What started as a desire for a simple mid-life “gap year” back in 2007 slowly evolved over time into the journey we now find ourselves on. The route we’ll take will likely zig and zag from day to day but we nonetheless have a general direction to our travels. At least we did while spending all those months and years staring at the map waiting for liftoff. The map below contains the route we had in mind back in October of 2012, some 18 months before pedaling off into the worldwide wild. It’s a fairly common route as far as these things go. One thing we are trying to do “in order to truly appreciate the scale of the globe” as I like to say, is that we’re hoping to pull this off without using any air travel.
The following comments essentially comprise the extent of our initial itinerary. It’s a compass, designed to lead us in the general direction we thought we’d want to travel, but leaves us plenty of room to wander:
- North America: Starting in Washington, that place that we’ll always call home, we want to head east along the Northern Tier Bicycle Route until Fargo, ND and then make a bee-line across Minnesota for the shores of Lake Superior, then head north into Canada at Thunder Bay. Really looking forward to pedaling Quebec’s many cycling routes on our way to Quebec City before turning south to Vermont, New York, and our family in New Jersey. With any luck, we’ll pull into Cooperstown, NY in time for that summer’s baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
- Europe: We’ll take the Queen Mary 2 from NYC to Southampton then make our way to Inverness, Scotland by train before cycling down the island to the coast where we’ll take a ferry to Denmark. From Denmark, we want to cycle some of the North Sea Bicycle Route south to France, Paris, then onward across northern Spain to Portugal and ultimately Morocco.
- Africa: Morocco has long been one of the places we’re most looking forward to visiting and our goal is to do a loop starting in Tangier, heading south to Marrakech, then returning north through the High Atlas and Middle Atlas mountains before taking a ferry back to Spain.
- Europe Cont’d: We’ll hug the coast as we make our way across southern Spain and France to Italy. Cinque Terre will keep us along the coast before we head inland towards the hill towns of Umbria. Should the timing work out the way we hope, we’ll take a break for Christmas and New Year’s Day while in Rome before making our way to the back of the boot for a ferry to Greece. We’ll head across Greece to Turkey before turning south and, with any luck, find a farm through helpx.net that we can work on for a month or so in southern Turkey while we wait for spring.
- Central Asia: We’ll head north across Turkey to Georgia then onward to Azerbaijan where we hope to catch the ferry to Kazakhstan. This is where things will likely get tricky. We’re currently eyeing the lonely desert road across the western frontier of Uzbekistan, south of the Aral Sea, en route to Samarkand before angling north to Kyrgyzstan.
- China: Should the bureaucrats in charge of issuing visas smile down upon us, we’ll cross from Kyrgyzstan into western China via Irkeshtam Pass. Though we would positively love to head south from Kashgar and cross the Tibetan Plateau, the Chinese are unlikely to allow this anytime soon (and recent attempts have been met with deportation) so we’ll likely take the northern route around the Taklamakan Desert to Urumqi before heading east towards Xi’an and Chengdu and points south.
- Southeast Asia: Hoping to cross into Vietnam in the northern Sa Pa district and head to Hao Long Bay before cycling the coast south to Ho Chi Minh City and west to Cambodia. Mandatory stop at Angkor Wat on the way to Thailand where we’ll likely head north to Chiang Mai before turning south to Bangkok, Phuket, and then onward across the border to Malaysia and Singapore.
- New Zealand: It’s going to be tricky to pull off for a number of reasons, but our goal is to take a cargo ship from Singapore to New Zealand, spend a full three months cycling both islands, then continue on by cargo ship to Panama. Fingers crossed, but if we have to take a flight we will.
- South America: Should we have the money, energy, and desire to continue on our journey (and not just continue through the Panama Canal to the eastern seaboard of the USA) then we’ll enroll in a Spanish immersion school for a month in Panama City before heading south to Colombia. From there, we’ll make our way south to Ecuador, Peru, and into Bolivia before angling west across the great salt flats towards the Chilean border. Once in Chile, we’ll head south to Santiago then onward to Patagonia and the Argentinian border. South, south, south we’ll go (likely into a stiff headwind) en route to Ushuaia, a perfectly natural exclamation point on what will likely be a very long trip that ultimately fails to resemble anything you just read.