Lon2Asia – Final Thoughts

I am back in England now and it feels like I never left. Nothing seems to have changed, although my family has got a new puppy! Very sweet. As always, it is hard to put into words the entire 54 days I endured. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses as my Instagram pictures might have suggested.

The concept of cycling to Asia from the UK with no money was an idea I had to show the kindness and generosity of strangers I met along the way. I thought that by having no money would be put me in a situation where I had to be open up to strangers to survive. However, it strangely had completely the opposite effect and I began isolating myself from people.The place where generally you meet people whilst travelling is cafes, restaurants or hostels involving money. I don’t know whether it was a language barrier but the only time I had someone invite me to their home, I was so determined to make it to my next destination by the time I agreed with an arranged host I ignored their request. I realized quite early on that the concept wasn’t working.

It was a challenge, but it was a challenge that didn’t bring me a lot of joy. Cycling day after day, burning 6000+ calories with nothing but breakfast and dinner, and sometimes not very much in between. The Huel shakes I took proved invaluable. However, I needed a balance between the amount I was carrying and eating for the trip. To cover the calories I was burning, I needed to be drinking a shake nearly every hour.

When the concept came to an end on day 23, I had gone around 55 hours cycling up and down the Italian Alps with not a whole meal. I was almost entirely dependent on the Huel shakes, and they gave me the energy to get up and down the mountains. But did they make me feel full? Not really with the amount I was drinking. They are great with a bit of food on a day to day cycling trip. But if you are not cycling and burning ridiculous amounts of calories than you can probably live off it.

In the final days before the end of the concept, I started stealing fruit off the trees. I knew what I was doing was wrong but when you are so hungry, your morals start to fall by the wayside, at least mine did! I reflected on what it means to be hungry and desperate.

Further, here I was doing a charity bike ride and I was stealing the whole concept. The experience didn’t sit well with me. I like giving things to people and not to be able to do that was hard. To just to receive. I felt like a sponge and it was probably the most difficult time of the journey. Having no money for cycling and travelling is not fun by any means.

When I was forced to quit the concept on Day 23 due to a broken wheel, spontaneous things started to happen and made the journey far more exciting. When I went to a bike shop to fix my broken wheel, I got chatting to the staff finding out their stories.Whilst I was there a woman walked in and asks me to join her for lunch. My first meal in 55 hours! This would not have happened if my wheel didn’t break and I would have had a Huel shake for lunch and cycled on. Acts of incredible kindness happen every day, and we shouldn’t be surprised by it. But we shouldn’t just expect it either, and that is what happened at the start of the trip. This trip has taken so much out of me, including my weight! But it has also given me so much, new friends, new experiences but above all a new perspective! When I was in Albania, an American guy asked me whether my perception of homelessness and poverty had changed since I had made this trip without money. I didn’t know to answer at the time but since I have had a bit of time to reflect, the answer is an emphatic yes. While I wasn’t homeless in the usual sense as I could have backed out at any time and spend money. But what I felt at the time was that poverty and homelessness entail fear and stress, and sometimes depression. I saw some of the very best in humanity, the kindness of complete strangers but I also saw how low one could go when deprived of the essentials. Cycling touring is an amazing way to see the world, and I would recommend it to everyone because anyone of you can do it but going alone without money is not a fun way to go.

As I said earlier, this journey was an idea whereby rather than you give money to my charity page, only I could. The amount I gave was based on the acts of generosity I receive. Whilst I was planning this trip, a friend from school took his own life. This was the second person and friend in my year to do so and we have not even reached the age of thirty. While the stigma is still there about seeking help, over the last decade there has been a raising of awareness of mental health issues.

I am certainly learning more and more about this illness and while on my trip; I certainly fell victim to it. I am certainly no expert in this field, and I don’t pretend to be, but the people at Mind charity are working day to day on finding out more. Recently a friend completed a half marathon in aid of Mind. I have put the link in below. While I lost count of the number of acts of generosity I am donating £10 for every day, I went without money. If you would like to donate, I am sure he would be grateful. Thank you for following this story.


