On March 28, 2009, Australian Chris Roach set out on an eight-year journey to cycle the world. The 27-year-old Newcastle native is the one-man operation behind the Cycle Strongman Expedition, an idea Roach conceived only months before hitting the road in efforts to promote awareness about environmental change, raise money for Oxfam International, and see the world without traveling by car or plane. His proposed 75,000-kilometer journey will take him through Australia, South East Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, the Americas, Eastern Asia, and back down to Australia, and it will be virtually carbon-emission free. Roach hopes that by circumnavigating the globe on one set of wheels and aboard the occasional sailboat, he will inspire people to lead more sustainable lifestyles and look to the rest of the world on how to live in tune with the environment.
You leave for the Cycle Strongman expedition in two days. How are you feeling?
Apart from being tired, I’m doing well. I’m excited a little bit nervous. It’s a whole mixture of feelings. I can’t really describe it.
How did you get started cycling and what inspired you to embark on this expedition?
It all started when I was living in England where I’d been studying for two years. In England you drink a lot of beer and I wasn’t in the fittest shape of my life, I put on a fair bit of weight. I was looking for a really cheap way to travel, I had four or five months until Christmas to go home and see my family. I was sitting in my sister’s lounge in London; I had just come back from a hike through England and into Scotland. I was sitting there watching cricket, and her bike was all packed up in a box in the corner. I kind of got this idea that maybe I could ride through Europe. I packed all my gear up, traded my backpack for a bicycle, promised her I’d have it home by Christmas, and I just took off. I bought a flight to Norway and started to ride all the way through Norway and Sweden and the Baltic countries, old Soviet Republics, and all the way to Turkey.
I met a guy that was traveling around – his name was Tim Harvey – when I was traveling through Poland. He was actually doing a similar trip around the world and it had taken him two years to get to Europe. We got talking and I think this is where the idea got started. This idea got in the back of my head and this little seed was planted. Four, five months ago I just decided to do it. I was looking for a change and I wanted to get out and see the world, so the expedition was born.
What did you learn from your first cycling journey that will help you on your upcoming expedition?
I loved it so much—the change in landscape, the cultures, the people—it was amazing. There were heaps of times when people I met helped me out; they’d offer me a place to stay, help me out with food, and they wanted to hear about my journey. Things like that really enrich your traveling experience. I want to bring myself closer to the cultures that I’m traveling through, and being on a bike is such an awesome way to do that. If you’re traveling on a bus or on a train you cruise by many places. The traveling I’ve done before, particularly when I was 18, was going to all the major cities, but that’s not the culture. That’s part of it, but I’m really looking forward to going to remote villages and veering off the beaten track and interacting with different people.