Have bicycle, will travel: a summer of unexpected journeys

It’s funny how life works sometimes. In my case, it threw me in for a curveball that brought both setbacks and incredible opportunities. While I knew my teaching skills were not fully up to scratch, especially when compared to some of my coworkers, I didn’t expect such a sudden end to my stint as an ESL instructor. Less than three weeks ago, I was called into my director’s office, and informed that while she wanted to let me stay the extra semester and finish my contract, HR did not. With that, my stay in Korea was wrapping up much earlier than anticipated.

This was a shock, of course, and that weekend was a whirlwind of emotion as I processed what had happened. I had to attend to logistics while plotting my next moves, all much earlier than I’d expected and with much more of a time crunch. I was uncertain, overwhelmed, stressed out.

Although initially I felt overwhelmed by uncertainty and possibility, I’ve become more and more confident in the plans I’ve been brewing. Now, this feels like the best decision I could possibly be making. And honestly? It feels amazing to know that I won’t have to go to a job that I hate deep down, five days a week. I’ve learned something important- while I’ll always be a teacher (and student) in some regard (as we all will), teaching in this context is not for me.

Initially, I thought I’d spend September in Taiwan and Japan, and head over to Europe in October to backpack with one of my best friends (and meet up with some other friends/cool travel bloggers!). Now, my itinerary has shifted somewhat. I spent hours and hours planning, researching, and talking to experienced friends.

What did I do?

I bought a bicycle and a tent.

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I got some panniers and filled them up with minimal supplies.

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Making some trial runs before the big day!

I painstakingly decided what was worth being part of the 20 kg box I will ship on the slow boat to Canada.

In less than three days, I will be saying goodbye to Seoul in the best way I can picture. With its cerulean mountains in the distance, endless bridges and wide, calm waters, crossing the Han river has never grown old. This Saturday morning, I’ll be cruising along the banks of the Han by bicycle, bearing east and south, everything that I truly need to get by on two wheels. I’ll be following Jan Boonstra’s cycling route to Busan, hopping a ferry to cycle Korea’s most famous island (Jeju-do), and covering a fair chunk of Japan’s Kyushu and Honshu islands- all via my own wits (and rapidly strengthening legs).

One thing is certain: once it’s begun, I don’t intend to give up this new life of adventure and unparalleled freedom any time soon.

So that’s that- I imagine the frequency of my blog posts may decline in coming months, as I won’t have access to some of my older photos, and wifi access will be much more infrequent. The rest of my journey is a bit more uncertain, although I still plan to make my way to Europe by the beginning of October. I’m sure life in coming months will be rich with triumphs, setbacks, new friendships, beautiful scenery, and more experiences than some people encounter in a lifetime. I can’t wait to share my stories with you as I go, so please do stay tuned!

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I’ll definitely be taking the time to smell the wildflowers. 🙂

Have you been on a long-distance cycling tour before? I’d love to hear your stories and/or helpful suggestions! If not, where have you always dreamed of doing such a trip? 

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14 thoughts on “Have bicycle, will travel: a summer of unexpected journeys

  1. Omg Holly, let your adventures run wild! 🙂 I’m so happy that you are so optimistic, and why the hell not you shouldn’t? You are in a great place and don’t have anything else tying you down. Good luck on your travels and hope that even though your posts will be a little more scattered, that they will be filled with awesome stories!

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    • Why shouldn’t I? No doubt my company screwed me over, but I hated working for them anyway 😀 Freedom! I was worried I wouldn’t be able to make a visit to Europe work, financially, but now I know I can do it with transportation and accommodation now much more inexpensive! Can’t wait to CYCLE to your beautiful adopted country. Say, do you and M have bikes?

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    • They really are! The first trial ride felt incredible. I am, but I’m not quite sure how it works yet. Can I still track my route if my phone is on airplane mode and/or I don’t have cell reception? Does it make much of an impact on battery life if it’s running in the background all afternoon? My profile is Holly B but I haven’t done anything with it yet 😀

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      • 1. I think Strava requires data. Try Cyclemeter Pro ($5-$10), can be set to automatically update Strava.

        2. If you cycle through Korea do not take the 4 rivers path. It’s brutal. Stick to the roads.

        3. Invest in really good cycling shorts with high quality Chamois (padding). Trust me. And gelled gloves will save your hands if you do a lot of rough roads .

        4. Cycling is psychological as well as physical. Takes time to acclimate to large distances, especially when traveling. Just remember, traveling by bicycle isn’t much different from bus, train, or plane: you have a destination in mind, you get there, you sleep and eat. It seems like a bigger deal but it’s not.

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      • Good advice, Aaron! I am actually taking a different route mapped by Jan Boonstra. Link is in the post if you’re curious 🙂 It uses a mix of older national roads and bike paths and looks pretty good.

        Haha, right now I’m a bit worried as to how my butt will feel after a day of riding- I was thinking of getting a nice cushy gel cover ha. I have some more basic padded gloves that should be fine on the mostly sealed roads I’ll take.

        I’m sure it’ll be an adjustment, but I think I have the mental stamina it takes! I’m really looking forward to this journey. 🙂

        Also, thanks for offering a bag- that would be useful- but I won’t be flying until mid-July and I won’t be anywhere near Seoul. I appreciate it, though!

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      • One more thing. If you plan to take your bike on a plane let me know. I will have a used CTC bag in Seoul in two or three weeks. It’s the best, easiest way to transport a bike by plane. Let me know if you want it from me and I will be sure to save it.

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