As by many asked to tell my story, how did I get to become a world bike traveler and about some of my travels.
Well this the somewhat of a long story, so where to begin. Well, I was born in 1962 to two Dutch immigrant parents, so I was born Dutch American… But with politics in those days I was deemed an American.
Growing up in America instantly introduced me to a multitude of other cultures, from Asian, Hispanic (aka Southern Americas) Middle Eastern, African, other European, Russian and Slavic just to name a few.
So this instilled a great wonder of homelands many friends and family over the years talked about as I was growing up.
In 1973 at the age of 11 I got my first passport and my first taste of travel, this would forever change my views of the world, even though I only went to a few places with my mother. As I come from an immigrant family, not all of the family was able to immigrate to the USA, so this left me with family spread out through the world. I would later find out where and why each had to go to different countries, at that time in my life was strange but I still did not understand the politics of the world.
So in 1973, my mom took me to see her side of the family who all had immigrated after the war to South Africa same as my fathers family, but later my fathers family was able to immigrate to America.
I had before this met my grandparents but not any of my cousins, in today’s world of Skype, Facebook other you would have besides a few photos still perhaps met and talked with, and just to think this has come about only within the last 30 years, how we take that for granted.
But I degrees so in 1973 I flew with my mom to South Africa, wow what a completely different world as this was in the time of Apartheid. Coming from America to this was a culture shock at it most extreme. Over the years I have learned to not judge but for an 11-year-old ouch.
Family took us around the country of South Africa, I saw things that were only in zoo’s and books, people dressed so different in their traditional clothing, the way others treated others to need to go to the bathroom see white only sign something that in America has been gone since before I was born in the part of America I grew up in (California), but later to learn that still few parts of my own country still had that, something we find hard to believe today and only see in movies and books.
As we went around this country I saw so much beauty and diversity, not to mention all the wildlife, to ride an ostrich at the age of 11, who does that I thought to myself… I got a glance at a different way of life. Until this time yes I heard of places like that stories from friends parents, but to see and experience it firsthand what a joy and a privilege.
During that time my grandfather on my mom side told me about all his travels over the years, from wartime ones to other more enjoyable travels, such places like Indonesia as well stories of our country of origins The Netherlands, he strongly gave me a desire to see the world with my own eyes.
On the way back to America we stopped in the Netherlands but only briefly, I wish it could have been more, we returned home as I was too young to start to take up travel, it was only in dreams and memories.
Over the next 13 years as I was growing up , school all the normal things my want for travel never left my mind, as my parents took vacations on crew ships another family from around the world came to visit, learning where other family members immigrated to and why learning more about all these places around this beautiful world from friends here in California.
Sometime after 1979, I started to do longer bike rides, my one uncle went every year for the winter season to Mexico. I got quite interested in that and why would someone do that year after year, so one year I got my self-invited to do visit him there, and once again refreshed in my mind that doing it first hand my love of travel was rekindled.
Being told stories from other families who’s jobs having them live in exotic places like Hong Kong, Singapore, hearing about SE Asia.
But with jobs still and what most call a normal life, not knowing what one wants out of life so for the next few years it was still only a few short trips to Mexico as well as working in Mexico at a Club Med for a few months, and enjoying being with people from other countries hearing stories of the Philippines, China here in the safety of home.
In 1986 my desire to travel was now too strong I wanted to see first hand my country of origin and see for my self, as I did not have much money, did not like the thought of train and buses. I had already done a few short bike rides, as well the fact that in the Netherlands one of the most common forms of transportation is a bike, it’s in our blood as my grandfather had said so many years ago when he planted that travel bug in my head.
So in 1986, it began my first real solo bike tour, I would need to get equipment, maps, learn lots of little things. I look at the difference of how I plan a trip today as back then I just have to laugh and say what was I thinking back then, today with a cellphone Mapsme I not only get up to date map but my GPS location, have google translate to help me talk to the locals. What the hell was I thinking back then, but was all part of the adventure and thrill of the tour.
So with a 10-speed bike some racks and bike bags, clothing lots of paper maps, a white gas stove few pots. My bike put into a box my parents in the summer of 86 took me to the airport in San Francisco to catch my first real solo international flight as for some reason in America Mexico although international won’t call it going overseas lol, only my second overseas international flight since I was 11 years old.
