Tourism-LiveIamA cyclist who's visiting every country in the world, so far I've been to 141 of 194, on a $15 a day budget, AMA!
Jun 14th 2016 by Meph248 • 74 Questions • 530 Points
My short bio: Hi everyone, my name is Patrick Martin, I'm a 29 year old cyclist from Germany. For the last 10 years I spend most of my time travelling, mostly by bike. I also hike, backpack and hitchhike, depending on the countries and tour I'm doing.
I often post on r/bicycletouring and do photo stories on Imgur. A couple of examples: My latest visit to India, seeing the root-bridges of Meghalay, Sri Lanka, or a month in the Middle East and, if you have a ton of time, going from Germany to Japan and back, which included the Trans-Sib railway in winter and the silkroad in summer.
I also cycled from Germany to South Africa, and from Argentina to Canada.
By now I've visited every country in Europe, in North, Central and South-America, Australia/NewZealand, all countries in Asia except 5 conflict zones, and half of Africa.
Please ask what you like, about budget, gear, routes... I love helping people get on the road. I'll stay and answer as long as questions are being asked. :)
You can find more info on my tours on my website;
a ton of pictures on Facebook
or tour updates on Twitter.
Meph aka Patrick Martin
Edit: Late at night here now; I'll head to bed but will be back tomorrow answering more questions. Keep them coming. :)
Edit: And back answering more questions. :)
Not at all. I'm Iron Ass.
I rent out a house in Germany, I program sometimes (more precisely I run a game mod), I get equipment sponsored by outdoor/bike companies; and I sometimes do odd jobs if they sound interesting.
Travelling like this is far, far cheaper than living in a first-world country.
What country completely changed your opinion of it after having visited?
I was really looking forward to it; I ended up disliking it a lot.
That is partly the governments fault with their strange laws, super-blocked internet and dislike of foreigners (like the travel policy for Tibet or visa policies), and partly my own fault. There is barely any English being spoken; there is not infrastructure for independent tourism, so it was up to me to learn Chinese and figure everything out.
If I would have put in more effort, I think I would have enjoyed it more.
Far less than you might assume, since sex-before-marriage is something almost exclusive to first world countries.
Yes, a few months ago in Lebanon. A soldier (?) robbed me at gun point while camping.
I wrote a lengthy piece about it, but its on gofundme because I asked the internet for help. If you want, I can post the link but I dont want to make this AMA about fundraising.
How much does all of your gear weigh including tent and food? How often do you restock with food and supplies?
Restock several times a day.
My current setup is around 12kg, almost 4kg of that are electronics. I barely carry food, 2-3L of water and 1 meal, thats it. So with consumables I get to 15kg max.
Different things, but I don't really believe that I need motivation to do this. It just happens to be something I love to do.
Some obscure countries are boring, yes; but for the most part its either fun or a challenge. I like challenges, for example the two Sahara crossings I did, or the camping in Siberia in winter.
What is your diet? I spend more then $15 a day on just food.
I eat anything. :D
Depends on the country and what I'm doing. If you are in India and a full meal costs between $1-3, its hard to spend $15 a day, even if you exclusively eat in restaurants.
I'm very German in my choice of cuisine usually. Lots of bread, muesli, energy bars...
What were the worst mechanical breakdown you experienced while riding about? And how were the natives during your breakdowns?
I never had a complete wipe-out, but brakes, gears and hubs fail now and then. I once cycled 4000km with only 1 brake; or 3000km with only the front derailleur; which brought me down from 27 gears to only 3. It was fine.
The people are super friendly; if something happens, they help.
One very memorable occasion was in Guinea-Bissau in West Africa. I had a lot of punctures because I was riding off-road with 25mm road tires. One of my tubes of vulcanizing fluids was empty, the second one dried out in the heat. I had patches, but no glue, so to speak.
I had to walk with a flat tire through 20km of dirt track in the heat till I got to a village. 10-20 huts, no electricity, real bush. No cars in the area, locals come by on motorbikes or bicycles; obviously they have to know how to fix tires. They also speak Portuguese, which I can just barely understand.
They instantly knew what was going on and helped me fix it... with tree sap. They literally dragged a big branch of a special tree to the bike, cut it with a knife, and used the sap as glue to put my patches on the hole. I wish I'd taken any pictures, but I had other things on my mind back then. :D
Middle East... Sudan stands out, just like Iran.
What is the worst thing a bird has done to you on this trip?
Death glares from Cassowaries?
Nothing really; never got shit on, if thats your question. :D
I do get a lot of the equipment sponsored and I fly only 1-2 times a year. That means I only have to spend money on transport, accommodation and food. Since I ride a bike, I pay next to nothing for transport. Since I camp or couchsurf, I pay next to nothing for accommodation. That leaves food; which is the biggest part of my spendings on tour.
Another big factor is the country. While I'd buy food in supermarkets and cook myself in Europe, I can easily stay in a hotel and go to a restaurant 3 times in really cheap countries, like India or Bangladesh.
Have you tried to organize such trips for others ?
I know there is a niche in tourism for example, where one traveler which already visit a country organizes a trip with and for other 10-20 people to tag along and using his experience to guide the others.
I did not try, but I would. The issue is the payment. People that want to do such independent tours are usually low-budget travellers; I'd feel bad for taking their money.
