British Cyclist Returns From Epic 4-Year Globetrotting

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A British cyclist returned home to England this week after nearly four years travelling with little more than a tent, a stove and a bike across 43,000 miles in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

"Many thanks to everyone who made my journey so interesting and my homecoming so special," Charlie Walker, 27, wrote on his blog. He told ABC News that despite the cold he was happy to be back in Bowerchalke, Wiltshire, his hometown.

"Four years ago," Walker said, "I don't know what my motivations were but now I'd say I did it for the challenge, as a way to develop my writing, to travel and maybe to escape as well."

Walker had been working for the British newspaper The Daily Express when he decided to embark on his epic journey.

"I didn't trace a route but I had pin points: Norway, Singapore and Cape Town," he said. The rest was decided "on a whim or around politics," he said, explaining he had to fly over Pakistan and take an internal flight over Afghanistan. "Getting visas was the biggest issue," he added.

Travelling around the world is not inexpensive but Walker said he managed to get by with his savings and by selling articles. "I had a sponsor for the first 18 months," said Walker, "and I worked when I was in Beijing and in Cape Town."

He uploaded a YouTube video of his journey so far in July of last year, at which point he had logged about 29,000 miles.

It wasn't the first epic trip that Walker has taken. In the summer of 2009, the Brit cycled from Beijing to Mongolia, and then drove a car back to England. He said it was in the backseat of that car that he started thinking about his worldwide journey.

The hardest time he had was in Tibet, said Walker, because he felt lonely and cold, especially because Walker was not equipped for extreme weather. Mongolia was the most fun, he said, because the country is a huge national park where he could roam free on a horse. Eventually though, his horse was stolen.

"I took unnecessary risks in the Democratic Republic of Congo," said Walker, where he traveled down an unknown river on a tree trunk, and was suddenly surprised by rapids, and became concerned about crocodiles and hippos. Later in the trip, Walker said he got malaria and typhoid at the same time.

His friends thought he was just being silly, he said, while his family was initially worried about his whereabouts. But he kept in touch, through emails and phone calls, as much as he could.

"The ethos of this expedition is to do anything I come across that I want to do," Walker wrote on his blog.

He told ABC News he chose to use a bicycle because he wanted "to go slowly" and "to see places in between." He liked that it was cheap and challenging, and added: "When you travel by bike in the developing world, they don't see you as a crazy wealthy foreigner, they just see you as a crazy foreigner."

Walker said he's done with cycling for now, but was open to taking on new challenges.

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