I arrived in the Netherlands, where I still have a family but nowhere near where I was landing, but from my few overnight bike trips around the San Francisco Bay area to learn how to use my gear etc. I learned about Youth Hostels, back then you had to be a card-carrying member also to camp in parts of Europa you need special cards, witch back then was not the EU so they were all separate countries and eastern Europa lol was still part of the Soviet Union.
So I arrived in Amsterdam, went to my first international hostel, in the USA at hostel had met many travelers from all over but now I was the one from a different country, but soon learned it was the same, or as my new favorite term from Asia is ( same but different) so after a few days at the hostel my sights seeing around Amsterdam, seeing that yes at home we ate lots of traditional Dutch food, but not quite the same.!
So it was time to begin what I came here for, to see parts of Europa by bike, so I had to pick a direction, of course, it would be south to see the family farm, where my dad was born witch was also not too far from where my mom was born.
So I headed south towards Nortdorp and Scavanging the Den Hauge area, I think to start in the Netherlands was a great choice as it was so bike friendly so far ahead of other places with bike lanes etc.
Over the next few months I would learn about so many new cultures, and what I thought was true from friends and family that have once come from these countries that there was a lot more to it, food was the somewhat the same but different, the way people did things way differently. Buildings etc way different that I saw in books or old photos. So what one thought to be true well lets just say it was different.
During the next few months I learned so much about myself met so many others with the same want to see the world, mad so many new friends from all over the world invited to come to see their countries, learned how others worked along the way to pay for there continued travels.
Did so many amazing things like 4 countries for 4 beers 4 passport stamps in one day what a 24th birthday present to my self. My grandfather would be proud but would have asked why did it take me so long lol.
After about around 12 countries of bike travel 7 months of travel it was time to go home to avoid the upcoming winter.
I arrived back late 1986, was ready to book my next flight to a new place, as I learned it would be summer in Australia I was ready to go met lots of new friends from there so why not. My mom told me no she suggested that I see and learn more about the country I was born to.
So the next spring of 1987 I set out across the united states to do coast to coast and back tour, I went set out on the southern route worked my way to the east coast, trying to go through as many states as I could, I met up with brother Robert later that summer in Rhoda Island he during those days took up professional sailing went to many places as well.
On my return trip from the east coast, I flowed the northern route back with a few skips into Canada. I made it back almost all the way but a few states short of California I stopped my trip to come home as my dad had become deathly ill.
When I was home awaiting the outcome of my fathers illness, I was introduced to my first experience with a newspaper, after few interviews they said they had there story, a few weeks later I was told when it was going to be published, so I told all my friends to get the paper that day, only to learn I had been bumped for a father and son 100 mile overnight bike ride as it was around fathers day so lol. I learned my first lesson, a few weeks later they ran the story about me as I read it I kinda wonder about some of it the way it was written and things were highlighted I found strange as if it was not my story.
Over the remainder of the summer had some bike friends stay with me as well as some other travelers I had met through my travels, my friend Joe once again invited me to come to visit him in Australia. So now I was about to get my first lesson in getting a Visa.. something over the next few years would get too familiar with lol.
So in October of 1987, I was back to the road and off to cross Australia, that was it after that I was going to be hooked, my life had taken a change. I arrived in Cairns worked my way down the coast to Sidney there I met up with friends I had met during previous travels.
From there I went to New Zealand, Tasmania then on to Perth, up in-till then I had thought I had experienced desert travel lol I learned something new.
While I was in Australia, I learned how easy it was to travel to South East Aisa from there. So the wheels in my brain of a traveler took over lol.
So for over the next year I headed out to SE Asia, where I had to change bikes from the 10 speed I originally started with to a new more heavy duty Mountain bike I bought in Asia sent my other bike home, going to Singapore, Indonesia where I crossed the equator for the first time by bike as well see the Komodo dragons, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Hong Kong, Macao, China, South Korea 88 Olympics, Japan, Taiwan.
I then went back to Australia, some more time, then went back home to the USA.
I started my next tour heading up to Alaska towards the end of 80ies, I left from the house in San Francisco area, over the next few months exploring the inner mountain route up towards Alaska, through Canada to furthest point north I could go, this would be the first time I passed the Arctic Circle. After that I headed back south via the coastal route, arriving back to my home in the bay area, along the way I had met other bikers telling me about South and Central America so my next goal was born.
