Welcome to the Cycle Series!
In this series, I will be introducing you to inspiring men and women who love exploring the world on their trusted two-wheeled vehicle – the bicycle!
I first met Pashmina back in 2017 when I was invited to speak at an event called Fuck Up Nights KL. The idea of the event was to share stories on failures that successful people had to endure before they became great at what they did. I was just starting out at the time so I shared stories of how I successfully got out of my then very uptight corporate job in a local insurance company to start travelling more.
Pashmina, on the other hand, was part of the audience that night. I remember her telling me how she was (also like me) new to the idea of exploring the world more and doing it differently but I knew then she was already far more ahead of me.
Fast forward to today, I caught up with her again. Thanks to Instagram, I was able to follow her cycling adventures and I HAD to ask her what it was like.
What you did was technically long-distance cycling. It seems gruelling but what made you decide to do it?
Cycle touring or bicycle touring came to me as an alternative means of adventuring the globe—it’s not gruelling as what most people would have in mind before setting off on an adventure. Oftentimes, it is eye-opening and cycling can become the perfect vessel to do slow travel, experience the in-between towns and find meaningful interactions with local people.
Honestly, my cycling experiences have been limited. I’ve only clocked in less than 1,500km combining three trips such as Laos, Taiwan and then Vienna to Budapest. I also did short trips in the Himalayas.
I wish I can explore more but it takes a certain level of commitment and physical readiness to prepare the mind and body for a trip like this. I mean, I love it but for anyone who has certain creature comforts, it might not be the best type of adventure.
Tell me, how did you feel when you first set off?
A ball of nerves, anxiety-ridden, and wondering ‘why am I doing this?’. However, the anticipation of any big trip is always anxiety driven, and for some people, it can be very fun. I, on the other hand, was often twitchy before the trip and somehow manage to anticipate the worst. But once I’m on my bike, the miles pour in like endless soda, and as the wind cools my face, all my fears were left behind from where I left off.
It is like a magic trick. I realised all my worries are not so bad—not as bad as when I was sitting at home and thinking about the worst possible scenario.
Did everything go according to plan?
If everything went according to plan, then you don’t really learn much from trips like this. Punctured wheels, endless climbs, and heat strokes are common but on the bright side, you’re free to pause when you need to, hitch-hike if you have to, or do whatever you need to do in order to get back on that bike stronger than before.
In Taiwan, we suffered punctured tyres and it was nearing dusk. What’s worse is that it was raining, making it almost impossible for us to fix a flat. So we decided to hitch a ride with a lorry so we could get to the nearest bike repair shop.
When I look back at it, I’m reminded of how lucky we were – that we were close to civilization. In remote terrains, it is almost impossible to hitch a ride, and being self-sufficient with basic bicycle knowledge can only help you so much. Depending on the route you choose (and if there’s literally nothing) your knowledge and self-sufficiency may not be enough.
So no. There was no real plan – just a rough idea on where we’ll be heading out from and just rolled with it. Did a bit of reading from travel blogs and pretty much looked at routes that other cyclists were taking on the Strava app. It helped a lot.
I recalled you mentioning the locals were welcoming to you and your friends. What were they like?
Yes in Laos, villagers and children were often curious about our bike setup and would almost always wave at us while we ride through the towns. In Taiwan, we were offered oranges and snacks and many others were giving us a big thumbs up. It was such a morale booster!
I’ve heard, in other countries, people are accommodating and are open to inviting you over to their house. Warm meals and hot showers are also easier to find using the Warm Showers app. It’s another convenient way to meet hosts who were once cyclists too. Plus, story exchanges are definitely part of the experience.
What was the major highlight of the trip?
I would say cycling against some major headwinds, and a low-magnitude earthquake in Taiwan unbeknownst to us until we checked our phones. We had to duck down and tried to resist the typhoon-like winds, but we still kept fighting against it.
Also a certain type of “tolerance for suffering” is required for an endurance-laden trip because you’ll be thanking yourself for the endless rewards. I would hate to hop from one destination to another and miss out on interactions with locals.
Living life slowly! It’s almost like time travel – time is squeezed into months and days, pacing yourself and see people on the go in slow motion.
What would you tell someone about this trip – something you wished someone else had told you before you went?
You will be capable of succeeding but expect extremely tired, cold and sore days. How you handle it (individually or as a team) boils down to whether you enjoy the challenges that come with it.
It is most certainly not a vacation until you find a place to rest, look at the sunset and frolic in the sand. That’s when you realise that life, is truly beautiful when you live within two extremes – it somehow allows you to understand the world better, and these are the adventures you should embark on in order to appreciate the true beauty of the world.
Also, you don’t need experience. I learned how to ride a bike in my late 20s and riding has forced me to get out of my comfort zone. Eventually, it has lead me to go out and experience more. The best part is I get to reminisce, reflect, learn more about myself and then share them with the world through my travel site. Head to The Gone Goat to see more of my adventures.
Many thanks to Pashmina for sharing her cycling adventures! Still wondering if you’re up for a long-distance cycling trip, ask away in the comments below!