A Year Abroad

There it is, landmass covered! It is not a very straight line… if you stretched it straight it looks like I would have made it around by now!
In context

21 countries

App. 20,000 kilometers or 12,000 miles

Less than $10,000 spent

“Round the world! There is much in that sound to inspire proud feelings; but whereto does all that circumnavigation conduct? Only through numberless perils to the very point whence we started, where those that we left behind secure, were all the time before us.”

Moby Dick, Ch. 52.

“Surely there is naught sweeter than a man’s own country and his parents, even though he dwell far off in a rich house, in a strange land,far from them that begat him.”

-Odyssey,IX.34 ff.

Greetings from the countryside! I am somewhere in the mountains, 260 kilometers from the point at which I will cross the border into Laos. This is my first night camping in three weeks, and wouldn’t you know it, I am in a thunderstorm! Thankfully I had just enough time to eat dinner- which I would have been unable to go without- and setup my tent before the downpore set in. I stayed outside awhile to wash off the grime, which was also quite timely, although I fear it did not suffice to get me very clean…
I wanted to make a post comparing the state of my gear and myself now to the state it was in when I set off. Let us begin with a physical description:

As for me, my third beard is filling out nicely, and I have not cut my hair since the beginning. My legs are incredibly strong. Really I can’t believe how tough they are. I have seen a lot of sun and a lot of weather. My nervous system is certainly changed as well, with prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures and some damage in the hands and arms from handling the bars so often, and the saddle area has surely been dealt some damage, but I am feeling good in spite of all this, it has been a gradual attrition. Aside from that, I chipped a tiny piece off one of my front teeth, which is almost indiscernible, and I am, of course, one year older! A bit wiser, a bit stronger, more experienced, and maybe more than a bit crazier.

Lodo, my bike, is looking good. A fellow at the hostel in Hanoi opined, upon seeing Lodo for the first time, that he thought I would be riding a nicer bike. I was elated! I have been anxiously anticipating the day Lodo’s value was sufficiently cloaked, and that day has arrived! I feel like a proud parent. And my, how durable is this machine! Lodo is scratched, chipped, permanently dirty. Two new spokes on the back wheel, a rack attachment with a shorn bolt replaced with a jury-rigged one, and a new drive-train are the key changes on the setup. I have only gone through one tire, having replaced the back one in China with an identical used Schwalbe Marathon I found abandoned in a closet in Dushanbe.

Before…

After.

I will say that I desperately need a new one, after examining it this morning. I also need to replace a shifter cable tomorrow, wish me luck!

My panniers have seen better days. All but one has a patched hole, they are dirty, ragged, and deplorable to look at. Perfect… almost. Unfortunately I have been reduced to strapping all four onto the bike with a combination of straps, zipties, and bungee cords. I lost a quick lock on one of the back panniers on the first day and have not bothered replacing it. Both of the rear bags are broken and breaking further where the hooks connect to the rigid plastic that keeps the shape and holds the weight of the panniers. The front bags are actually in good shape, despite their appearance, although the locking mechanisms on all four hooks are broken. Both buckles also broke in Southern China. My mother brought me replacement parts, so I was able to replace the buckles, but the quicklocks I ordered, which are far more important, were mis-shipped by the distributor, to my chagrin. Boy, was I steamed! Fortunately, a friend is visiting me in Bangkok, and God willing, the right parts were sent this time. My Brooks saddle looks like it came off a hundred year old bike and sports a number of new scars.

Sad, but still functional!

Of the gear I have swapped, I must create a separate post- too much has changed.

I have little to say of Vietnam thus far. I raced to Hanoi to meet my family, and we spent two weeks kicking around Vietnam seeing the sights, and it was nice to be a regular tourist for a while. I got the worst food poisoning of my life in Southern China, I feared a little for my life, again, I felt so fragile. Before this trip, I hadn’t been severely sick for at least a decade. After three bouts of horrible bugs, I can only hope that the next time I hug a toilet is due to my own irresponsibility!

As for my internal state… too much to tell. Far, far too much. To be brief, seeing my family was sobering, and in essence I hardly notice any change. My mind, however, has been whirling in a suspended state of disorientation for a long, long time now, and the changes will only manifest themselves in a way I can register only after I have returned (if I return, hehe) and enough time has elapsed to process it all. I’m not sure I will be in the States for very long when I do eventually return. I was told I was caught by the travel bug, but only time will tell.

BUDGET

START: $ 11,195.23 – pretty rich, eh? I started with a lot more money than most of the other cyclists I know.

