If your only desire was to travel the world, would you be bold enough to take the steps necessary and pedal your way through it?
For Felix Starck, what began as a jokingly-announced idea – biking the world – quickly became a realized ambition. Now, over a year later, the German-born adventurer has finished the quest of pedaling through 22 countries (over 18,000 km or 1,118 miles) and is ready to share his experience.
Starck may have had what some would call the perfect life: a recently obtained college degree, promising job lined up, a girlfriend, and family comfortably located in his German hometown. However, he also had a fierce case of Wanderlust. This spurred the mission to bike across four continents in 365 days, capture all parts (the good and the bad) with his camera, and discern for himself the way he wanted to perceive the world. The trailer for his self-made documentary follows:
As many philosophers would propose, the desire to transcend, to experience, to push boundaries and live to tell the tale is the driving factor of the human experience; such could be claimed as motivation for Felix. While the journey was not without its difficult times – his partner quit on him, he was robbed, overcame pneumonia, and had a family member die – he met incredible people, learned to thrive outside of his comfort zone, and told HuffPost, “[I] wouldn’t change a thing.”
Sharing his experience, thoughts, and FAQ about the soon-to-be-released documentary with True Activist, Felix offered even more inspiration and an inside-look at his journey to help you get out there and “pursue your passion(s)” as well.
What inspired you to bike – and document – your journey around the world?
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 – the day after I woke up and wanted to know if I would be able to actually do this. So I started to plan this trip and 3 months after I was on the road heading East towards Turkey. Now I ask myself a lot: Why did you do this?
The answer: 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 via foot and cheaper than only with a backpack. With a car you just drive from city to city with 100km/h and see the world through a screen. I experienced the moments with the locals much more intense. Furthermore, I wanted to know for myself if I was able to cycle around the world.
What type of response are you hoping to evoke from those that watch your documentary?
I want to spread Wanderlust and show people how amazing it can be to travel the world. For me, traveling 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 a recognized institution like a university, but it will teach you much more. So go out there and travel the world.
What message(s) are you hoping to convey by sharing your exhilarating journey?
Before I left home in Germany, I never worried when I got a cappuccino at my favorite café or bought some new Nikes — it was totally natural and nothing special! Now – everything has changed – especially me.
I always try to enjoy the moment now. I try to be 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 or Cambodia, but the people there are still happy and smile at you and wave when you pass them on the bike. Here, in Germany and other first world countries, most people are career-oriented and live in a system where it is more about what you have than what you are.
I think we should care way more about others, not just ourselves. Appreciate what you have, but don’t forget the ones who don’t have anything.
“Most people are career-oriented and live in a system where it is more about what you have than what you are.”
What were some challenges you faced along this journey?
There are a lot of them out there. For example, Traffic. Even first-world countries like USA are not the best to cycle in because the bicycle community isn’t as big as it is in Europe. There you can cycle from Norway all the way down to Austria without being on a car road once.
Also, the heat is a big problem as a cyclist, especially in Asia. One day I cycled in the north of Cambodia when it was 44 degrees Celsius in the shade; in the sun (and that’s where I was most of the day) it was over 60 degrees Celsius. I drank over 18 liters of water that day and almost collapsed. Plus, the truck drivers are crazy over there; to make more and more money to survive they rarely sleep. They take drugs so they don’t need to sleep and this is when it gets dangerous for a cyclist like me. Sometimes I didn’t even hear them coming because of the headwind, actually I had headwind all the time. Suddenly this huge colored truck passes you with 100km/h and about 20cm distance, sometimes you fall off the bike because of the wind they generate – really not a great area to cycle in – but I still had great moments.
I was also robbed by the police in Cambodia once. I stopped at a police station to ask if I was allowed to sleep there and they said “yes.” I kind of had a weird feeling about the situation, but put up my mosquito-net and just slept. Next morning 5 cops came and wanted all of my cash – $400. They took it, threw my wallet in the sand, and told me to get lost. They even said “thank you“.
It is important to not lose trust in the nation after an incident like this because there are idiots everywhere.
Did you trek this long distance to raise awareness for a specific cause?
Not in the beginning, but after a while I figured that I could reach out to a big community who followed me during this world trip. Therefore I thought about how I can use this attention to do something positive. That’s why I decided to cooperate with the World Wildlife Fund. For every documentary purchased, 1€ is donated to this organization.
What are some insights you’d like to gift the readers of this article who may be inspired to do what you did and take on an incredible task likely rooted to the intent of helping the world?
After this trip I’m more aware of the current situation in our society and especially how other cultures live. You don’t have to go on such a crazy world trip to do something good: turn off the lights, separate waste, donate some money you don’t necessarily need, or take the bicycle to work. Really, it’s the little things that count when everybody does them.
Favorite moments from the trip?
There were so many… but all in all, it was the daily kindness of strangers everywhere in this world that was my favorite. I got invited to peoples’ homes countless times, and this was the [type of] inspiration that kept me going.
First day I left home an elderly woman saw me setting up my tent and stopped me. She invited me to her guestroom, made dinner and breakfast for me and we are still in contact. I had 100 other cases like this. It truly is unbelievable how kind our species is.
When will “Pedal the World” be released? Where can fans find it?
We just opened the pre-sales, so you could buy it right now: www.pedal-the-world.com. The movie should be done in 2-3 weeks and that’s when we send you the DVD or download link. Pre-ordering helps us to solve the logistic-problem, because I do everything by myself.
Now what do you have planned?
First promoting the documentary Pedal the World. Afterwards I want to hit the road again to shoot another movie. This time without a bicycle though. I could imagine doing a road trip with a campervan.
Anything else you’d like to add?
True Activist seeks to educate, empower, and inspire its readers through objective, non-tainted media. Perhaps Felix’s journey – and soon-to-be released documentary – will inspire a transcendent journey of your own.