Day 54 – Asia

Day 54 – Istanbul to Asia

I was up before sunset to try and get over before the light for my camera was too bright. I felt a little guilty, the night porter was fast asleep on the sofa and had to wake him to open the door and get my bike. I cycled all on 200 metres down to the port to catch the ferry over. The light coming up over the city was incredible and taking the boat, you get a great view all around the place. As I came into port on the Asia continent, I was trying to reflect on my time, it had been 54 days since I started and it had been a rollercoaster of a trip covering eleven countries. I had met so many amazing people doing all sorts of things and very rarely met someone who I wouldn’t want to engage with again.

Once I arrived on shore I took my bike along the shore looking back on at Continental Europe, I wasn’t feeling too good so once I had a look and a wonder round I jumped back onto the ferry and back to the old town.

I went back to the hostel and fell right back to sleep, the days camping, and cycling was catching up on me, and now that my body knows it has finished it was shutting down. I was woken when a gentleman said that he was going to the other end of town and if I wanted him to show me a barber he had recommended from the night before. He took me to the streets showing me everything along the way; it was like my tour guide. When after an hour or so we found a barber and that was when he left me.

The rest of the day was back to the hostel to sleep then after quite along nap, I decided on a Turkish bath in the evening which was an unusual experience. For some reason, this completely knocked me, I came feeling exhausted, I struggled for the rest of the night but I was drained, and the massage from the bath seemed to have stiffened up my legs rather than relax them!!

Day 53 – Istanbul, Tur

Day 53 – Tekirdag to Istanbul

I woke up with the view of the sea in a very wild field. As I risen early, I thought I might be able to get to Istanbul. I packed up and went on the road along the sea, it was a busy dual carriageway but with a comfortable hard shoulder. I stopped first of all by a supermarket to grab some bread for breakfast, the owner very kindly saw me and brought out some free cake, and then a small, shriveled cucumber which was slightly random but very nice thought anyway.

The road was good, so I was making a good time, I aimed to get to Istanbul so short breaks rather than my usual couple of hours off. The road though started to get busier the closer I got; the hard shoulder disappeared, so I was on the dual carriageway, not a great place to be. Then two lanes turned into three and then five lanes. It was mental, and I am not going to lie, one slip and that would have been curtains for me, to say I wasn’t a little scared would be an understatement.

Luckily I arrived on the outskirts of Istanbul and off the main road, still alive and in one piece. I cycled through the back streets, again the light was fading, but I managed to make it to the Old town and the mosques just before. Wow, what a buzz and what a sight to arrive to, these mosques stuck out like mountains in the sea. I wondered around the place for a bit, taking in the sweet shops, the spices and the people encouraging you into their restaurants, before heading to my hostel, it was nearby and right in the centre. They showed me to my room and took my bike into a safe place, as I came down there were a couple of English Gap year students who very kindly offered me a bit of their food, and as always that offer is never rejected. We chatted away about our travels; he had stayed in Turkey for a couple of months. I was still in my cycling gear with oil like hands, so after a while, I thought maybe shower and change might be the best idea.

I thought I only got to get over the bridge tomorrow, but I have been informed that you have to take a ferry or taxi, tomorrow will be a short ride then to finish this trip. On the ferry and into Asia.

Day 52 – Tekirdag, Tur

Day 52 – Alexandroupoli to Tekirdag

I woke to the sound of a private plane coming into land. I was about thirty miles from the border, the air had a bit of a chill in it, but after the days in the heat, I wasn’t complaining. Just before the border, I stopped in a town to munch on a few things I had bought the evening before and then down the road, over the bridge, and into Turkey. As I crossed the bridge, there were gunshots nearby over in the field, what the hell was going on? I passed with ease although quite a long wait to get through, I was now in Turkey.

I was on the main road which meant it was easy to cover the miles, the landscape was quite boring, and there wasn’t much of interest throughout until I stopped at a petrol station. A man wonders over to ask me if he could ride my bike, of course, the first instinct is to say no but before embracing all things I wanted to see what would happen if he did. Will he run off, unlikely he works here? Will he break it, doubtful? So off I jumped and let him ride it around the station. He then asked if I would like a drink, I accepted and then the next thing you know is you are sitting round a table drinking tea with his family and friends. They didn’t speak much English so once again google translate came to the rescue. Amazing what happens when you randomly put your faith in a stranger!

