Travelling makes you a better person, believes 30-year-old city boy Abhishek Iyer. And it’s something that worked out quite well for him in terms of building his own personality and changing his perspective towards life. A full time marine engineer for the past 10 years and a part time cyclist since four years, Iyer has been going on solo trips across the world on his bicycle. He recently went on a bicycle expedition from north Norway to south. The trip was challenging but at the same time it taught him a lot.
The youngster shares with us his experience and why cycling is such an important part of his life. Excerpts...
What made you think that you should travel around the world on a cycle? When was the first time you did it?
Well, out of every vehicle, I found that a bicycle gave me a unique vantage point to enjoy a new setting, therefore I opted for a bicycle. The first time I went on my long distance bicycle tour was in 2016, when I cycled from my home in Pune to Kanyakumari over 20 days.
You had a full time job as a marine engineer which allows you to travel around the world. How different is it to travel on a bicycle than on a ship?
Working as a marine engineer on ship technically does imply travel. But that is only in the geographic sense of it. We don’t get enough time at ports since the turn around time is between 24-48 hours. Therefore, there is hardly any time to explore the places around. So a few hours post work at a nearby harbour should leave you feeling lucky.
Whereas travelling, or I would say exploring, on a bicycle encapsulates travel better since you are more in control of the pace of your trip. Since it is a human-powered vehicle, it gives you some accountability while making decisions with it on the road. And, you earn each mile you cover.
Have these cycle tours brought any change in you as a person?
Yes, they surely have. I think it has allowed me to be able to hear myself more clearly and allowed me to enjoy my own company more than I have done previously. Long distance bicycling is a great exercise in confidence building too.
You recently travelled on a cycle in Norway, from north to south. How was the experience? What kind of challenges did you face there? Did you manage to see the Northern Lights?
Well, it wasn’t as exciting as it sounds because the trip was brutally challenging. But the rewards in terms of views and positive people interaction would make each day worth it. The weather was changing at such a rapid pace each day that it is quite easy to leave you feeling jaded and unmotivated to continue. There was rain, hail storm and blizzards which can weaken the spirit.
Yes, I did see the Northern Lights a few times while I was in Northern Norway. It was surreal each time I was lucky to witness it.
How do you balance your work life and passion for travelling?
Work on ship for months at a time is some form of penance for the abundance of time off post a contract at sea. Travelling for a few months out of the year feels like a balanced lifestyle for me at the moment. I am happy to continue this for a few more years.
Did you go through any specific training before starting your expedition?
Not really. I don’t think one needs dedicated bicycle training before undertaking a trip such as this. Each day that you cycle on tour is a practice enough. It gets easier each day with time on the road. Mental toughness is more challenged than any physical toll. The body and mind adapt to it over time.
What kinds of tips would you give to people who also wish to travel the world in unique ways?
My primary advice is if you’ve ever thought of going on a unique trip on your own, deliberately create a situation for yourself to commit to it. It could be as simple as booking train or flight tickets in advance. Chances are, once that is done, you will find ways to see this through.