Meeting other travelers is always entertaining because, foremost, they tend to be interesting characters, full of life and stories. I am always curious as to what inspired a person to get out in the world. Typically, it is a general desire to see places foreign to one’s own backyard, learn a new language, or, in one of the best answers I ever received to the question:
I travel to meet friends I didn’t even know I had
I have always shared those same generalities regarding travel. Unlike most, I have a definitive encounter that planted the seed for my bicycle travels. Until this weekend I could only narrow the time to the summer of 1992. In 1992, I spent the Spring semester on a cooperative education assignment¹. Subsequently, I was in school for the first part of the summer (the first summer in a long time I hadn’t worked two jobs to pay for my living expenses throughout the following school year). For the second part, I was in Ecuador and Colombia attempting to learn Spanish.
This weekend, in the seemingly never ending process of cleaning out, I came across a stack of old travel journals. In one, I found the specifics for my inspiration. Approximately in the middle of a slightly musty journal, in hand writing of a past self much more legible than it is today, I read:
…I immediately boarded another bus for Esmereldas and from there I continued to Muisne. This is my second day here (23 Agosto 1992). I rented a plywood cabana on the beach… …I met a Canadian guy who is bicycling the world. Now I want to do the same. He studied engineering like me, worked for about three years and then quit to cycle the world. It sounds like a awesome idea to me.
The next day I continued:
…I can’t get this bike tour out of my head. I think it is something I would really enjoy. If I could cycle every inhabited continent, it would be wild. The guy Andrew, whom I met, really has me psyched. Things I need: a touring bike, large frying pan, large pot, stove, a two man tent, sleeping bag and a lot of courage. I feel good about this, I really do. I feel as if I have a purpose. If I can keep the enthusiasm up, I’ll be doing great.
So there it is, the defining moment. I decided to bicycle the world on the 23rd of August, 1992, on a little spit of land, on the coast of Ecuador, after meeting Andrew, a Canadian cyclist.
I had no idea how I was going to do it. It seemed an almost Herculean task to realize this dream. So much was unknown and uncertain at the time. To begin with, my financial situation seemed insurmountable. The nation was in the recession of the early 1990’s and I was facing the prospect of a job hunt in a down market. I racked up school debt of over $32,000 (in 2012 dollars) even with alternating semesters of school and work and going to a public state school. I had no job, no savings to speak of, and was definitely not a trustafarian².
This left my net worth somewhere between negative infinity and the poor house. In other words, I was broke. The equivalent on the dating circuit would be “he’s got a really great personality.”
So I was left pondering the future and wondering to myself, “How the hell was I going to afford a large frying pan?”
¹Co-op or cooperative education is a paid longer term internship, where one alternates a semester of school with a semester of work in an area related to your major, resulting in about twelve months of work experience upon graduation.
²Neo-Hippie Lifestyle – Funded by Mom and Dad. Favored by young artists, band managers, anthropologists, and ganjanographers. It’s a great gig if you can get it.