A few days after his 23rd birthday, Sam Gambier left his home in Cornwall, UK, to cycle around the world. His solo journey would take him over 36,000 miles and two and a half years, from France to Singapore, across Australia, and from Alaska to Argentina.
His book, “Terning: Around the World by Bike”, is a story about the challenges he faced, but it is also a story about the kindness and generosity of the people he met along the way. As Sam says, “I am no brave adventurer; the book is the story of a twenty-three-year-old who cycled around the world in spite of himself, his flaws and (often pretty stupid) decisions’.
We reached out to Sam to ask him about his dreams, his inspiring encounters on the road and his next challenges. There he is.
– Who is Sam Gambier and what are his dreams?
– I grew up in Cornwall, UK, and went to uni in London. When I was twenty-three, I left England and spent two years and eight months cycling around the world and since then have lived in Spain and China. (I know you didn’t really ask me, but…) I believe our experience on this planet should not be confined by the borders drawn across it and I feel lucky and guilty, in equal measure, that I was born in a place that allows me to explore the world more freely than most. I dream about a world in which we recognise ourselves as inhabitants of one shared place, rather than several disparate places separated from each other (though perhaps I should do less dreaming and more doing!).
– What was your motif to choose a bicycle as a means of transport to circumnavigate the world?
– A bicycle brings you closer to people than most other forms of transport could. The barrier of a window pane is removed, as is the ease and comfort that the window pane brings; the world is not framed for you to look at, rather you become part of the picture. On a bicycle you feel each metre, every hill and all the space between us, and I’m sure in some way this leads to a greater understanding of our world, at least its physical form. I am also quite a shy person, and a bicycle piled high with belongings starts conversations better than I do.
– What was the most heartwarming act of human kindness you experienced during your trip?
– I experienced so many moments of miraculous human kindness that it is really difficult to highlight just one. In almost every country I cycled through, people gave me food and shelter, and shared their lives with me. I think the place in which I was most overwhelmed by kindness was in Sumatera, Indonesia. Almost every day, people invited me into their homes: I slept on the floors of single-roomed houses with families of five or six; visited schools and mosques; rode about the towns visiting friends and seeing the local sights and was always met with openness, kindness and curiosity.
– What was the biggest challenge you hadn’t expected?
– Probably myself! Loneliness set in quick, and at the beginning I couldn’t shake the idea of spending so much time alone. Two-and-a-half-years by myself seemed unfathomable, and I felt the love I have for those close to me with a keenness I hadn’t experienced before. I am no brave adventurer; the book is the story of a twenty-three-year-old who cycled around the world in spite of himself, his flaws and (often pretty stupid) decisions. That I made it was a testament to the kindness and generosity of the people that I met; it was these meetings that made the journey worth it and encouraged me to carry on.
– What would you say to someone who considers repeating your feat?
– Do it, first and foremost. It will give you much more than you could ever put in and will be a life-affirming, enriching experience. People will show themselves to be wonderful and kind and you will see parts of the world which most people fly over or drive through. There is no need to plan in meticulous detail, but be prepared; it is a deeply rewarding way to travel, but it is not always the easiest. And, of course, you will not be repeating anything. I feel like when we travel we visit a time as much as a place. Even if you followed a route cycled a thousand times, it would be your adventure, remarkable and unique.
– What is your next big travel challenge?
– In the summer, I’m planning to walk a little way across Norway, from Otta to Odda, because 1.) it has a nice ring to it, 2.) it seems like a nice amount of walking to do in a month and 3.) it seems like it will be absolutely stunning. I’m a little older now, and maybe have more patience for walking; I’m looking forward to living in a tent in the real world and escaping the man-made one with jobs and bills and all that stuff for a little while.
– Share something inspiring with everyone reading this!
– Ummm… that’s put me on the spot! I really don’t consider myself to be a very inspiring person. The only thing I will say, if you are thinking about going on a mammoth adventure, is that if I can do it, anyone can.
Sam Gambier’s book, “Terning: Around the World by Bike”, is on Amazon here:
To get an idea of what you can expect, read an excerpt from the book HERE.
All photos: Courtesy of Sam Gambier