I left there after a few teas and headed on, as the afternoon came to an end, I kept stopping looking for an ATM for some dinner but no luck, one after the other said I would have to go to Tekirdag. I headed on, the sun went down, and there was just enough light to get to the city for some food. I walked along the pier where it seemed to be the happening place to be. Here is were a cyclist came up to me to chat, I wasn’t sure what he was trying to ask but I asked him about food, and he said he knew a good place. So we cycled together to it, I thought he was going to join me put we cycled up to this empty restaurant, then he said he was not going to stay, I figured it was very kind of him to take me all the way there, but he seemed to know the people. I sat down, and there was only one thing on the menu, lamb sausages. That’s fine, I can cope with that, but it was such a small dish, then I asked for it again maybe with chips and a pita. I wasn’t sure what I said, but then he takes everything off my table and goes to the kitchen, 10 minutes later he comes back with a plastic thing to go and then walks off. The guy who took me there must have been getting paid to bring people as it was probably the worst restaurant so far on the trip.

I decided to cycle on and out of the city, it was the first time on the journey I have needed to use my lights. I cycle out, and when I saw a road down a quiet passage, I moved down there out of sight from the residents and set up for the night. I was just over 100 miles from Istanbul; the plan is to relax and come just short tomorrow and to arrive the day after.

Day 51 – Alexandroupoli, Gre

Day 51 – Alexandroupoli

I woke to the sound of people playing in the sea, I knew I hadn’t got to cycle so I could just relax while the light got stronger. Once I packed everything up I cycled into town to head to the bakery for breakfast, I thought about heading back to the beach I was on but I wanted to check the town and another spot. I found one place and settle down but their wifi wasn’t working so moved onto the another place.

The rest of the day was lying on a deck chair watching the time go by and it was bliss. As the afternoon was drawing to a close, I needed to find a spot to eat and sleep so I cycled into town and then kept cycling till there wasn’t anything nearby other than a Lidl, I thought to stock up before Turkey and have a good meal from there.

Once the supplies were ready, I saw an abandoned house just off the road, so went to investigate. It was overgrown with plants but there was a way to the half-built underground parking with an open, it was out of sight, out of the wind, just perfect for a chilled evening.

Day 50 – Alexandroupoli, Gre

Day 50 –  Chrysoupoli to Alexandroupoli

Some places I camp in do have quite a spectacular view but this place was not one of those, the place was covered in broken glass and rubbish amongst other things… I was 30 odd km away from the town of Xanthi; the morning air was cold, so I was riding easily although my chain was starting to show it’s wear as gear changing was starting to skip and was proven quite annoying. As with all my mornings, I search for a bakery and order an entire loaf as well as anything that looks tasty and full of calories.

The day wasn’t that exciting, I was just cycling, and there was little drama or excitement to be had. I stopped for a break at midday under the motorway. One thing here is the dogs are way more aggressive than anywhere else, they chase me, and I am there thinking they are going to sink their teeth into one of my tyres. It can be quite nerve-racking at times, as there is a sense of unknown in what they will do but if they do show aggression, I usually shout at them like ”Sit”, and that usually scares them off.

I reached a small town just before the city of Alexandroupoli, I thought about something to eat but decided a late swim might be nicer. I scouted out potential camping spots and when I found one I head to the restaurant for dinner. I am taking the day off tomorrow to relax on the beach, so thought I would treat myself to a good meal as I missed lunch.

Day 49 – Chrysoupoli, Gre

Day 49 – Nea Kerdilia to Chrysoupoli

I did enjoy waking up to the sound of the waves crashing, the sun had yet risen, but the sky was lighting up, I took a walk along the beach and watched as the sun rose up over the mountains. I cycled around 10 km to a town where there was a bakery. I chilled in the shade while munching on some chocolate croissants and reluctantly got going.