One must renumber this was long before the Lonely Planet books easy to come by, things like Warm Showers hosting, Facebook, cellphones, easy communications. Everything sent by post, so information to may take weeks to months to get home. One was hosted by people we met along the way people telling you about places you could stay etc. I love when I get to parts of the world that are somewhat like the old days lol.
Over the next year or so I worked my way down through, Mexico, Central American countries of Belize, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rico, Panama, I learned a lot about Visa border crossings, having to have papers for the bike as well as it written in my passport, this only happened before a few times in Asia & China, but here it was an every country experience. Along the way I rode on and off with a few other bikers who were attempting the same thing, also met a few from England who had sponsors that were new to me.
From Panama decided to fly and not attempt the land crossing as was told way too dangerous, I have read stories of a few who have done it in this day in age that barely made it, so back then lol.
I flew into Colombia, from where I started my South American part of this tour working my way to Tierra Del Fago, over the next year went to Ecuador went to the Galapagos Islands, crossed the equator for the second time by bike, on to Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay for Iguazu Falls, Brazil.
So many little stories back then, also back then I did notebooks, but found out later I have a hard time reading my own writing lol. But some highlights getting mugged in Ecuador, riding my bike on the Inca trail in pure to Machu Picchu, put in a hospital in Chili accused of having cholera, the crossing of so many beautiful mountain ranges of the Andes. And freezing at ends of the earth. Up and down those climbs just pure fun. In 1991 I flew back from Uruguay back home.
Late 1991 went to South Africa to visit family friends do some exploring setup up for my biking around Africa, went to Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, on my way back to the USA went again to India, Hong Kong, and China
In 1992 took back out on how I learned about world flights, that’s an air ticket that over a year time you can stop many destinations cycle to another lactation and fly on this allowed for some interesting times and locations for the next few years.
So Africa was calling again, so I flew to England bit of cycling there, then it was off for my treat of a lifetime, I flew to Moscow, where due to a de-laid flight I got to visit the Red Square other site of the town, you would think that was the treat yes but not the best part, flight leaving Moscow on Aeroflot was an old cargo plane, so could walk down to the luggage area where my bike was o’ yes I road my bike while we were in flight lol.
Since we flew over Yemen, we were forced to remove all our luggage out from the plane and go to there customs, so lol yes I got to ride my bike around the airfield back then yea lol.
Was to go to Egypt from there but due to problems we instead I changed it to Kenya, there to head south ride to South Africa. I crossed the equator in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda was to learn about a wildlife first hand. On to the panes of the Serengeti in Tanzania, then the lakes of Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique. Due to a family request, I did not cycle SA at that time.
After Africa, I went to India, Pakistan, China, Nepal, after over half a year in that part of the world I got deathly sick with hepatitis in Goa, had to fly home. This would end my bike travels for a few years late 1993 I went home to the USA.
I moved from California to Colorado where I would continue to bike but not long trips, in 1997 after four long years, I decided to stop living in fear convince my family I was heading back out on the road. So with a new bike I once again set out to bike the world back to SE Asia once again all but Cambodia I would visit, Taiwan and China this would be my 3 attempts from China to get into Tibet, I once again did not succeed.
Then I flew on to Nepal, where I learned to try for the Tibetan Visa finally yes, over the freedom highway into Tibet and the second time to cross over the Himalayas’ dreams of a lifetime.
Then it was back to Nepal and India would not get a second visit to Pakistan. Once again I only got as far south as Goa where once again became sick, ending that tour returning back to the USA in 1998.
I started to plan my next bike tour a year later, but as luck would have it just weeks before I was to leave my appendix burst, so this began years of arguments over my health to travel.
This seemed to mark the end of my biking days only short tours around parts of the USA.
Almost 15 years few, homes failed relationships in November 2013, I started back my travels, first back to Africa, then on to India to beat my fears lol..! starting in Goa working my way around the south, once again missing out on Sir Lanka on to Thailand to meet up with my father for some sailing around Puket then back to the USA to finish up things there and move forward with life.
2014 with my mountain bike I once again flew out of the USA with the goal to ride as long as I can see more of the world.
