Radical Sabbatical

The Vitals

Dates: June 19 – August 2, 2019

Location: Japan to Ontario

Photos by Brittany

Total Route

Section 1 Riding Summary

Section 2 Riding Summary

Section 3 Riding Summary

Section 4 Riding Summary

The Trip

We left Vancouver on August 6, 2018 and we returned nearly one year later on August 2, 2019. In the interim we cycle-toured 11,612 km, visited 11 countries, camped 109 nights, slept in a van or huts another 16 nights, stayed with hosts from warmshowers 22 nights and the rest were spent in countless hotels, hostels, homes of friends, planes, and ferries. We also successfully hand delivered a note from our warm showers host in Kunming, China to her friends in Featherston, NZ. We carried it for 5500 km in five countries, three planes, a few buses, and a dozen or more ferries.

An early dinner in Kyoto

We spent our final month in Ontario catching up with family and old friends. We were able to surprise my mother at her work on the last day before summer vacation, ride the Greater Niagara Circle Route (143 km) on borrowed bicycles with Brittany’s parents, and canoed for three days with my sister in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park.

Fushimi Inari Shinto shrine
Some of the 1000 torii gates at Fushimi Inari
Toji Buddhist temple at night in Kyoto

We feel really lucky to have been able to take an entire year off and have what often seemed like an endless tour. With 239 unique sleeping locations in 361 days, it was sometimes hard to feel any semblance of routine. At times I would despair when I thought about blowing up my sleeping pad and setting up the tent again.

Deer in the river in the middle of Kyoto
Dinner from the roof of our hotel in Osaka. Not a restaurant, just us eating our ramen from a pot on chairs brought up the stairs.

We spent the vast majority of the time just the two of us. Other than laboured conversations in mixed English, sign language, and the few words we may have picked up in the local language, we usually just talked with each other for days on end. And while there are some really strong memories of the two of us cooking dinner on the stove during sunset, miles from anywhere and anyone, the times we spent with friends old and new really stand out. Many people at home and abroad made this trip possible for us and include the following:

  • Alex and Dominique: ringing in 2019 with us in Cambodia
  • Will and Anne: making a home with us in Albert Town
  • Alex the German cyclist: keeping us company for three weeks in NZ
  • Ko the Japanese cyclist: keeping us company in Tajikistan
  • Brad and Courtney: taking care of Chipmunk and helping us out with storing our stuff for a year
  • Katelyn: also taking care of Chipmunk
  • Christian: phone chats and being the welcome party during our layover in Vancouver in June
  • Jan: more phone chats and remote bike advice
  • Dawn: Being a postal drop point and also taking care of Chipmunk
  • Sonia: storing our bikes while we were in Ontario
  • Amy and Bobbie: picking us up in Toronto and facilitating the surprise of my parents
  • Danny and Chrissy (and Craig and Girl): best welcoming committee in Auckland
  • Emma and Guy: best departing committee in Christchurch
  • Vera: WS host extraordinaire in Kunming
  • Colin and Jin: WS hosts in Jinghong
  • Steve and Dai: WS hosts in Khon Kaen
  • Mischelle and Pat: couch providers in Chiang Mai
  • Peter, Eva, and family: WS hosts in Rotorua
  • Lyneke: WS in Whanganui
  • Josh and roommates: WS in Palmerston North
  • David and Cheryl: WS in Featherston
  • Barry and Fiona: WS in Wellington
  • Cliff and Rachel: housesit in Dunedin
  • Joanna and Sanghyun: WS in Seoul
  • Tristan and Jen: taking us out in Busan
  • Jiro and family: WS in Aso
  • Ryu: WS in Kyoto
  • Simon: accepting our package of winter clothing in Auckland
  • Yoshi: storing our bikes in Osaka and making us takoyaki when we went to pick them up
Eating street in Osaka
Streets in Osaka
Around 1200 deer live in Nara under special protection. They’re very bold for the deer food on sale around town.

There are also the shorter interactions along the way. When I was ill in Kyrgyzstan, a family let me sleep in their home. Near Naryn we were camping one night longer than we had planned and were basically out of food when a Swiss couple (Valentin and Diedrah) invited us for dinner at their camp. In Tajikistan we stayed with the same family two different times when they insisted we join them rather than camp next to the river. In the second instance we had been caught in a snow storm and were desperate for some warmth. Many, many people in Central Asia offered us food and tea on the road. From a bottle of Fanta thrown out of a moving truck on a long mountain pass, to more tomatoes and cucumbers than we could carry on the backroads of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. In New Zealand there were offers of places to set up camp and armloads of fruit and eggs. One unsuspecting B&B probably still doesn’t know we camped on their patio after being soaked to the bone in near-freezing rain.

One of our last meals in Japan
Taking the train to Kansai airport on our way back to Canada. A muggy day lugging boxed up bikes on public transit.
Lanterns in Osaka

Our families were also key to the whole endeavour. Supporting the plan, lots of phone calls, taking extra-good care of us in the past month. I can’t believe now how adamant we were that we wouldn’t be coming home early right up until late May. We’re even thankful that EVA air flight attendants went on strike five days before our flight home from Japan so that we were rescheduled on an itinerary that connected through Vancouver rather than Taipei.

Now back in Vancouver, we’re eager to get back to work, catch up with our friends, and snuggle the heck out of Chipmunk.

Bikes came with the room at PEDAL hotel in Kyoto
Sunset on Stoplog Lake with my sister
No bears
Portage markers
Muddy entrance to Stoplog Lake from Compass Lake

gregreynen