We recently asked readers on our social media channels what they wanted to know about our journey thus far. The following are a selection of our favorite questions:
Q: Could you talk about how you two have managed to stay safe from people along your way?
A: We’re not going to sugarcoat it. We are never 100% safe on the road, whether it’s from motorists or from people with more sinister intentions. On the road, bicycle crashes just happen, and sometimes they’re not our fault. A good example is the time a cow suddenly turned into the road in India and caused a little boy on a bike to crash into Morgan. There’s just no way you can anticipate that kind of thing. Same goes for bad people. We had a few problems with that in Romania. We got jumped by a group of gypsies, and one man tried to tackle Morgan off his bicycle as he was passing through a village.
The best two pieces of advice we can give to prospective bike tourists are 1. stay alert and 2. don’t let what we wrote above scare you from going on a bike tour.
Even though we’ve had some problems, they have been extremely rare considering the amount of time we’ve been away. The most amazing thing we’ve discovered is the incredible kindness of strangers all around the world.
Q: What songs have been stuck in our heads during our trip?
A: Gungnam Style. While we were in Laos, the international phenomenon was just hitting the jungle highlands, and Laotian villagers went crazy for it. A funny thing about Laos is that even in humble villages, people had shelled out money for these huge 500 watt speaker systems. The result was that nearly every time we emerged from the jungle, a full-on Gungnam style dance party was in swing. It became the soundtrack for our Southeast Asian bike tour. The only problem was that we heard it so often, the song was stuck in our heads constantly!
Q: What is the most unexpected thing we’ve encountered?
A: The White Man’s Privilege. In many places, we’ve been treated deferentially for no other reason than the fact that we are white and foreign. This comes in many flavors. It can be as simple as being seated before locals at restaurants, and not having our receipts checked at supermarkets (because it’s assumed we’re wealthy and would not steal anything), to things more profound like having meat served to us every night in an Indian village while the farmers there could only afford it once a week.
The White Man’s privilege is something we’ve never quite gotten used to or know how to deal with – oftentimes our refusals of hospitality have created more offense than if we had just accepted the deferential treatment to begin with. Of course, this is uncomfortable when you operate with the ideas of equality, and that honor should be earned, not assumed. The White Man’s Privilege is something we’ve grappled with and never really anticipated before the trip.
Q: If you got to pick one city you could live in for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A: Istanbul or New Delhi.
Istanbul because it truly is the crossroads of the world, a place where vastly different cultures intersect and collide. Assuming that you have to stay in one place for the rest of your life, you couldn’t pick a more dynamic spot.
New Delhi, because of the endless opportunities there. Nowhere else have we found a place where it is so easy to reinvent yourself. Within the swarming masses of the Indian Capital, you become like a drop of water in the sea, but anonymity and the drive of the people there creates an atmosphere that’s energetic and intoxicating. The New Delhi high.
Q: What can you tell us about important foods to pack for bike touring and how do you stay healthy?
A: Cycling for six hours a day burns a crazy amount of calories. By our estimate, we need to consume at least 6,000 kcal to maintain our body weights. That’s not as easy as it sounds; we can’t comfortably gorge ourselves on ice cream and butter all the time and still feel great on the bikes. So we do our best to compensate, scouting foods that help us perform efficiently on the saddle. We’ve discovered the most important thing is getting enough protein. In places like rural Burma, we lost dangerous amounts of weight because we weren’t getting enough meat and dairy. A belly full of rice may keep one full, but after weeks of cycle touring the body drops muscle and fat at alarming rates. (Just ask Chris).
So what have we found? The best and cheapest foods for bicycle touring are: eggs, peanut butter, chocolate, rice, bread, and meat (canned or dried).
Oh yeah, and one more thing: Beer.
Q: What was your favorite part of Central Asia?
A: The Pamir Highway. The ‘Roof of the World’ in Tajikistan is a special place. Passing by Afghan villages, the friendliness of Tajik goat herders, and the otherworldly desolation of Pamir’s desert plateaus are mesmerizing. While getting to there may be difficult, the results are well worth it.
Q: Can you name what you might not be excited about encountering when you return to the US?
A: Predictability. One of the best things about traveling is being constantly confronted with new scenes and situations. Even now, after 22 months of travel, we’re still surprised by things we see while casually walking down the street. Just yesterday, as were buying apples, a marching band of old Chinese grandmas rounded a corner and stopped all the motor traffic. It was hilarious.
When we return to the country we grew up in, things will be more familiar. Moments of true surprise will be less frequent, and surely they will be missed.
Morgan’s also going to miss the fresh, organic produce that feeds most of the world. Even if you shop in the organic section of the local supermarket, that produce has travelled a long way from the farm.