As the city turned to silky darkness, a crowd gathered at the Hanoi Bicycle Collective in northern Vietnam. The focal point: Jeremy Scott. On his 15th month riding his bicycle from London to New Zealand, Scott stopped to present a slide show of his journey thus far.
Living in London for close to 10 years and having grown up in New Zealand, he decided to connect his two homes. Not considering himself a cyclist, his only “training” for this monumental ride was commuting to work (a hefty 20 to 25 kilometers each way).
“It helped me get my head around the idea that cycling around the world really was possible by putting in a few more hours each day,” he explained. “The distances add up quickly.”
Dreaming for nearly seven years of ditching his office desk and pedaling off into the horizon, he finally made preparations. However, right before he planned to set out, he tore a ligament in his knee while playing football. (Sometimes it seems life tests us to see how badly we really want something.) It took nine months after surgery to heal, during which he took up a different kind of training. This meant serious beer drinking with the buddies, a prolonged goodbye celebration. The first photo in the slide show presentation is of Jeremy with a beer belly and round face. The man standing in front of us in Hanoi is 24 pounds thinner with a deep tan and cheeks rosy from the sun and wind.
Scott departed London in October 2011, passing across France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. He continued through Eastern Europe and the “stan” countries. His stamina and commitment to the tour were tested to the extreme in eastern Turkey where he pedaled for days through icy desert snow and mountain passes between the cities of Sivas and Erzurum. The nomadic people in the mountains of Krgyzstan took him into their yurts where they’d sit around a fire in the cool evenings.
“I always had my tent pitched next door to sleep, despite their offers,” he said. “Too smoky for my liking!”
Despite the thick language barrier, people everywhere took him in, from a tough group of young Iranian men (apparently they just take aggressive poses for photos) to shepherds in the countryside.
Japan provided a whole other landscape to enjoy. Scott inhaled the delicate, white-frosted pines around Lake Chuzenji in Nikko National Park. After spotting a bear where he was throwing down his camping gear, he rode further into the freezing night. He stopped at a hot spa hotel to put on some extra layers. But he didn’t get farther; the owner invited him in, putting him up and feeding him. Generous, open people exist everywhere, he discovered. Unlike how the news portrays the world, Scott discovered it is a safe, hospitable place. He cooked his dinner and slept in abandoned buildings, on park benches, outside store-fronts in teeming cities, and in the middle of nowhere.
It’s hard to believe he’d once been afraid to begin this travel:
Scott is currently in the land of the triple-digit temps, Cambodia, and he still has a long way to go. It was clear from the way he spoke at the Collective that night that he was a man transformed. Energized by the beauty of Earth’s grand landscapes, Scott had the twinkle in his eye of someone genuinely thrilled to be alive.
“Within a few months I have gone from having so many self doubts to knowing I will do this,” he said. “My eyes have opened to what else I am capable of. In the past, I feared failure. Now I feel I can take on anything. And I will ... .”
As his presentation drew to a close, he modestly announced that he’s now dedicating his trip to two charities: the British Heart Foundation and the New Zealand Heart Foundation. As a 4-year-old boy, Scott underwent open-heart surgery.
“After all, if it wasn’t for the skills of amazing heart surgeons, I could never dream of attempting this journey today,” he said.
To make a donation, follow his impressive route on an interactive map, and gawk at images from the slideshow mentioned above, visit quinsadventure.wordpress.com. But be warned, checking out his website might inspire you to make a sudden, bicycle-related, irrational (or sane) decision to ditch familiarity and hit the road.
Alycia Kiley’s Way of the Wheel appears the last week of each month. Send comments or ideas to email@example.com.