It was a short climb towards the mountains, and then I was riding along side them, weaving into these small greek towns. I reached the town of Kavala in the early afternoon, down the hills and into the ancient town, a small port. I saw a cafe with a comfy sofa and thought that was the perfect place to chill and have a sandwich. The place looked out onto the harbour; the sofa was so comfy I drifted to sleep while eating my lunch!

As I woke and the sun cooled, I had a wonder around the harbour and at the castle before cycling out and onwards. I cycled into the evening before stopping for a quick bite at a fast food joint and then went in search of a place to sleep. I found a dirt track just off the main road; it took me down to this abandoned building. Not the most glamorous of spots to sleep but fairly sure I wasn’t going to be disturbed, I had planned to do a bit of work but like most evening once my head settles down on the pillow I am out for the count.

Day 48 – Nea Kerdilia, Gre

Day 48 –  Lagyna to Nea Kerdilia

I was up before the sun rose and waited for it, there is something quite special about watching it rise above the hills in the far distance. I packed up and cycled to the nearest town just below the hill in search of my daily bakery trip.

I grabbed a few things from the bakery and settled down on the side of the road to devour it all. The route today was long but quite flat. I most of the journey was cycling along a lake, and at around midday, I went down to have a look, it wasn’t very appealing to swim in, but under a tree and out of the sun it was a pleasant rest stop.

I reached the beach in the afternoon; it wasn’t that busy which was nice. I thought about going on but I hadn’t washed in quite a few days, and when I saw a sandy beach and shower next to it, it was too much to resist. I went in and cooled off in the clear water; it felt amazing. There seemed to be a strong showing in the area from Bulgaria, as Bulgarian cars were everywhere.

I went on a bit further down the beach where I saw camper vans and tents on the beach. There was a restaurant on the road, so I went to investigate to see if it was cool to camp there, I haven’t yet camped on the beach so thought it would be nice to fall asleep with the sound of the crashing waves. I had some dinner and relaxed at the place catching up on some work and other odds and ends. Then when I got tired, I hopped over the road and set up. It was dark, but there was close to a full moon which gave me enough light to see everything. I set up quite quickly although carrying my bike in the sand was quite tricky so had to dump it fifty metres away from where I set up. But once I was in, I was out pretty quickly.

Day 47 – Lagyna, Gre

Day 47 – Arnissa to Lagyna

My cold kept me up most of the night, and in an enclosed, cramp tent it wasn’t the best night sleep I had ever had. I got up and went back into town to grab a bit of food and ate the leftover bread from supper the night before.

I headed down and out of the mountains and into the coastal city of Thessaloniki. It had been a tough day, and so I opted to cycle around the city and up into the hills. In the late afternoon as I was climbing, I saw a group of men eating on the side of the road; there was a street van serving food, so I went to check it out, again no one spoke English so a lot of pointing and nodding. I tried to understand what they were all talking about but I just relaxed and watched them chatting away. The owner kept coming over to try a few English words here and there and google translate help me out a bit.

I cycled on into the evening and found a spot to camp overlooking the valley ahead; I watched the sun go down behind the distant hills. It had been a slog today, but I was hoping for better tomorrow.

Day 46 – Arnissa, Gre

Day 46 – Kozjak to Arnissa, Gre

I must be the only person to get a cold in a hot country!! Cycling up the hills and out into Greece was quite tricky, it had been surfacing for the past week but you sort of hope the cold wouldn’t come. I cycled through the Macedonian hills and down into the city of Bitola.

I skipped past passport control thinking it was down the end and got an earful from the guards but everything was cleared up, and I was through and into Greece. I stopped in the first town and ate some of my food. The scenery was quite flat although there were mountains in the distance, I was still high up, but I knew tomorrow I would drop down and then I was on the coast for the remainder of the trip.

I headed up, and over the mountains and into Arnissa in the late afternoon, I got chatting to a Greek cafe owner who sat with for about an hour while I ate some of his cakes. We chatted about everything Greece, economy, local area to EU stuff. I asked him to recommend me a restaurant to have a traditional greek supper, and he sent me down the road. I headed towards the lake to watch the sun go down and found a place to set up my tent, once that was done I headed back into town for supper.