I flew to Iceland after a few weeks on to Norway to head to the furthest point north called Nort Cap. This would have me cross the Arctic Circle once again by bike the first time in so many years, then to head south but this time I would be able to cycle Eastern Europa something so many years ago when I was here last was not permitted.
So now it was my goal to work my way south to Turkey, this time Europa was very different no border stamps as now even most of eastern Europa, the Balkans are all part of the EU. But none the less for me a new adventure.
As I crossed down I different type bikes, I had seen recumbent bike something way different to ones I had seen in the USA, in Poland I met another cyclist we talked about his bike it was an AZUB SIX. I like the bike and what he was saying about how it relived some common pain issues that you get from an upright bike.
When I got to Turkey I realized that someday a bike like that would be much better for me health wise and continued long touring.
I flew to South Africa once again visit family to avoid the European winter lol, I dedicated that I would fly to Egypt another place I had wanted to cycle but due to bad timing with country internal problems never had gotten to, but now it was good I had met some Egyptians in Europa so with good information some new friends was ready to give it a go, after my month of cycling around it was time to fly back to South Africa for my youngest cozen wedding and some cycling back up Africa.
Unfortunately on the flight back all my bike bags and gear were lost by the airlines so all my photos and gear were all gone I arrived back to South Africa with only a bike, this did not stop me from doing my bike tour but did help me make the dissension to upgrade my gear and bike, when I would head back to Europa in a few more months, I completed my bike tour in South Africa without the blessings of most of my family there, had a wonderful tour with my cozen at using shopping bags as panniers, at the end of my tour giving my longtime companion bike to my cozen.
I had worked with AZUB in the Czech Republic to have my custom bike built, as new to a recumbent bike I took their recommendations on all the setups, I would fly back to Europa May 2014, go to the factory in the Czech Republic a town called Uhersky Brod, so that’s where the UB in there name comes from and the first 2 letters the owner initials AZ..
So, on the 5th of May Dutch independence day, I met my Gemini the last bike I hope to ever have, over the next few years we will grow together work out our bugs and become one the DutchAmerican Tourbiker & Gemini an AZUB six.
For the next 3 months I would head south through former Yugoslavia, now know as many countries to do a loop down to Grease and back to Uhersky Brod AZUB factory headquarters for any final adjustments before we head out across the world.
From Czech republic we headed across to Ukraine, a country I had missed on my last trip around this area, ship across the black sea to Georgia, unfortunately, got there too late and unable to get visa fast for the Stan’s to cross the Pamirs Highway, so back on the list, we go.
But this presented an opportunity to fly to Sir Lanka, another spot that for years has allotted me, after a month of playing around the Island, I went back to one of my well known destinations India to work my way north to Goa and met up with my cyclist friend Hernini Cardoso, in India I soon learned to have an unusual bike might be fun lol, as people would sit on my bike without asking, this became a problem as I could not once off my bike turn my head from it long before someone would be sitting on it breaking my kickstand, as fast as I would get fixed someone else would break, soon the stick was developed.
During our ride in India my friend Hernini got hit by an India Army truck in Rajasthan, so for a few months he would be in recovery so I stayed with him we toured by bus picked back cycling in Varanasi. From there we were to cross over to SE Asia but Myanmar border got closed. So from Calcutta, we flew to Malaysia
There started my next few years circles around SE Asia going to areas had missed or not allowed in previous trips, after all the times here finally got into Cambodia, went to Borneo and Brunei with a side trip to Australia and New Zealand, while awaiting tensions between USA and China to lessen so I could get a visa, after a year it did so I got the visa so added a round trip cycling around China to Mongolia,
After that headed back to India, had a family emergency so flew home to the USA soon to be back to the road with my baby Gemini.
Routes and plans ready end of the summer Gemini and me will return to her birthplace in Uhersky Brod AZUB factory and do some upgrades were both looking forward to then will back to our life on the road filling in all the places we have not been yet crossing those so-called impossible mountains again, just enjoying our life’s together.
Can follow us on Facebook at DutchAmerican Tourbiker, well until they lose that account lol.. the excuse to just need to do it all over again.
We thank Richard for sending us his inspiring life story and wish him many more miles on his Gemini.