Bicycle journeys

In 1984 I set off from the Oregon, USA, coast on a journey that would take decades to complete, would see me cycle across six continents and through dozens of countries. I quickly found that the bicycle is a superlative travel and touring instrument. Unhindered by glass, metal, speed, or apparent affluence, it allowed me to get closer to the people, the land, and the elements. Its slow passage provided opportunity for to see, interact, and analyze what I come to experience. I felt immersed in the environment and local people had few walls to overcome to approach me. Relatively short daily distances made sure that I stayed, often camped, in small out of the mainstream places where few regular tourists and travelers frequented. I found beautiful places and was able to linger. I met wonderful people and was able to chat, I exchanged waves with local folks by the road and saw the smiles on kids faces with my passing.  I learnt about the people, the land and myself. I crossed international boundaries with ease, always had my own mobility and then just put it on the plane when I was done.

Of course, it is not without its problems and challenges. When it rained I got wet. When the sun beat, I overheated. When the road climbed I labored. And when the road was a pile or rocks or sand I cursed. But these too are the elements. Want to see mountains, climb them. Want to lie on luxuriant grass, it must rain. And want to experience non-western cultures, the roads may well be a mess. I found too that it was attitude, will, and patience that countered more than physical strength and capability. The difficulties always passed, the next bend could always hold a beautiful scene or a great meeting, going uphill was just the means to a splendid view. There was sunshine after rain, a downhill beyond the climb, a wonderful camp-spot at the end of a long day. Learning to deal with the difficulties and minimizing them was as much a part of the ride as the journey itself. In cycling, the journey was everything, the destination was just the excuse.

So I kept finding routes to cycle and lands to explore. It seemed that every tour was more difficult, that there were more and different challenges than the journey before. And with increased experience the old challenges were easier allowing space for the new. After  four continents I set out for number five and six, finishing the round in Singapore 18 years after I started. But even that goal didn’t quite fill the insatiable quest for the view around the next bend. I cycled through New Zealand, and along the Himalayas, and most recently, across Mongolia. At the end of each journey I have the satisfaction of the journey itself but the joy of drawing a thin red line of my own endeavor, effort and experience on a big, wide map and sitting back to survey. Its not a bad way to spend time.

Click on the links below to read descriptions and blogs from individual journeys. Since some journeys predate internet and my blog writing, not all entries have full blogs.

Click on GALLERY to see photographs from Matthew’s journeys.

Click on SPEAKING to learn more about Matthew’s presentations about his journeys.

Click on PUBLICATIONS to learn more about Matthew’s coffee table photo books.

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