MARCH: 1,188 dollars = 38 dollars per day average
Fear, European economy, rain, and the transition from a life lived with a respectable and consistent income bled me pretty good the first month, and the second, it seems.

APRIL: 1,092 dollars = 36.4

MAY: 871 dollars = 28

I really have no idea how I cut the budget down, this must have been on the Adriatic coast.

JUNE: 722 dollars = 24

Prices dropping in my locale. I think I was in Turkey.

JULY: 1220.59 dollars = 39.37

This month is not typical of the way I spent, I paid for my Chinese and Uzbek visas this month. Still seems awful high… could have been all that delicious food and drink I bought in Tbilisi…

AUGUST: 490.83 dollars = 15.8

SEPTEMBER: 400 dollars= 13.3
Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan were incredibly cheap.

OCTOBER: 976 dollars = 31.48
Apparently I spent a fair amount in Kyrgyzstan… how? I don’t recall. It may have been that I pulled some U.S. dollars out for safekeeping, of which I have about 200 dollars left.

NOVEMBER: 577 dollars = 19.2

DECEMBER: 1,157 dollars= 37

JANUARY: 700 dollars= 22.60
It was cold in China, I stayed in hotels or hostels almost every night for 6 weeks. If I had raced along the Southern route I would have spent a lot less money, but the experience would have been the lesser. I also paid to tour a lot of sights in China. I also would be much further along, but that is not important.

FEBRUARY: 704 dollars= 25
I actually spent way more money in Vietnam than expected, this could have been a much more spendthrift month as well, but when you spend three weeks in the Hanoi area, what is to be expected?

TOTAL SPENT: 9,970 dollars

TOTAL DAYS: 365 days

DAILY AVG: 27.3 dollars a day
*I still have $200 USD unspent.

GOAL: $10,000 for one year, or 27.4 dollars per day.

Well, I cut it far closer to the margin than I expected, but I made it. I have 4,225 dollars left, which at 27 dollars a day provides me with only 156 days of budget left… shucks. I added 3,000 dollars to my account for emergencies, and I’m glad I did. I thought I would be in Singapore by the end of 2018 at the latest, but my route changed quite a bit, and- who’dathunk- things did not go as expected, and I am so grateful!
I thought initially that it would take me 9-10 months to reach Singapore. I also planned to stop there, which is not happening! Where did the time go? Here is where some of it went:
3 weeks in Turkey, one in Istanbul, 2 in Goreme and Konya. I couldn’t leave, and I want to go back.
3 weeks in Tbilisi, waiting for visas and celebrating the World Cup.
2 weeks in Baku/Alat waiting for a ferry.
3 weeks in Hanoi, vacationing with my family and generally lazing.

There is almost 3 months right there without cycling. These weeks were rewarding and entirely necessary in order for me to rest, heal, and experience.

This year has been insane. When people ask me what this trip is like, I can only say: “It is everything.” When does a trip transcend a state of impermanence? Life is a trip. This trip, for now, and indefinitely, is my life. The price of life seems pretty low, particularly considering that the quality, diversity and depth of my life has so greatly improved, my cost of living has never been lower. I could have completed this trip sooner. I could have spent less money. But this trip is as more about duration and scope of experience than it is about covering a certain distance in a timely fashion, and in this aspect my expectations have been exceeded, changed, then thrown away after being blown out in a way that could never have abased itself to the empty and futile suppositions of a person who has since been eclipsed by something that has grown far beyond its inception in my mind a year ago. Success.

Really, being gone a year means so little to me. I am still in the thick of it. There is more out here for me. I am attending a ten day Vipassana retreat in Malaysia in 2.5 months, that should help me sort some stuff out, but it looks like I will be going to New Zealand, at the least, and regardless of whether I go to the States or to Argentina from there, I will work there for a while. At least, that’s the idea.

Published by: bipedalgunnar

This is a blog about my trip across Europe and Asia. I am back in the States now, and turning this sequence of unedited, flurried and often poorly documented posts into a book, and hopefully a good one. That is proving to be a piece of work, but I am eager to do it. Now I'm back to work, trying to learn a thing or two about welding, get a career opportunity secured, and climb some rocks when I have a chance. Hope you enjoy it, but the book will be better *wink*.

2 Comments

2 thoughts on “A Year Abroad”

  1. Yeah Gunnar! i miss you! So happy you are getting to see so much of the world, discovering places both outward and within. It becomes you. As always, i look forward to seeing where you’ll go from here!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “It is everything”…..I love it. Thanks for the updates on gear and costs, super interesting. Love you, miss you but I’m glad you’re out there Living and Exploring the world and sharing your experiences with us.

    Liked by 1 person

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