Why...?

I always find this an interesting question.  For me, I am curious and I like to learn new things.  That is a major motivator.  I also enjoy physical and mental challenges.  I've changed my mindset from asking "why?" to asking "why not?"  I believe that this is a fundamentally different approach that begins with the presumption that what I doing is a good idea and I am looking for possible reasons not to do it rather than trying to convince myself that it's a good idea.


What's your favorite place?

This is a difficult question for me, I've never really had a favorite anything... there are simply too many interesting and fascinating places in this world.  My favorite places are being with friends and eating good food and enjoying nature.  There are many places that I have enjoyed visiting, each for different reasons.  Among my favorites are:  Mongolia, Indonesia (especially Bali), Japan (incredible skiing), Mexico, Guatemala, Namibia, Bhutan, Cambodia, and my home state of Utah (in the USA).  These are favorites because of the people and experiences that I've enjoyed there.


Are you a ultra-athlete?

No.  I am in reasonable physical condition.  Most people are physically able to bike 25 miles during an eight-hour day (that's only 3 miles an hour; you can walk faster than that!).   From there, one can build-up to more mileage at a rate that is individually comfortable.  I expect to have a total average daily mileage of 40 miles per day over the duration of the trip.


How many languages do you speak?
I speak Spanish fluently and I'm learning Portuguese.  Every country that I visit, I learn how to say hello, thank you, please, and excuse me in the local language.  I think it's very important to be polite as possible, especially as a visitor.  I believe that it shows that even though I don't speak the language, that I'm making an effort to communicate.  I also try to learn the numbers (0-10), "the food is good", and at least one funny things to say.

I'm fortunate that in most places there is someone that speaks a little English and advocate that language should not be a deterrent to traveling.  Most people are incredibly helpful.  I'm always amazed how far a smile and simple acting and/or drawing can enable communication.  One time, I communicated with any elderly Russian man for over three hours with nothing more than simple drawings.


How can you afford to travel?
It's simple, I travel inexpensively.  My purpose for traveling is to speak with people, hear new stories, and experience new ideas.  I find that by traveling simply, I have the added benefit to meet and interact with a lot more people.  It generally takes little longer, but it's much more rewarding.


Whenever possible, I use local buses, trains, walking, or even hitch-hiking.  Biking is even less expensive.  Flights are by far the most expensive way to travel.  The general rule is less travel time = more money.  For the bike trip, I'm expect to work/barter for lodging and food.  I plan to keep total costs below an average of $10 dollars (USD).  That's less than $300 USD a month!


I do avoid debt as much as possible.  If you are having a difficult time saving for your travel, I suggest trying to cut out costs from your current life.  One less beverage (beer, coffee, soda, etc.) each day can lead to huge savings.  Post pictures around your house to keep motivated.  I spoke to my friends for months before this trip to make the trip more real and keep me focused.


Are you sponsored?
No, I'm not sponsored.  I preferred to look for a way to do this trip without the commitments and hassles of corporate sponsorship.  Of course, if there were a relatively straight-forward manner for sponsorship, I would gladly accept it.  Unfortunately, time constraints for beginning this trip haven't allowed me to seek that level of sponsorship.  This is what I've done it to keep costs down and explore in the way that I wish:

  • Most of the things I am taking are items that I already owned (specifically clothes and cooking items).  When I purchased these, most were purchased as used items (aka second-hand).

  • If I purchased something new, I spoke with a local merchant and explained my trip and that I wanted to travel simply.  In every case, the merchant has been very helpful and answered all kinds of questions, even providing alternate solutions that would save me money (and possibly lose him/her a sale).  In most cases, they have also given me discounts.

  • For this trip, I have only purchased the bike (with rack, bags, and tools) and a few camping items (stove and sleeping bag with pad).  I wanted to have a more versatile stove that could handle international fuels.  I view the sleeping pad and bag as a routine investment: a guy should always have a sleeping bag and my previous gear was heavily used... it was time to get something new.  Given more time, I would have found a used bike or a way to piece a bike together.

  • To offset the cost of purchasing new items, I sold all that stuff that I haven't used in over one year.  These sales have paid for 75% of the new costs.


My recommendation is enjoy the freedom of not having a sponsor and find quicker and easier ways to fund a trip.  Save a little longer, look for used gear, be creative with ways to better use equipment.  It's easier and less expensive to travel than you imagine!


Where do you sleep?

I have slept in many strange and unexpected places, including unexpectedly being invited to many people's houses.  For this bicycling trip, I hope to not pay for lodging the entire time (=no hotels, no hostels).  I expect that I will camp the majority of the time.  One of the three major factors for choosing my current route is to have available camping along the coasts (and hopefully in the mountains).  I will also use CouchSurfing.com and the biker specific WarmShowers.org


Isn't it dangerous?
Life is a dangerous game with all kinds of inherent risks.  Statistically, I believe the most dangerous thing any of us do is to get inside a car.  Other than that, no!  The world is full of helpful people.  My general rule is that if I don't look for trouble, it most likely won't find me.


Have you been robbed?

In traveling to 75+ countries, I have only been robbed once.  We were traveling late at night and it could have easily been avoided.  I had one another close call when two guys tried to pickpocket me.  That's it!  And any of that could have just as easily happened while staying at home.  This is what I do to minimize risk:

  • I make reasonable decisions.