I can imagine getting visas to restrictive countries like Belarus and North Korea (and a lot of the middle east countries) is really difficult. Any stories about troubles trying to get into or out of countries?
Sure. Belarus only gave me a 48h transit visa; North Korea only with an organized tour group. Never been to Tibet since they dont allow independent tourists either.
Eritrea didnt give me a visa; and when I was in West Africa the borders were closed due to Ebola, I had to cut that loop short and never visited the Ivory Coast or Ghana.
Lots of silly things like this... but mostly Africa and Asia, the other continents are easy. Central Asia is tough, I had to rush through a lot due to how my visas were lined up; I could have done that a lot better.
do you keep a checkbook or something to write down all your expenses ?
I did for the first year; I do now and then on specific sections; but I stopped doing it... maybe got a bit lazy on that front, I certainly spend less when I keep an eye on it like that.
Thanks for the reminder. ;)
Unpaved roads are where all the fun is! good luck on your adventures!
I should have been more clear: https://firstname.lastname@example.org,73.5090873,13.71z
There is not that much road. Its maybe a 5km loop around Hulhumale. :D
How do you choose which country are you goint to go to next? Edit: How much time do you spend in each country?
I'm thinking about West Africa, because its a large region that eluded me so far. Other than that I'd have to fly a lot to get to islands... Safety is also important, I'm not going to Yemen or Iraq next.
How feasible would it be to take a hammock instead of a tent for camping?
Only ok-ish in regions with temperate climate. Just google "pamir highway" and you will see that there are limits to what a hammock can do.
I'd never take one instead of a tent, it would limit me too much.
Is there much open space in India? While biking between cities in that country are there still villages and people everywhere?
Yes. There is a backpacker circuit, but if you travel with your own you get to a lot of remote places. I especially liked the area around Cheranpunjee and Shillong.
The Guyanas. Guyana, Suriname and French-Guyana.
Schwalbe Marathon Plus or Mondials atm.
how do you overcome the language barrier?
thank you for the very inspirational AMA btw!
Thank you :)
In most places you find people that speak some English, for Latin America I learned Spanish. I'm in the process of learning French for West Africa, my last visit there was hindered by my lack of understanding.
Hands and feet and pictures and google translate work well too, but only to a limit. Getting by, getting food and water and a place to sleep, no problem, but anything above that requires some more effort on your part.
With English, Spanish and French you can almost cover the entire planet though.
My brother is currently cycling through the 'stans at the moment. I noticed those were the countries you were heading to now and wondered when you'd be there?
I've been there, came through there last year. :) Beautiful places.
is it lonely? I mean I'm sure you are meeting a lot of people, but in the end these are only shallow short-termed relationships.
Sometimes. I travelled about 50% alone, the other half with people and/or my ex-girlfriend.
It mostly depends on the country, first-world countries are seldomly lonely, third-world countries can make it harder to connect to people, because your backgrounds are far too different.
How reliable is your electronics? How do you charge it? I'm a freelance programmer myself, I could tour for long periods of time if I could reliably have my laptop battery charged every evening. Is this realistically achievable?
Dynamo hub charges everything EXCEPT the laptop. Sure you can do long-term travelling and programming, I have a fancy laptop and program myself, but you wont do it in your tent much.
If I stop to program, I either sit in a cafe or a hostel. Or you rent a place for a week or a month.
When I first saw the thread title, I read it as "IamA cyborg...". So let's imagine that you had a chance to become a cyborg, what one thing would you enhance and why?
Mh... first I'd wanted to say legs and arms, like Adam Jensen, but after giving it some thought it would make a lot more sense to get a better brain and/or replace all the vital organs with something that lasts longer.
So I'd totally be up for cybernetic lungs, hearts, livers, kidneys, that sort of thing.
Or we go the Shadowrun-route and I'd like some monofilament whips grafted into my hands please.
Depends who you ask. There are 194 united nations members.
Ask the US if Taiwan is a country, they say yes. Ask China, they say no. Just as an example.
I opened your Middle East album hoping Qatar would be there, and the very first picture is of the Corniche!
Growing up there, I know that Qatar is notoriously bad for it's roads and sidewalks/pavements, so much so that biking there seems like such a foreign concept. So basically:
What was your overall experience of Qatar like? How long were you there, were you only in Doha? Obviously given not being able to get into Saudi, you didn't physically bike into/out of it, so how'd that work?
What was it like cycling in the country? Seems like it would be a nightmare.
Edit: Having seen there was a Part 2 to your Middle East album, I see some of my answers in there. Feel free to ignore something if you've already answered it in your album.
Qatar was actually one of the better countries in the Middle East for cycling. Out of the UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait, I'd even say Qatar is the best. You have actual bike trails, one of them going to the airport, which was awesome and a rare sight for me.
I also met another cyclists from Poland in Qatar, he made it his base for the region.
That being said, there is not that much to ride to, so I just spend a few days riding around Doha, sightseeing, and thats it.
I did fly in from Bahrain with a folding bike in my luggage.
Are all areas navigable by bicycle? For example, have you had to turn back and find another route because the way forward couldn't be ridden?
Bicycles can take roads that are impassable by car, so no, never had to turn back. But step of the bike and push or carry it, yes. Mostly due to sand.