As true lovers of amazing travel stories, we at Personal Travels know the difference between a normal tourist, intended as one of those who do not stray from known paths and go around with their latest digital camera, and a real traveler, one who plans his/her departure, knowing what he/she ìs leaving behind, without the obsession of a fixed route and timing constraints. A choice that may not suit everyone, but that can surely fascinate most people. And speaking of travelers, we were awestruck by the story of the journey of Piero, better known as "Zio Bici" (Uncle Bike): a tour on two wheels - operated by pedals and not by a motor engine - that brought him from Italy to Indonesia, from Europe to Asia, over a period of about 5 years - 2005 to 2010 - alternating times with a motley crew of people who shared a passion for bikes and street circus, and long periods of solo traveling. And together with him we want to try to tell this story.
"The preparation of the trip lasted 6 months"- he tells us - "I was about to leave everything, without knowing where I was going and not a worry about the time needed. Leaving Rome, a house, a good job. I've given away a few things and put aside some other things that seemed important to me. I packed my life in a couple of bags and left". It is easy to imagine how many difficulties need to be faced, from logistical ones to more practical ones, from the choice of a suitable means of transportation to that of what "baggage" to bring along, to the problems associated with different languages and customs that they were going to meet, or with safety in general.
"We started as a small traveling circus on Tall Bikes (customized bicycles developed in height). I had built my bike for the occasion after the experience of a previous three-month trip, where I had prepared a bike on two levels with cargo bays.A key variable is to know well the places that you are going to, so choose the best asset and avoid getting lost in impossible maintenance tasks".
"In my itinerary, I tried to follow the heat as much as possible"- Piero goes on - "I started travelling East-bound in June, and I left Istanbul in October. In December, I was in Cyprus, perfect in winter. After winter, in mid-March, we headed back North, traveling through Russia and Mongolia in August, Beijing at the end of October, and then we headed South. To Laos. We kept on running away from the cold and the snow". This is the sequence of countries crossed during the trip: Turkey, then Cyprus, Turkey again, then Georgia, Russia and Mongolia. Then China, Laos and Thailand where we went back and forth many times, and finally Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. "The only milestones of our travels were visas " Piero tells us with a smile explaining how time flowed in a very different way during this experience.
One step at a time, week after week, and country after country, we will revive the story of Piero, to find out how he managed to put all his certainties of a wealthy western man at stake to find himself catapulted into such different realities, where what seems to be vital here, can become just a quirk or a tiny detail at other latitudes. Two wheels and the iron will to spin them around the world, with the juggling gear in a pocket of the bag, a little more than a hundred euro in his pocket, just to meet the first basic needs, and the longing and desire to share something with all (or most of) the people met on the street. Few but important ingredients for a memorable trip.
Ready to climb on the barrel of your virtual bike to cycle along with Piero?