There is a special something about traveling by bicycle.
I like to consider myself (arrogantly) quite a well-travelled chap. Aided by the wonders of an English passport, I am provided with very few visa complications around the world. I have travelled through almost 40 countries; each one carrying its own gem of uniqueness. Though, it was in Cambodia during a 9-month trip through Asia that I became quite disinterested in the conventional methods of travel. After all, it’s not about the destination, but about the journey, right? Apologies to the cramped buses, full of boozy ‘slack’ packers, that lost my custom, but I decided to invest more in the ‘journey’ side of traveling.
It was in Battambang, a city just southwest of Siam Reap where my travel buddy and I invested in two fixed-gear bicycles for $10 each. Using bungee cords and rope we attached our backpacks to the loose racks on the back of the bicycles, and began cycling south with no clear destination in mind.
The feeling of using your body to propel yourself across large masses of land is unexplainable.
Adventurously, instead of going directly from A to Z, you’re given the freedom to explore the many escapades that await, hidden, among the other 24 letters of the alphabet. As slow as this may seem, watching the environment pass you by while on a bicycle seems somewhat more visceral than through the transparent divide of a window. Being forced to stop due to a flat tire, or mild fatigue can allow you to elicit the most interesting of conversations from the wildest of characters.
Physically, the demand is wherever you want it to be. You have full control on how far you would like to push yourself for the day. Your heart rate remains at a steady, slightly elevated pace, for the entire journey. Meaning, unlike any other vacation, you finish your holiday in better shape than when you started.
Environmentally, you’re doing the world a big favour. The tourism industry is responsible for 5 – 12% of global greenhouse emissions (1), with air travel being the largest contributor of those emissions. Whereas cycling is the most environmentally efficient way to travel, who doesn’t want to reduce their carbon footprint using their feet?
Curious about your personal Carbon Footprint? Calculate yours here: http://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx
After 3 weeks of cycling around Cambodia, covering over 1000 km, I rolled into Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on my faithful two-wheeled friend. Feeling tired, overwhelmed, and accomplished, I sensed that the small world that I was used to traveling had now become much larger.
I have now cycled over 5,000 km through 9 countries. Every trip reminds me how much more there is to see, and I can think of no better way to see it than from two wheels and a saddle.