Around The World On A Bicycle
This Sunday marks the 30th birthday of one of my closest friends, whom I've had the pleasure of knowing for a decade. So, to mark his special day, I thought I would write a blog about him and his insane idea to go around the world on a bicycle.
In previous blogs, I've mentioned my time at university, specifically, Lancaster University. It was here, back in 2010, on my first day, I met Tristan. You can tell a lot about a person when, after saying hello, they immediately offer you whiskey from a shot glass shaped like a shotgun cartridge.
Being in the same dormitory, we ate together, we played video games together, and we went to town in the evening a lot with friends we'd made during freshers week. This was a guy who, while doing a degree in Philosophy and Politics, wanted to make the most of his time at university, and I was along for the ride.
Or that would have been the idea at least. We had already sorted out living arrangements for the second year at Lancaster; a shared house in town with a few others of our friends. As mentioned in previous blogs, I didn't do another year at Lancaster, so I gave my space in the house to another of our friends and said goodbye.
In the following years, while at Huddersfield, I would regularly go back to Lancaster to spend time with Tristan and the gang for a week or so and occasionally Tristan came over to Huddersfield. I was now a year behind, having restarted my three years at Huddersfield, so by the time I finished my final year, Tristan had already got the itch to escape England and travel, backpacking around Europe, then moving out to Australia, hitchhiking and working to keep himself afloat.
To celebrate finishing my music degree in 2014, I went out to stay with Tristan for a month, landing in Darwin, north Australia, and staying there for a couple of weeks. We stayed in hostels and, using trains, planes, and automobiles, drove to Litchfield National Park for a day; then flew down to Brisbane, staying there for a few days; got on a bus to Byron Bay for a weekend; a train to Sydney, staying there for a week with a weekend trek through the Blue Mountains; then another plane to the Gold Coast where we spent our last few days before I flew home from Brisbane airport.
100,000 KILOMETRES, 100 COUNTRIES
Soon after I had been to stay with Tristan, he had begun to hatch a plan to cycle around New Zealand for three months and then, when he came to the end, he decided to continue up to Papua New Guinea and kept cycling all the way back to England (with the occasional boat trip). The journey took exactly a year, during which Tristan cycled through Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, and France, before taking the ferry over to Dover and arriving home on Christmas Day to surprise his family.
It wasn't long before Tristan felt the itch to travel again. After a year of earning money, he set out again, making his way through northern Europe and Scandinavia, cycling from France again, into Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosova, Macedonia, Albania, and Greece, before flying over from Athens to Amman.
Now over the Mediterranean, with eight months of travelling behind him, Tristan continued into the Middle East and North Africa, travelling through Jordan, ferried over to Egypt and again to Sudan, cycling through the Sahara into Ethiopia and on to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa before flying over to Brazil then cycling up through to Uruguay, then Argentina, and mixing flying and cycling through Argentina, Patagonia, and Chile before the pandemic hit.
Tristan had spent another year and a half cycling and flying from the Middle East to South America but had finally been caught up by COVID-19. After hoping to wait it out in Argentina, he realised, three months in, it wasn't going to go away any time soon and decided to fly back to England, putting the 100,000 km journey on pause.
During the summer lull in pandemic peaks, Tristan decided to do another trip in Europe, through the Alps while tourism was quiet. He made his way through France, Switzerland, Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, and Italy. He'd spent three months travelling and in that time, the second wave of COVID had reared its head, beginning to make the travelling difficult. As of October, Tristan has based himself back in England intending to stay until it's safe to head back to South America and continue the long journey, up through the Americas to Alaska.
BUILD AFRICA AND STREET CHILD
But why is Tristan doing all this cycling? It's not all fun and games, as travelling alone for the majority of the trip and camping rough has its risks. During his travels, Tristan has been arrested, held at gunpoint, gotten lost, and faced all kinds of weather and climate extremes. Despite these challenges, he enjoys cycling around the world (obviously), meeting new and like-minded people and, on one occasion, attending a wedding. He has always had the travel bug, wanting to be away from England and explore every country on every continent. He's even expressed an interest to sail every sea once he's explored every land mass.
Enjoyment isn't the only reason for all this travelling though. Very early into the journey, as Tristan cycled through the less affluent areas tourists don't see, he witnessed an overwhelming amount of poverty. Tristan couldn't turn a blind eye as he cycled past and soon discovered the charity project, Build Africa, now a part of Street Child, who fight poverty in 14 countries across Africa and South Asia. Street Child focuses on educating children and empowering communities to give them a chance at a better life.
Tristan specifically raised money for several projects based in Kenya and Uganda, which he visited and contributed towards while he was there. As he's been travelling, Tristan has been on local radio stations, bringing this amazing charity to the world's attention.
If you're interested in hearing more about Tristan's incredible travels around the world on a bicycle, take a look at his website. There, you can find out more about the journey itself; his fundraising and the projects involved; have a read of his blogs where he goes into detail about each part of the journey and the dangers he's faced; and see some photos he's taken of the beautiful landscapes he has cycled through.
Happy Birthday, Tristan!