(Heather Andersen is the author of the award-winning memoir “I Never Intended to Be Brave: A Woman’s Bicycle Journey in Southern Africa.”)
When I signed up for my first bicycle tour as a teenager, I was simply looking for a fun way to spend part of a summer. Instead, I got my first taste of the joys of bicycle touring.
I loved getting places on my own power with everything I needed with me on my bike. I loved the rhythm of life on the road: days that revolved around simply seeing new places, having enough to eat and finding a place to camp. That first taste wasn’t nearly enough.
Over the years, while bicycle touring on five continents, I’ve realized that it’s the perfect pace to explore the world and really get to know a land and her people, whether that land is your home state or a foreign country. There’s something about bike touring. It exposes us to the world around us and leaves us vulnerable. But we bike travelers are generally met with warmth, interest, and openness; rarely with hostility or violence.
It never fails to restore my faith in humanity, in the goodness of our souls, and in the world around us.
Bike touring helps me see the universe as a friendly place rather than an unfriendly one. It connects me to people and places. Sixteen years after that first tour as a teenager, it gave me the courage to go on alone when I unexpectedly split up with my cycling partner in southern Zambia. And, having that strength, I was able to look lions in the eye, explore the red sand dunes of Namibia, and connect with the kindness of strangers in lands that many think are dangerous.
May is National Bike Month and this year’s theme is One Ride, Many Reasons. To highlight and celebrate the many benefits of bicycling, throughout May we’ll bring you the personal reflections and inspirations of a diverse collections of bicyclists from coast to coast with our daily 31 Days, 31 Reasons blog feature.