  • I don't carry large amount of money.

  • I don't use expensive/flashy gear.

  • I'm friendly with people and ask questions so that I don't find myself in the wrong places.


Isn't it difficult to cross borders?
Trouble does seem to congregate at borders.  I don't spend any more time at a border than necessary.  As much as possible, I make sure that I have all necessary paperwork and visas completed beforehand.  I look for visa requirements and travel restrictions for US citizens at:  travel.state.gov  (Canada, Australia, UK, and probably most other governments also have similar web sites).


Don't be dissuaded with paperwork or visa difficulties.  Most countries really do want travelers.  Everyone likes to tell their story and tourism brings business and promotion.  I'm been able to travel to some of the world's least-accessible countries (North Korea, Tibet, Myanmar, and Cuba) through persistence and following directions.


Why do you travel alone?
First, it's often difficult to find someone that shares my same sense of adventure.  Having said that, it is easy to meet new people and make friends along the way.  I will also meet-up with some friends at different stages of this trip.

Second, I find it exciting to travel alone.  I'll take the good with the bad.  Traveling alone can be difficult, but it does allow me to stand or fall by my own decisions.

How do you keep in contact with family/friends?
I purchase a SIM card for my phone in each new country.  This allows for cheap and easy communication via texting or messaging (using apps such as WhatsApp or WeChat).  These apps also allow for sending voice recordings.  I receive and send e-mail using my phone or internet cafés or Wifi.  It's easy to make phone calls using Skype or Gmail or Facebook.  I think that I probably communicate more than I would if I lived in a neighboring state.



Most Frequent Questions per County

I’m asked a lot of the same general questions, but there are some interesting trends of questions that I’m asked in different countries.  I think it helps provide insight into the culture of that particular country.

México:  What are you doing?
I found that Mexicans have a very genuine sense of curiosity.  Many, many times each day, people would stop me to ask questions.  There were many times when perhaps three or four different people would be waiting to ask me questions, complete strangers, just gathered around.  Or, I would spend time talking with one person (sometimes up to an hour) and then just as I would begin moving again, another person would stop.  Often I would be offered food and/or lodging.  I have found the people of México to be among some of the friendliest people on the planet.

Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador:  Aren't you scared?

Unfortunately, I believe that many people in these countries do live in a constant state of fear, hence this question.  I explained that I found most people to be kind and considerate, and, that up until that point, nothing bad had happened.  I encouraged people to not be scared and to trust that if one doesn't look for trouble, that it will often not be found.


Nicaragua:  What is life like in the United States?

I really enjoyed how "down to earth" the people are in Nicaragua.  I felt this question was a reflection of their hope for a better life.


Costa Rica:  What is your bike made of?
I was surprised how interested the "ticos" were about the bike.  Cycling is fairly common in Costa Rica, so they do understand bikes.  They were always very surprised to hear that my bike is made entirely of steel.  Almost no one would believe me, until they lifted it!

Panamá:  What country I have liked most?

A tricky question.  These types of questions always seem to be a leading question; one in which the person wishes me to speak well about them and/or their country.  The difficulty lies in the fact that I didn't find Panamá to be one of my favorite countries.  I usually just danced around the question and told people that I found the jungles of Panamá to be interesting... not the best answer, but...


Colombia:  How big is my bike frame?
Again, cycling is quite common in Colombia, so people immediately realized that I have a large bike.  Many people actually measured the head tube (the front upright bar where the fork attaches to the frame) and were stunned that it is 20 cm (I know that only because it was measured so many times).  What can I say?  I’m a tall dude.

Ecuador:  Where do you like the food most?
This is another one of those tricky questions... I know that they are asking me because they want to hear about their country.  The tricky part is, that I didn’t find the food particularly impressive in Ecuador.  It was better than most places, but not my favorite.  I mean, its going to be VERY difficult to compete with the food of México, India, and Thailand.  I answered the question like this, that I was enjoying the food more in Ecuador than in Central American and that I found the landscape very beautiful and the people very friendly.  Whew...

Perú:  What time is it in the US?
I was fascinated by this question for two reasons.  First, I've only ever been asked this in Perú.  Second, because I was asked this question so frequently.  It was always a little difficult to answer because of all the different time zones that exist in the US.  Perú only has one time zone, so, it was often difficult for people to understand the idea that it would be different times in different parts of the same country.  Eventually, I just answered with the time that it is in my hometown (Mountain Time zone).


Bolivia:

There really wasn't a general trend of questioning in Bolivia.  I found the Bolivians to be quiet and reserved.  There were friendly, but didn't really initiate many conversations.


Argentina:  How long did you save money for?

Admittedly, this was not the most commonly asked question, but I did really appreciated being asked this question.  And, the only place that I've ever been asked this in the world has been Argentina.  I like this question because it conveyed a deeper understanding that I'm not made of money.  Yes, I did have to work for several years to be able to save and afford time on the road.

I'm often asked many of the same questions.  Below are my answers to those common questions.


I'm happy to share any information or explain my reasoning!  This is how I've learned about all this.  If you find an answer that you would like to know more about or a question that isn't answered or even want to ask me the same question feel free to contact me!

"Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try to understand each other, we may even become friends."

   -Maya Angelou, “Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now" (1993)

Matt  W.  Dawson

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Frequently Asked Questions