Cycling in Europe without money – an update

Bike Touring Without Money

We have already written a post about cycling in Europe on a tight budget, but something extreme has happened since publishing that post and writing this one: we have stopped spending money. That’s a bit of a lie; we have had to spend a few euros on toothpaste, two new toothbrushes and a couple of kilograms of pasta, since these are not the kind of things you can ask for when you’re not parting with money (once we did actually get 500g of pasta from a kind man in Spain). But we have been practically living without money for five weeks. We are still using the same old tricks we mentioned in our last post on bike touring through Europe on a budget: wild camping, asking for out of date food at bakers and greengrocers, choosing water over soft drinks.

Cycling in Europe without money
A slightly spoiled watermelon is gold dust to us and something a shopkeeper often isn’t able to sell

However, and this is the real reason for writing this post, the real change has been in our attitude to money and travelling. We no longer expect and take for granted the luxury of choice. As bicycle travellers (who are also vegan) with very limited savings, we cannot expect different grains and vegetables for dinner each night, we are now simply happy if we have a hot dinner at the end of the day, even if it is the same dinner we have had for a week. At the beginning of the trip, we would treat ourselves to a 2 litre carton of juice each day and craved chocolate, so we would often stop at supermarkets to get our fix.

Nowadays, we simply don’t make trips to supermarkets, apart from the few items mentioned at the beginning of this post. There are a number of reasons for this: our money would eventually run out if we were to carry on stocking our panniers with supermarket goods; supermarkets are not local businesses, they are generally huge corporations that don’t need our money; finally, we simply don’t need the kind of variety a supermarket offers. Who does? And if it comes at a price, environmentally for instance, is it even moral to give supermarkets your business?

Travel without money
Raising a small amount of money with a musical instrument can be one solution for staying on the road indefinitely

Cycling The World Sustainably

It is something experienced adventurers understand very well; when the success of an expedition can depend on how much weight and space can be saved, dry spaghetti wins out 99 times out of 100 over a bulkier pasta. However, expeditions almost always have a time frame, the adventurers will certainly come home after the trip to enjoy the same luxury of choice they did beforehand. But what about the adventurer (e.g. bike tourer) who is travelling without ever expecting to “come home”? What about the traveller who wishes to live as sustainably as possible, minimising environmental impact and keeping costs down? Well, the answer is pretty obvious: they have to go without. If it’s not something grown locally, chances are it has used some form of carbon-intensive transport (e.g. aeroplane) to make it to your local market.

If we ever hope to seriously tackle climate change, we as humans need to take a different look at our consumption. Many hold out the hope that Science will offer an energy source both abundant and clean, but chances are it will come too late for our planet. A much more immediate solution would be to cut consumption and cut the demand for energy. Unfortunately, capitalism is in open conflict with this concept, so it is unlikely that there will be a top-down solution from our governments to this problem. It is down to us as communities and individuals to renounce our dependence on imported goods (that we don’t actually need) and forsake choice to promote a more sustainable existence.

As bike tourers, this way of life is almost inevitable, and as a result a much easier ethic to live by. For those living in cities, where the source of food and other goods is often obscured by marketing ploys, it is almost impossible to conceive. However, there are communities everywhere that have made these realisations about sustainability without needing to embark on an around-the-world adventure, so chances are there is a group near you that could support you. Otherwise, bike touring can be a great way to bring yourself in contact with local communities, local produce and to make yourself aware of other ways of life which hold greater hope for the future of our planet.

5 thoughts on “Cycling in Europe without money – an update

  1. Hey guys, I really like your thoughts on this and I’m impressed you travel hardly without any money :-). We have been living in the road for 4 years now and we are also depended on sticking to a tight budget and we don’t mind living this way. I think your concept works amazing in Europe but could be become more difficult in other countries. While we traveled in Central Asia, we bougt all our food on local bazaars or small local operated stores, I could imagine asking for “free” food would irritate those poeple as they are poorer than you are. And in addition spending your money with them means also some kind of support for this people. Unfortunatly money rules the world. But maybe it works though, I’m curious to follow up on that thought and your experiences. I definitely wish you both an amazing journey and a lot of fun in South America. We might catch you there 😉

    1. Incredible that you have been on the road for four years, that’s such an inspiration to us at this point.

      We think you may be entirely right and we’ve been warned by others who have travelled these countries. It also wouldn’t sit well with us if we felt we were taking money from people who needed it, which could be the case in South America.

      Either way, we may give it a shot, but probably only in larger towns and cities with developed tourism industries. Hopefully see you on the road, take care!

  2. Hey Chris,
    I’m pretty sure you bring the right ethics with you and will now where to ask. I’m really excited to follow you guys and hearing about your adventures! Maybe we will manage to run into each other, would be great! Keep in touch, safe travels!

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