Biking Alone Around the World

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The "Alone Around the World" sub-genre of travel writing had its moment in the 1970s, judging by the  adventure travel section in our library. (Either that or we just have a lot of books from the 1970s.)

I love these stories. They're terrifying and wonderful. 

J. Hart Rosdail, an Iowa boy, rode around the world on a bicycle he bought for seven dollars. Jacqueline, as he called her, was around 50 years old when he took the second leg of the trip, through Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. It sounds crazy. 

When my sister, Sarah, and I were preparing for our bike trip through Eastern Europe this spring, I spent a lot of time reading about bicycle touring and researching different kinds of bikes. A bike shop guy strongly encouraged me not to ride my current bike on a tour. Then he recommended a bike that was well over my entire trip budget. 

He also recommended that I look at trailers, to haul all of our gear. I didn't know exactly what we needed for the trip, but I knew that I didn't need an expensive bike or a trailer--I couldn't even imagine what we would use a trailer for. (We laughed about this the entire trip.) It was frustrating to go to a bike shop for guidance and meet with a salesman instead. 

I found what I needed in a book on bicycle touring. It went something like this: there's a type of bike for every kind of ride, but for centuries people have ridden around the world on bulky, fixed gear bikes. Start with the bike you have. 

This was the most clear-headed advice I found about touring. And it goes for pretty much everything. 

Do you know that feeling when you're first starting out in a new hobby, or exploring anything new, really? That sense of not belonging? You're not really sure what you need to know, only that you need to know it, so that's why you're there, but you feel really out of place being there. It takes some time of just being there to get past this feeling. It takes getting past the bombardment of questions that seem to highlight your ignorance rather than affirm that this is a beginning, the start of something, the place where ignorance is an asset. 

I want to do this is sufficient reason to start learning something new. 

"Alone Around the World" stories are so fascinating because they start with this desire. I wanted to do this. So I did. Rare stories. 

Rosdail and Jacqueline.

Images source: Biking Alone Around the World, Rosdail, 1973

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