Felix Starck set out one day to see the world.
In June 2013, he left his home on a heavily laden touring-bicycle and didn't stop moving — pedaling most of the way — for over a year. In all, Felix bicycled through 22 countries and covered more than 11,000 miles of street, road, trail and pathway.
The 24-year-old had always been interested in travel and grew up playing a lot of sports in the small German village of Herxheim. Shortly after graduating from college, he found himself living in his hometown with a beautiful girlfriend and loving family and a good job lined up. It was the perfect life. But Felix wasn't quite ready for it yet. He had a journey to undertake.
So in June of last summer he set out. He pedaled thousands of miles, met hundreds of peoples, and had one hell of an adventure.
Felix contacted me with his story and sent along the following video. It didn't take much watching before I knew I wanted to help share his story. Felix kindly took the time to answer my questions below. Enjoy!
MNN: What inspired your trip?
Felix Starck: I always wanted to travel the world and break out of the system for a while, but I didn’t like the usual backpacking way, so I thought of something else. In the beginning I was joking around with my friends and nobody was serious about it. So I just started to plan my trip. Three months later I was on the road heading east towards Turkey. Now I ask myself a lot: Why did you do this? The answer is: To meet people and get to know different cultures in this world. I definitely did that! It was the best decision of my life.
For me, the bike is the most environmental and economic way to travel — it’s faster than walking and cheaper than traveling only with a backpack. With a car you just drive from city to city and see the world through a screen. I experienced the moments with the locals much more intensely. Furthermore, I wanted to know for myself if I am able to cycle around the world.
What was the most surprising thing you learned on your journey?
I always try to enjoy the moment now. This trip made me the man I am today: more relaxed, joy-oriented, and generous than I was before. There is so much misery in this world, especially in countries like Macedonia, Serbia, Laos, and Cambodia, but the people there are still happy and smile at you and wave when you pass them on the bike. Here, in Germany, most people are career-oriented and live in a system where its more about what you have than what you are. I can’t live that life anymore — not after such a trip!
Most memorable person?
A guy named SK in Singapore. I posted a cry for help on Facebook because I needed a bicycle box to take a plane to New Zealand. SK answered me immediately and told me he would be at my hostel the next morning. I wasn’t quite sure if he would come, but I trusted him and I didn’t regret it. He came with a perfect bike box and all the tools you need to dismantle the bike, and after two hours of work we had the bike in the box. Alone it would have been almost impossible. So I wanted to thank him and give him 20$ for his work — he laughed and declined. I called a cab to take me to the airport and he heard that and told me to hang up. He got his car, put my gear in it and drove me all the way to the airport. In the car he told me about his travels. He was working in Netherlands 20 years ago and quit his job — so he decided that instead flying, he would cycle all the way back to Singapore. It was a breathtaking story — back then there was no Internet or cellphones. After, it all made sense: he knew my situation and wanted to help. At the airport he helped me to check in the bike and invited me for lunch. One of the most inspiring guys I met, but definitely not the only one.
Best sunrise or sunset?
There were a lot, but I have to say the sunrise at Angkor Wat, the old temples in Cambodia. I didn't even take my camera with me this time, because sometime you want to experience the moment for yourself and not worry about the right ISO and angle. It was definitely a magical moment.
But I also want to mention the first sunset of the trip. I cycled 40 miles and my body was aching everywhere. I set up my tent, made some shitty noodles and thought about my life. It was an up-and-down moment. I didn't know if I should turn around or keep going, but then I watched the sun go down and I knew: this is the right thing – I'm living my life.
What advice would you offer to someone contemplating having an adventure similar to yours?
Well, cycling the world isn't made for everybody. It is definitely a unique way to travel and not the easiest, that's for sure. You always have to put effort in the pedals to get from point A to B. At the same time, less planning means more flexibility, so don't try to plan every single detail, because that won't be a adventure.
Why are adventures important?
Travel is the best university. I learned more during this trip than in my 15 years of school. Traveling the world and getting to know new cultures and people taught me things that are impossible to learn in school. During my trip I had to use things like economy, sociology, geography and much more. Travel isn’t an recognized institution like a university, but it will teach you much more.
So when's the next trip?
First I have to promote my documentary, "Pedal the World." Afterwards I want to hit the road again to shoot another movie, this time without a bicycle. I could imagine doing a road trip with a camper van – something comfortable. After that I can imagine doing something extreme again – maybe with skis!
Shea's note: Felix's website is pedal-the-world.com and he can be found on Facebook and Twitter. His documentary is now available for pre-purchase with delivery expected sometime next month. He will be donating one Euro to the WWF for every DVD order sold.
Want to read about other long-distance bike trips? Check out these posts on MNN: