deep breath, and try to tell you.

Strawberry pruning near Adelaide

Strawberry pruning near Adelaide

The trip – excitement on steroids
The two years before leaving the Netherlands, and the two years cycling have been dominated with that – the world cycling journey. It was all consuming, and it was bloody exciting. Before leaving, I was reading about these exotic places, and amazing stories of beautiful people and spectacular landscapes. Stories of trials and tribulations. Stories of adventure. I was going to be there soon – my heart skipped a beat.

The road to Murghab

The road to Murghab

Then cycling, reaching further and further from home, and passing though places that were folklore in the cycling community, I would laugh with joy. I am here now! The famous Akbar in Marand, Iran and Vero in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Hubs for cycling tourists. The amazing, spectacular and incredible Pamir Plateau. The videos and blogs had whet my appetite, but it was even more beautiful than I had imagined.
China was intense. Intense in culture, scenery, weather and people. And I made it through cycling all the way. I felt so satisfied – I had achieved something. South-east Asia was beautiful, but it felt less foreign and less adventurous. It left me (and many other fellow cyclists) yearning for the adventure that had once been. Indonesia gave the adventure back – an intoxicating mix of amazing scenery and some of the most beautiful people on the planet, coupled with sleeping in villages every night. You don’t know where you’ll be or who you’ll be with, and every day was an unexpected surprise.
And then Australia. First the main road through the desert, and then the back roads – sandy and corrugated, through the endless expanses of beautiful nothingness. And then the rain. Mud. Struggle. Adventure. I loved it (most of the time). But it was also approaching home, and it was the end.

The first months – mental readjustment
So there I was. In Adelaide. Where I grew up. I was 45. Unemployed, and staying with my parents.

I wanted to give something back to the world. The world that had welcomed me with open arms for the duration of my whole trip. I wanted to do something to help the environment. Something to help some of the poorest people in the world – people that I had met and had welcomed me so warmly. I wanted to learn more about aboriginal people – some who live in the aftermath of a clash of cultures that has not ended well. But here I was. I had no concrete plan, and without a concrete plan all there is to do is sit and contemplate.

I was back in a land of consumerism and capitalism. A land like the Netherlands which had given me my savings. Here, like in the Netherlands, my savings are not infinite. Not living in a tent or in random schools in Southeast Asia costs money. That’s what our society is based on. I needed a job – for the money, but more importantly, to feel like I was contributing again. I wanted a job that would pay me working towards the goals I mentioned above.

I applied for a few jobs that were similar to what I had done before – corporate communication and healthcare. My heart wasn’t behind them, and anyway, I was over-qualified I was told. It was approaching Christmas time, and so I decided to cycle to Sydney.

The summit of Koscuiszko

The summit of Koscuiszko

The next four months – emotional roller coaster
I received a wonderful Christmas present from my father – a 2 week pitjantjatjara Aboriginal language course in Adelaide. After Christmas I returned to Adelaide and completed the course. The day I started, I applied for one solitary job that I thought was just for me – a communications job in Alice Springs with an aboriginal healthcare organisation.
The next stage of my post travel journey was waiting in hope. With all my eggs in one basket, I had nothing else to do. I finished the course. I did casual work for 2 weeks. I still hadn’t heard back. I really wanted this job – it was the job designed especially for me after all, so I packed my bags and went to Alice Springs. I invited myself to an impromptu interview, and it all went well. I returned to Adelaide, and continued to wait.

Alice Springs

Alice Springs

After a one week holiday with friends visiting from the Netherlands, I rang Alice Springs and found that the job had gone to an internal candidate.

It was time to recalibrate my expectations. I may be qualified for lots of jobs, want them, and think I should get them. There are also lots of other qualified people out there, and I felt a bit lost at the difficult end of this mid-life adventure I had set out on. I was 45, unemployed and my bike trip (a valid excuse of unemployment) had ended six months earlier. I found nothing that interested me in Adelaide, and I was a nomad between several family and friend’s places. I started applying to more jobs all across the country. When I found one that I really liked, I got excited and motivated. I fired off the application, and continued on to the next one. My mood flipped from being high, thinking about a job that I liked, and low, being impatient to start. My mood changed on a daily basis, and it wasn’t any fun.

The jobs I was applying for were all over the country, but mostly in Sydney. Short term casual jobs in Adelaide are hard to get if you think you are about to leave at any minute to live somewhere else, so I decided it was time to make the next move in this post-cycling journey. I bought a bus-ticket, and off I was again to Sydney.

Sydney
I arrived in Sydney on my 46th birthday. I had my trusty bike here and a few clothes. Walking down the streets in the centre of Sydney I occasionally got a pang of excitement. This is a city I love, and I was living here. It felt nearer to everything. Nearer to interesting jobs and lots of friends and family. The pang of excitement didn’t last long though. I had come here without a job, ready to pay for a place with my savings in the second most expensive city in the world. I kept on applying to jobs – there were lots that really interested me. And I found an apartment.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Sydney Harbour Bridge

I had the apartment sorted on the first day I arrived in Sydney. I will be living in Erskineville – near Newtown where one of my cousins lives – and near to the city centre. A cool part of the world to be. I will be staying with Mel – a woman I bonded with instantly when I met her. Working on social projects, I’m sure we will have a lot to say to each other in the coming months.

On Monday is my first job interview. If I don’t get that, then I will start looking for a bar job or something else to pay the rent. I need something to do – for the rent and for my sanity. I don’t envy, and understand more about the many people unemployed or under-employed. I have a good CV, and here I am. It has been a journey as epic as the bike trip. A journey that is not over yet.


I jumped on the saddle again after a few months in Adelaide to go to Sydney for Christmas. To make it interesting, I passed by Mt. Koscuiszko – Australia’s highest mountain. Here is a video of this little escapade.