Frequently Asked Questions
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. "Why not?" implies that I am looking for reasons I might not do it, rather than trying to convince myself that it's a good idea.
Are you an ultra-athlete?
No, I don't consider myself to be an ultra-athlete. I am in reasonable physical condition.
Most people are physically able to bike 30+ miles (50 km) during an eight-hour day. Really, that's only 3 miles/5 km an hour; we can walk faster than that!
From there, one can build-up to distances at a rate that is individually comfortable. I started at 40-50 miles (60-70 km) per day and eventually was cycling double that in a typical day.
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. These are favorites because of the people and experiences that I've enjoyed there:
-Indonesia (especially Bali)
-Japan (incredible skiing and food)
-Utah (my home state in the USA)
How many languages do you speak?
I speak Spanish fluently and some Mandarin.
I learn how to say "hello", "thank you", "please", and "excuse me" in the local language of every country I visit. I believe that it shows that even though I don't speak the language, that I'm making an effort to communicate. I think it's very important to be polite as possible, especially as a visitor.
I also try to learn the numbers (0-10), "the food is good", and at least one funny things to say. Humor always goes a long way!
I'm fortunate that in most places there is someone that speaks a little English. Language should never be a deterrent to traveling. There are hundreds of ways to communcitate and most people are incredibly helpful. I'm always amazed how far a smile, 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. 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 I find it much more rewarding.
The general rule is: less travel time = more money. Flights (fast travel) are by far the most expensive way to travel. Slow travel is less expensive. Step away from the "premium" and "luxury" costs, and you'll be amazed how inexpensive travel can be. That doesn't mean you have to "slum" it.... local buses, trains, walking, or ride-sharing all offer more affordable options.
During the bike trip, my average daily costs were about $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 (as opposed to the idea of earning more money). 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.
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 camped the majority of the time. One of the three major factors for choosing my current route is to have available camping along the route. On a few occasions, I used
CouchSurfing.com and the biker specific
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 95+ countries, I have only been robbed twice. Both times, I was traveling late at night and it could have easily been avoided. I had one another close call when two guys tried to pickpocket me, but I was helped by a local before it got out of hand. 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 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.
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. Typically, this costs less than $2 USD. This allows for cheap and easy communication via texting or messaging (using apps such as WhatsApp). 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.
What are you doing? (México)
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.
Often, 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. Many times, I was offered food and/or lodging. I have found the people of México to be among some of the friendliest people on the planet.
Aren't you scared? (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador)
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.
What is life like in the United States? (Nicaragua)
I really enjoyed how "down to earth" the people are in Nicaragua. I felt this question was a reflection of their curiosity and hope for a better life.
What is your bike made of? (Costa Rica)
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.
What country I have liked most? (Panamá)
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...
How big is the bike frame? (Colombia)
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 they were always 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.
I also found it interesting because we always measure bikes by the seat tube.
Where do you like the food most? (Ecuador)
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 countries and that I found the landscape very beautiful and the people very friendly. Whew... dodged that bullet....
What time is it in the US? (Perú)
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).
How long did you save money for? (Argentina)
I really appreciated being asked this question. And, this only place that I've ever been asked this, in the world!
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.