There are SO many ways to travel this beautifully large world, and there are definitely pros and cons to each and every one of them. Travelling by van is growing more popular as the years go by and many people are starting to live out the rest of their days behind four wheels, but what about just two wheels? In a nutshell, this is why we are living on bicycles:
Now, of course we do not intend to live on bicycles forever, our estimated time is around 4-5 years, however long it takes to make it around the world in one piece! We hope to start our van years after we have finished with the biking life but here’s why we chose the bicycles.
First of all, I have yet to participate in any driving lesson or test so a four-wheeled way of life was not really on the cards for us just yet, so I came up with the idea to travel by bicycle.
But why by bicycle, and isn’t it dangerous?
If you can ride a bicycle you can train yourself to bike anywhere and up anything, sure the roads in cities can be unpleasant and unsafe if you are not making sure you are visible, but avoid the cities and bike into the mountains and countryside and you will find true freedom and bliss. It was a big decision for us to leave our busy, working London lives and head out into the roads of the world but it has been the best decision we have ever made.
On a bicycle, it’s not just the feeling of the wind on your face or the sun on your back that keeps you going, it’s the sheer achievement of arriving at a destination knowing you pushed your way there. Every country we bike through, every town and every border crossing is just a reminder of how far we have come, and how much we have lived.
You Get To See So Much
On a bicycle you experience everything, all the sounds that pass you at 4 to 45 kilometres per hour surround you and you feel so connected to the world. When you pass villages people can speak to you, wave and sometimes even push you along. The encouragement we get is amazing and it really has helped us make it this far. The speed of the world becomes your speed and when you reach a hill something fills you up inside, “push, keep going, pedal, onwards and upwards”. Downhill? There’s nothing like it, especially when you’ve spent so much energy and time on a climb, on the way up you look around and let the world distract you, mountains get closer and bigger while the earth below looks smaller. When you reach the top of a climb, and you breathe in and stop pedalling, a rush of both relief and satisfaction takes over, the wind picks up and the adrenaline of the speed and the turning wheels fills you up with immense pleasure.
You Can Stop
Whenever you like, if you see a place that looks interesting you don’t have to find the next available U-turn to reach it, you can bike as slow or as fast as you want, there’s no speed limit! You can miss so much in a vehicle, the driver is concentrating on the road and the passenger keeps their eye out, with both of our exploring eyes we can point things out to each other. It’s honestly, fantastic.
It’s not just the exploring that benefits you when you bike tour, one of the major things about this lifestyle is how good you are being to your body and your health, we bike tour as vegans as well so it’s great to know we are helping animals and the environment. We aren’t quite zero emissions as we use petrol for our cooking stove and eat much more than any van lifer, however, our solar power and pedal power has considerably lowered our carbon footprint! You also expand the time you are spending on this earth along with strengthening your heart, it’s such a happy life. Your brain is constantly engaged, just like a child’s. You are constantly meeting new people, visiting new places and just surviving.
I realised just how simple our life had become but it felt richer than it had ever been.
It’s Not Always Easy
I wish I could say that I have found the perfect life, but of course, that doesn’t exist. It’s close to it, but it is sometimes a real test of your will power. Obviously depending on where you plan to bike tour, terrain, weather and the people can really effect your experience. South America is a completely different ball game to biking in Europe, the terrain is completely different, did you know all the northern countries of South America are full of mountains?! Food and water is much harder to get and when you’ve biked 40km up and down just to reach the next food stop, tolerance is the last thing on your mind. Language is another barrier that can really change your mood, everyone in South America speaks either Spanish or Portuguese so if you need help with directions, get learning! I find it really difficult to learn languages so I am fortunate to have Chris who is the exact opposite.
Finding and Making a Home
The greatest thing about living in a van is that you are driving your home around with you, I mean, so are we, right? But we have to set it up, It’s not like we can just throw our heads back on to a mattress and start watching the stars. There’s a lot of preparation we have to do every night and sometimes it can be way too exhausting after a long day in the saddle. The tent comes out with the sleeping mat and sleeping bag, and if it’s cold or raining we have to get these things done really quickly. We also don’t get the luxury of a large roof over our heads so when it comes to cooking dinner all the prep for that such as boiling the water has to be done outside. Don’t get me wrong, I am far from complaining about being outside. It’s one of the best things about this life but when the weather is bad, it can completely change how you see the world. Being cold and hungry and waiting for dinner to cook is sometimes so annoying, but it definitely makes the food taste a lot better!
Fighting the Elements
As I just mentioned above, when the weather changes, so can your mood. In a van you are protected from almost all of them. Rain and wind, close the windows! But when you live on a bicycle you don’t have much choice. Sure, you can find a shelter but you are no longer moving and if it’s raining all day like it did with us in the Peruvian Higher Jungle, you just have to hope your waterproofs are waterproof enough! (It turned out that ours were not!) We are also starting to prepare for our winter bike down to Patagonia. We have estimated that we will be there for it’s winter season so we already know the future struggles we have to face.
A Van is Bigger Than a Bicycle
It sounds obvious that a van is much bigger than a bicycle and although a bicycle can support quite a large back trailer, all the weight you add, you have to push! The more weight, the harder biking is. Our bikes, without us on them weigh 35kg and that’s quite enough, thank-you. We did contemplate getting a trailer but some of the roads we have biked on would rip that trailer right off after giving us a real bumpy ride. Another great thing about van life is that you can pick up whatever you like from your travels, you have the ability to keep plants and decorate your home. I have tried to decorate my girl but I can’t have fairy lights, can I! Vans give you so much room for storage and as much as I love living with very little, sometimes it can be difficult to fit everything you want in.
Overall, I don’t believe you can beat the travelling life. No matter how you do it, It’s great for the soul and it allows the mind to open. The world is here for us to look after and for us to explore and every day should be an adventure. It’s sad that so many people in the world are not able to travel as an opportunity and the people who can don’t believe they have the courage to get out there and follow their wildest dreams. I struggled with myself for many years and it took a long time to gain the courage to fight for what I really wanted from life, I fed my dreams and I want to let people know that making that first leap is the hardest bit, after that? You’re flying!