Really, really soon, we'll be waking up somewhere on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, probably in a dew-soaked tent, probably with a pair of really dusty bicycles sprawled on the red dirt by the tent door, probably getting ready for another long day of flat riding through the Botswana bush. That's all approaching at an almost-alarming pace, but we still have a lot to do before we get there.
A few months back, I wrote about some things that might be good to know before bike touring around Iceland. Stuff like what weather to expect, where to camp, and how much to budget (oh, and how to get there and which way to travel). Those tips, I hope, captured the logistics of traveling Iceland by bike, but they didn't necessarily capture the experience of doing so. Iceland offers plenty of ups and downs along the way—things that make biking there a pleasure, and things that make it really, really difficult at times. Here are a few of them to consider.
I have a camera—a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera—that takes really crisp, high-resolution photographs. Camera folks regularly name it camera of the year. It's a pleasure to work with: full-frame, articulating display, quick shutter speed. Paired with my lens of choice, a 28-300mm NIKKOR, it takes some really lovely photographs. But, despite all the really gorgeous places our bike trip around the world is sure to take us, it won't be coming with me. Here's why.
Last month, the departure date for our big bike trip was just five months away. The plan has been to leave in mid-June, and that's still roughly the plan. But it's more likely we'll take a little time States-side between leaving our jobs and leaving the country, so I suppose we won't really be arriving in Botswana, panniers in hand, until the first few days of July. With that said, here's what we managed over the past six weeks, and the plenty we still have to do.
There's this lovely little island in the far north that Lauren and I biked around last summer, that we enjoyed tremendously, and that I was too preoccupied to actually write about while traveling. Nearly six months have elapsed since we returned, and I've sensed those memories beginning to erode. I want to capture what's left of them before they wash out to sea like the bits and pieces of an Icelandic glacier—seemingly frozen, yet shrinking slowly if you know just where to look. Much is already gone, so instead of a full report, consider this a series of disconnected, illustrated vignettes from our time on the road.
There are plenty of decisions to make before leaving on a big bike trip, and we've put a good bit of research into making (what we think are) the right decisions for us. Whether to take antimalarials is one of the more important decisions to make. Though malaria can sound scary—and getting malaria can seem like a death sentence—there are actually plenty of good reasons to risk it over taking prophylactics. These are a few.
Setting off on a multi-year trip can be terribly methodical at times: months of orderly planning and strict budgeting and practical decisions to make. And before we set off, we want to do our best to capture as many of those matters as possible. Beneath the long list of what needs to be decided and what needs to be done, however, there's a whole stew of emotions that are just as important to acknowledge.
A few years ago, I bought a bike. Outfitted with shiny chrome Campagnolo components and strong, lightweight Reynolds steel and a hidden superpower in which, with just a few loosened bolts, the frame actually separates in half and tucks away neatly into a checkable bag, it was a do-it-all bike that I hoped would be my one and only for decades to come. Except, it wasn't. Here's why I'll be switching to the Salsa Marrakesh for our ride: the things I like about it, and the things I really don't.
2017 was once an abstract notion: that's the year we quit our jobs, that's the year we leave our homes, that's the year we start biking our way around the world. In the comfort of 2016, it was something far-off, a whole calendar away. But now it's 2017, and so now this is the year we quit our jobs, the year we leave our homes, the year we start biking our way around the world. Things are getting close, anxiety is mounting (excitement too!), and planning is getting serious. Here's what we've gotten done this past month, and what we still have to do.
A whole lot can go wrong when biking tens of thousands of kilometers across dozens of countries. Bones can break, tendons can tear, and microscopic bacteria can do some pretty hefty damage to one's innards. And so when planning for a 'round-the-world bike tour, insurance seems a responsible, reasonable, risk-averse purchase. But a third of long-haul bike tourers travel with no insurance, and we're leaning toward becoming a part of that third. Here's why.
A good way to pass the time before a big bike trip is to read about someone else's big bike trip. There aren't many books concerning the niche world of bicycle travel (and even fewer that offer well-written and engaging stories, versus instructional how-to guides), but this handful of books does a really wonderful job of capturing the beauty and the simplicity of self-propelled adventure—for someone planning a bike tour, or someone just looking for a good read.
Once per month until we depart on our 'round-the-world bike trip, we'll be sharing an update on what we've been doing and the lots we still have to do before we take off. Here's how we're doing on bikes, gear, visas, paperwork, vaccinations, flights, telling people, internet stuff, route planning, research, finances, moving out, test rides, and the feels.
Touring with a cell phone can be a hassle. Monthly cell phone plans (at least in the States) are expensive, prepaid plans a bad deal, and swapping out local SIM cards when traveling from country-to-country a real annoyance. Project Fi, a new(ish) service offered by Google, makes traveling the world with a single cell phone (and single SIM card) a breeze. (As always, this isn't a sponsored post—just some good stuff worth recommending).
I haven’t eaten meat in six years and haven’t consumed eggs or dairy or things like that in five, and that’s been pretty easy to do in a place like Washington, DC. Biking around the world will be a very different story.
If you're a friend or family member (or harmless stranger) who knows one or both of us—or just someone who enjoys a bit of traveling writing from folks they've never met—and you want to follow our bike journey around the world but you totally don't care about things like gear reviews and road reports and cyclist-specific tips for biking here or there, this post is for you.
The problem with starting a blog about biking the world half a year before you actually begin biking the world is that there’s not a whole lot to write about until you actually set off. We aren’t exactly experts just yet, but we know of some people who are, so if what you’re here for is authoritative and comprehensive and inspirational and just really great tips and tales about biking the world, consider stopping by one of these sites until we have a little more to share of our own.
When traveling by bike, downtime is important. Whether a mid-afternoon break, a rainy day, or a long, dark night stuck in a tent, reading can help to pass the time, give you something to do, and—if you have the right books—teach you a little something about the country you're pedaling through. Great as books are, they're heavy, mostly single-use, and encourage deforestation. They're also pretty useless in the dark, requiring a headlamp and batteries. Enter the backlit e-reader.
Before starting this site, I wrote on and off elsewhere about my various travels. Most of it's pretty useless and doesn't really belong here, but my bike trip through Morocco in February 2016 felt pretty relevant, so here it is in it's unabridged entirety: a rambling travelogue of a month spent solo cycling in northern Africa.
Cycling is slow, arduous business. When loaded up with gear and food and water and bodies that need frequent breaks, a bike traveler isn't moving very quickly, and as climate-controlled cars zip by with speed and comfort and ease, bicycles may seem like an inferior vehicle for travel. Here are eight reasons why Lauren and I are going for it anyway.
Being in Iceland with a bicycle is an excellent recipe for adventure. But actually getting there with said bicycle can be a little more challenging. Disassembling, flying with, putting back together, and escaping the airport with a bicycle is rarely fun, so here are a few tips to make that part of the journey a little less painful.