05/03/2019 Simon ‘Wardy’ Ward is nomadonanomad
I’m often asked what got me to start this adventure/disaster and it’s been strange as to how and why it all came about. I’ve always been someone who has to be doing things and I get very bored incredibly quickly. Consequently, I went through my working life, having no time for hobbies, and I had no idea what I would do when it came to retirement. The idea of finishing working and having time on my hands was terrifying. Work until I drop was, it seemed, my destiny. One day at Blue Bananas, my bar in Vientiane, Laos, changed all that when a customer came in and placed an advertisement on our notice board for a bicycle. Now I hadn’t ridden a bicycle since I was a teenager, but driving in Vientiane had become a nightmare as the roads were not able to cope with the explosion of car ownership that took place just after I settled there. Even after getting to your destination, you were then faced with the problem of parking, and the bicycle seemed like it might be the answer to these problems. I took the notice down and asked the guy to drop it round when he had time.
Vientiane is a flat as the proverbial pancake, albeit extremely hot, but I had acclimatised and was used to the heat. I found out very quickly that with a rucksack on my back I could whizz around town doing my errands far more quickly than in the car, even if I had to make multiple journeys, and the upside was I was getting very much fitter and enjoying racing, and often beating, the traffic around me. About a year later I decided to sell the bike and get myself a new and much better one. Every day I went to work on the bike and was having a blast. I was also getting more and more interested in the different kind of bikes on the market and soon realised that folks were doing ultra-long distance cycle touring, with all their worldly goods on bicycles. I’ve always loved travelling and after going around the world before settling in Laos, but in planes and cars, I thought that I would see and encounter more at 10 mph rather than being propelled by an engine of whatever sort.
I started watching Youtube searching for cycle touring videos to learn as much as is possible, without actually leaving home. It was then that I saw some really uplifting stuff about people and where they had been and what they had encountered. So here I would like to list some of my favourite cycle tourists who have helped me to become inspired to set out and do what I have so far, and I hope I will have many more years of experiencing what so many folks only dream about.
First, and most definitely my favourite cycle tourist, is Iohan Gueorguiev. His Youtube channel is called ‘See the World’ and is amazing. Having subscribed to his channel and hit the notifications button I get an email alerting me to any new videos he’s uploaded. When I get a notification of a new video the course of action then would be, while I was back in Vientiane, put the kettle on for a brew, shut the doors, switch my phone off, turn the volume up on the laptop, click on the ‘like’ button as I know before I watch it I will enjoy the film, then full screen, and finally ‘play’.
He starts off in Alaska in Wintertime and was unable to dip his bicycle wheel in the Arctic Ocean, as is customary when starting a journey, because the sea there was frozen over 2 metres thick, so he camped on the ice above the ocean instead. My favourite part of his first film comes when a truck appears out of the whiteout that’s happening at the time and the driver winds down his window to ask Iohan if he’s ok. Iohan says that he’s fine and thanks the driver for his concern. The driver then asks where he’s going and he replies ‘Argentina’. The driver’s reaction is fantastic. ‘Argentina? On your bike?’, ‘Oh man I love you!’ Iohan’s skills as a film maker are incredible. I have watched all his films, most of them several times and he, in my opinion, is the master cycle tourist going way off the beaten track. If you like travel and want to see some different places, I can highly recommend his channel.
Another inspirational figure is Roei Sadan. An Israeli guy who also cycled around the world. A wonderful human being whose interactions with everyone he encountered were amazing. He always had a smile on his face and was genuinely liked by the folks he met. Unfortunately, after his cycle tour ended he, being an action man, went off mountaineering and suffered a dreadful accident and nearly died. His recovery is slow and not yet complete, if it ever will be, and yet he is now giving motivational talks and has appeared on Ted-X. I really hope he can beat all the odds and make that full recovery.
At only 19 years old an English boy, Ed Pratt, set off to Unicycle, yes, you read that right, Unicycle around the world. It took him 3 years and 22,000 miles but what an adventure for one so young? His film making skills have developed along the way and he will surely go on to make a name for himself either as an adventurer or something in the film industry. A huge talent and I would seriously suggest giving his channel a try.
Rausegefahren is a channel about a couple from Germany, Michel and Olga, (Olga moved to Germany from Russia in her teens) who get married and decide to honeymoon by cycling around the world. Fabulous people, accompanied by ‘Sheep’, a stuffed toy, I always enjoy following their travels. I have commented on their videos a few times when Sheep either has not appeared or has been in the video. They always reply but probably think I’m nuts! They’ve been on the road for almost three years now and have been all over the place. They speak in German when presenting their films, but have subtitles in English.
Jin is a Korean girl who at the age of 20 decided she wanted to cycle tour. She had been living in Canada but for whatever reason started her journey in the States. The first week she cried herself to sleep and thought that she wasn’t cut out for the lifestyle. She then reasoned that she’d only just started and should keep going for a month, and if she was still unhappy she could abandon the idea and put it down as a mistake. 3 years, 60+ countries and 60,000+kms later she’s still going I believe, and has done some amazing things in incredible places. Only slight downside is she speaks English in her films but she has a very strong accent and my old ears find it hard at times to get what she’s saying. Her channel is called ‘Cycling around the World’.
Another inspiration is a gentleman called Paul Ardill. Apparently, he was at his doctor’s one day just after retirement, and his doctor, who happened to be a friend, told him he wasn’t going to have a long retirement as he was in very poor physical condition and he insisted that he call in at the bicycle shop on his way home and buy a bicycle and start riding around the block to improve his fitness. Paul took the doctor’s advice and the bike was purchased. Some time later, and in Paul’s words, ‘the blocks got a bit bigger over time’, culminating in him eventually circumnavigating Australia with his wife driving the motorhome as support vehicle, and then, at the age of 74 competing in the Indy-Pac wheel race from Fremantle, Western Australia to Sydney, self-supported and 5,500 kilometres! What a guy?!
Mike Hall was probably as well known in the cycling world as the likes of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome. A British guy and one of the greatest ultra-long distance cyclists ever who, during the Indy-Pac wheel race just two years ago, was tragically killed near Canberra whilst in second position in the race. The race was abandoned, and the reasons behind the accident are still being investigated and the race has not been held since. As one of the most liked and respected cyclists in the world a phrase was coined in Mike’s memory, ‘Be more Mike’.
While I was cycling through France I saw a tandem parked up and was very keen to see who it belonged to. The couple in question were easy enough to spot as they were in matching cycling gear, and I stopped to have a chat with them. Fantastic English couple on holiday and very proud to tell me that they had a combined age of 154 years! No details forthcoming about who was how old though, and naturally I was too polite to ask. They confessed to some thoughts about getting some electrical assistance so they could continue to enjoy the pleasures of riding for more years to come.
So, these are some of the folks who I think about when the going gets tough, the wind or road surface is a problem, and I start to wonder what the hell I’m doing.
Thanks as always for reading this far, and may your God go with you.
Simon ‘Wardy’ Ward.