I went to where he had recommended, and again the language barrier seemed to be an issue because when I asked for a traditional greek dinner, she came out with spaghetti bolognese with tomato ketchup. Not quite what I was imagining, however, I was never going to say no to that and enjoyed it nonetheless. As the evening went on eventually they asked me to go as I was the only one in the restaurant, I cycled down to my spot in the dark and climbed into my tent for the night.

Day 45 – Kozjak, Mac

Day 45 – Qukes to Kozjak

They were all up early wondering around the house, so I got up and joined them on the balcony. The father had a shot of that stuff that almost took my head off last night for breakfast as well as a couple of fags. We sat round while the mother fried some raw pasta before putting it on to boil as cook up some sausages. It was an unusual breakfast, but I embraced it all.

I was sad to say goodbye; the family had been so kind, I felt like I need to return the favour, so I gave them a bottle of Olive oil that I was carrying. There was a bit of a climb before I got into Macedonia, again just before I did I stopped for a drink, and there the owner came over chatting away and gave it to me on the house.

I was up and over by lunch time and into a town by a lake where I opted to relax for the afternoon. The lake was beautiful, we were quite high up, and it was surrounded by mountains and luckily very few tourists, it was completely unspoiled. I was away in the afternoon and cycled late into the evening. I didn’t want to find a place in the dark like last time, so when I saw a spot in a what looked like an abandoned farm, I went off the road and pitched my tent behind one of the building out of sit from people. I had a climb tomorrow before I get into Greece but for tonight I can just relax although it feels very cold.

Day 44 – Qukes, Alb

Day 44 – Tirana to Qukes

Up early again to try and avoid the midday heat, although today I was climbing into the mountains so it should be cooler. The motorway went straight through a tunnel and out the other side, I, however, had to climb to the top of the mountain, cycle along the ridge and down the other side. While I was slightly annoyed at the ease I would get from going on the motorway the views once you are at the top was sublime, different valleys with very different landscapes, there were no cars as they all take the highway now. I enjoyed the climb, and as I was coming down, I stopped in a redundant building to eat my lunch. The city of Elbasan was in the distance. I chilled out in the shade for a bit before cruising down the hill and onto Elbasan. I went straight through without stopping, and as I got to the outskirts I stopped for a drink, the weather had taken a turn for the worst. I got going to try and avoid the storms that seemed to be brewing. Once I left to start climbing again into the mountains, I only lasted about an hour before the storm came over. I found refuge in a hotel, where I decided to get comfortable as it wasn’t going to pass anytime soon. It was quite lucky as the lightning hit was right beside the hotel so to have been out there would have been slightly crazy.

In the late afternoon I got going, the weather was still not great but thought I would risk it. I was following a river up the mountain, so it wasn’t a too bad a climb. As evening drew in, I quickly grabbed some supper, again a traditional Albanian dinner from the restaurant in Qukes. Once I finished, it was dark, so I walked my bike up the road till I was out of the town and I saw a field in the moonlight. It was slightly damp, but I was ready to get in and sleep. As I was setting up and nearly done there were a couple of lights shinning towards me and some talk which I couldn’t understand. They came down and seemed to tell me to pack up, it was an old woman and probably her grandson who couldn’t have been more than 18. they seem to say come and stay over there where there is shelter, the old women seemed to imply there was going to be a massive storm. Anyway, I thought I would just go with it and see what happens.

They took me into their home and sat me down on the sofa, again I say they didn’t speak a word of English, so everything was hand signals and nodding! They offered me a drink, little did I know what it was but it seemed to take my head off it was so strong. After a while, they treated me to another Albanian dinner. There was seven of them from three generations living in the little house. I felt honoured to have been there. They didn’t have much, but they were willing to share what they had with me and then give up a bed for me. I was blown away. The kindness of the Albanian people is extraordinary after been slightly negative once I arrived, I feel the Albanian people are the friendliest people as a whole I have met along the trip.

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