A year ago today, we left the comfort of our homes to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. After three months of planning, we initiated the Cycle to Farms project, secured sponsorships and partners, scheduled farm visits, and equipped ourselves with necessary gear. Although we had been dreaming of this trip for years, we never expected to undertake such a massive adventure so soon. It’s time for us to share some of our positive, negative and future insights with you about our journey so far.
The feeling we had when we finally decided to begin this new journey was a mix of excitement, fear, doubt, and rejuvenation. We were about to embark on an adventure that would take us around the world, cycling through various countries, exploring different cultures, and learning about regenerative farming practices.
Before delving into our experiences, we want to express our gratitude to the people who inspired us, such as our friend Roel, who shared tips and tricks and recommended wonderful books about cycling the world. We also want to thank Rohan and Ragav, who have fascinated us with their long-distance cycling tours around Europe, and Giovanni, Elia, and Rian, who have shared our interest in adventure and cycling and joined us for our very first long-distance cycling trips in the Netherlands. Additionally, we want to thank Susan, who has been a major supporter and inspiration, sharing our story and starting her own journey hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Of course, there are many more family and friends who believed in us and supported us throughout the journey. We are extremely privileged to have such a supportive network of people around us.
Next to all the wonderful people back home supporting us, we have also been lucky to meet incredible people during our travels. We have learned a lot from the different individuals we met during our journey, which has definitely led to a shift in mindset. Additionally, we have received various wonderful messages from people telling us they were inspired by our project and decided to do something courageous themselves. Meeting so many inspiring change makers, such as the regenerative farmer, has also motivated us to work hard and support the efforts of these farmers who are transitioning our food system into a fair and healthy one for ourselves and the planet.
So far, we have gotten used to the cycling lifestyle and the pace we are comfortable with. We have also become addicted to exploring new places that we would not have visited if it were not for the mission or for cycling. Cycling truly comes with a lot of surprises and new-found hidden gems.
Our new approach that changed our mentality quite a bit is, “Let things happen, if it’s meant to be, we will get there and make it happen”
Luckily, cycling has pushed us to let things go and let our minds wander and rest from the daily worries we had before. Cycling has been a great stimulus for interesting reflections and thoughts during our journey.
While reflecting on our one-year journey, we both agreed that allowing ourselves to be vulnerable has been an important step. While at first, we had difficulties letting ourselves be vulnerable, we quickly learned that this was actually very rewarding. Read our previous article: “Do you dare to ask a stranger?”. We learned that people felt more connected to us when we were vulnerable. Two people on loaded bikes coming all the way from the Netherlands asking for a place to camp in their gardens. Why are these people asking this? This sense of immediacy opens doors of interest. The moments in which we make ourselves vulnerable have been the most memorable moments in which we experienced true hospitality. From strangers handing over the keys to their houses to inviting us over for dinner, a hot shower, parties, and wonderful conversations.
This way of exploring the surroundings has the added value that we got to learn more about the culture and daily lives of people. While we are on a mission of learning from farmers about regenerative agriculture, we also learned a lot from the people we met randomly during our journey. We also experienced vulnerability in the most literal sense: feeling vulnerable and small in the incredible nature. The force of big mountains, rivers, lakes, oceans, wild animals, deserts, storms, and droughts. The physical hardship comes with various emotions but first and foremost the feeling of connectedness with the forces of nature.
These positive insights have really contributed to our cycling travel journey and mission. We can now finally say that we got used to the cycling lifestyle and know what we like and what we don’t like. We have less doubt that we can finish our journey. The only thing now is that we love this lifestyle and find it hard to imagine ourselves doing something else.
“We cannot see ourselves not cycling anymore.”
Learnings from challenges
Although we have had mainly positive experiences on this journey, we have also faced some moments of hardship.
Our first challenge was dealing with doubt. The question of whether we were physically fit to cycle 7000 km in different circumstances such as deserts, mountains, heat, and intense traffic often haunted us. We also had financial doubts, wondering if we would be able to make it. However, we learned that worrying alone does not help and actually detracts from the journey. Therefore, we decided to actively seek financial support and do some freelance work to earn income to help us move forward. While we didn’t want to think about the financial side of the journey, knowing that we don’t have to worry about buying food or occasionally staying at a guesthouse or hotel when we can not find a campside is reassuring.
We also had to deal with traveling fatigue, a concept that we only learned about recently after a friend mentioned it. Adapting to changes such as language, food, culture, landscape, payment methods, and climate can take a toll on us. Just as we get used to one country and learn about its language and culture, we find ourselves in a new context where those things don’t apply. While changes usually excite us and keep our trip interesting, they can also be challenging.
We also had to deal with bureaucratic challenges such as visas. Although we never thought of this as a potential issue, we definitely ran into some problems (especially Aisha). It’s possible to apply for a visa and still be denied for no apparent reason, perhaps due to ethnicity, name, race, or other factors that aren’t specified in advance. However, we found a way to deal with it, which involved spending money… Sad reality 🙁
Gear Issues: The gear experienced some issues during the trip. A cow stepped on the tent, destroying the tent poles and net. Lukas was able to glue them temporarily. The sleeping mat got wet and started expanding, creating a pillow which Lukas did not have (maybe not that bad after all). Bicycle parts also needed occasional repairs, where local people helped to weld some parts when needed.
Health: During our time in Croatia, we had a fever and had to stay in bed. Since then, we have not had any issues until recently, when we experienced some digestion issues and went for a check up at the hospital it turned out we had typhoid fever. At the time of writing, we feel better, but we still need to readjust.
As we reflect on the past year, we remain excited about the future. Cycling will always be a part of our lives, as well as our support for the transition towards regenerative agriculture. We are grateful for everyone who has supported us and continuous supporting along the way and inspired us to continue on this journey.
One thing we have learned is that cycling is more than just a means of transportation; it is the destination itself. The feeling of smallness in the incredible nature, the connections with people, the unexpected challenges, and the personal growth that comes from them make this journey an incredible adventure.
We encourage everyone to embark on their own adventure, big or small. You never know where it may take you, but one thing is for sure, you will come out a stronger and more resilient person!
“whoever has the most fun, wins!” read this somewhere on the web and it just got stuck in our minds
We hope you enjoyed reading! Thank you!
Aisha & Lukas