A lifelong dream
Adventurer & Photographer 

Stephen Peel

To circumnavigate the world on a bicycle

This - The Adventure Begins - page is basically a blog on the days leading up to the actually cycle. It's the ups and downs and all my preparations 

Image by Stephen Peel

 

A Life Less Ordinary 

Through hard work in the building industry, I have been able to travel all over the world experiencing amazing things, with some things you would find very hard to believe, and some things I am lucky to have survived :), and as a result, I have befriended some wonderful people from all walks of life and cultures. I have made some really good decisions in life, and some really bad ones, as have we all, but being a father of the two most wonderful daughters is simply amazing, and I am so very lucky and proud.


Cycling completely around the world is huge, even for someone young and in peak physical health with no family or financial ties to worry about, so I am not fooling myself with regard to how hard this will be for me, but I'm loving the thought of it and have never let anything stop me from doing what I have set my mind on. I have also never been more excited about an adventure before as I am with this one. 


I understand the challenges. I suffer multiple injuries after being flattened by an articulated lorry. Permanent nerve and joint damage will make this so much harder, and every issue will be enhanced. But what's a little extra pain when you get to live a lifelong dream :) 


It really is hard to imagine, that I could actually be on this adventure for many years. I'm not kidding myself or anyone else, because if I decide I have had enough at any point, that I want something else or want to go in a completely different direction or want to spend a long time in any one place,  I will do it.  


Expect no airs and graces or bullshit. Expect honesty, adventure, plenty of highs and lows, tears, pain, excitement, and even a little humour. I usually act before I think :), so can end up in all kinds of mad situations. I love photography, so will be taking some really great shots and uploading them, so look out for them on my social media pages. I also hope to video in 4k on DSLR and GoPro5, with the intention of making a video on return and small YouTube video's while on the road, so subscribe to my YouTube channel too here: YouTube. I hope to also write a book, but here I go, getting ahead of myself :) I have to at least start cycling :)


Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, 
instead of someone else’s

Billy Wilder


October 28 2016

Confirmed 
This was probably the biggest first step of all, to actually tell family, friends, and my daughters, that I will be putting every effort into getting this adventure started. 

Reactions were mixed. Some brushed it off as a madcap idea which I would never attempt. Some thought I should simply be happy with my life as it is and to just be content, and some even asked what I was running away from! But there were a few others - including my daughters - who expressed genuinely, that they will support me completely and are happy for me. 

Telling everyone was something I really had to put off until I was absolutely sure I was going to pull out all the stops to do this.

November 2016

Nov 11 16, I spent the first week of November glued to the TV with the US elections, even going without sleep for two days watching it :), but in between those days I managed to still get plenty of things completed. 


For weeks now, all sorts of things have gone through my mind, but the most important has been my youngest daughter having to have scans and a small op. She is doing fine, as I am told this is one of those fairly common women's things. Even so, I am obviously extremely concerned. 


Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Mark Twain


December 2016

Great news regarding my daughter, all is fine after tests and biopsy, and will now have tests at 6 month intervals. 

Completing renovations on time for this year and making better than expected progress all together. Now it's time to wrap prezzies and get ready for Christmas and New Year.

It has been an up an down year, with plenty of the "am I doing the right thing" "can I do this" "should I do this". All sorts of thoughts, but I am really excited and feel confident. 

January 2017

Am I over thinking it?


Everything is still right on schedule and I am working hard to keep it that way. I have to admit to wondering at times whether I am over thinking how much organisation and planning is involved or needed, and how much head space I really need to give it.

I’m not a young adult who can just leave from my parents house for 3 to 6 years and go back to it at the end of all this without a care in the world.

When I was younger I really didn’t worry about the consequences of doing anything, I would just get up and go and do pretty much whatever I wanted and when. I could disappear over the horizon until I felt I had my adventure fix.

Those days are long gone :) I have to make sure I have a plan in place for when I return or if I have to return prematurely due to accident or a family issue. 

Things like receiving no income, losing my no-claims bonus on insurances, making sure all my dentistry and my eyesight checks are up to day while they are free of charge, having a new will prepared so my daughters are looked after if the worst happens, storage for my furniture and personal things that I won’t let go of. Continuing to contribute to my pension and the list goes on.

As each week passes I get more excited, thinking how amazing the next 3 or more years on the road will be, but at the same time, I am fully aware that it will be hard work, physically demanding, mentally taxing, with dangers abound.

My emotions will likely be on some crazy roller-coaster. But I am loving the thought of all of it, and feel very very privileged as a working class guy, to have worked hard enough to give myself the choice and opportunity to be able to do such a thing.

Am I over thinking it? Maybe :)

No man is worth his salt who is not ready at all times to risk his well-being, to risk his body, to risk his life in a great cause

Theodore Roosevelt


February 2017

Early Feb, and a few health checks have revealed my blood pressure up close to 170/110, which given that a normal pressure is said to be around 120/80, I'm way way too high. So although I have been eating really healthy since New Year, I am now going to cut out all added salts, oils, fats, and also breads of any kind and go really strict. And, only 1 beer a week from now on. 


Getting my health right is obviously important no matter what, but extra important for the cycle. Last year I worked myself off several health medications related to when I was flattened. These 3 meds were intended to help with my diagnosed PTSD, Situational Anxiety, and Depression. All 3 had to go, as its been a while since the accident and enough is enough. I instructed the chemist that I no longer required those meds, and that was that.


Now I'm left with just prescription testosterone, thyroid medication, asthma inhalers. As well as prescription pain killers that work with the nervous system, and standard prescription painkillers due to the nerve and joint damage. The painkillers stopped today.


Testosterone. My thoughts are that I need to get off this medication, and this is just one reason I wanted to cycle around the world now. Working the leg muscles is the best thing to promote testosterone, as they are the biggest and most powerful group of muscles, and I understood this from my years in weight training, so it is my hope that cycling between 30 and 60 miles a day, will eventually get me off prescription testosterone. Because I will not have access to all these meds once I leave the UK and EU and will only be taking 3 months supply with me on a 3 years trip.


Thyroid. I am going to be keeping fit by cycling, and also eating foods that will help replace the thyroid medication, but the GP told me today that not taking Levothyroxine might even result in death. Well, I aim to prove that theory wrong :), as usual. Thank god I'm not a cat, as I would have used those 9 lives a long time ago :) As Hypothyroidism is a hormonal issue, it is said that you can't replace this through foods. Well I still have a thyroid, so its just going to have to get off its lazy arse. 


Asthma. Again I'm hoping that my healthy eating and constant daily fitness through cycling, will help my lungs out a bit, but inhalers are a bit easier to get on the move I'm told.


Well that all sounds like lots of risks and lots of issues, but I am in no doubt, that by just surrendering to these things, my health will surely get worse and I will never get out there to live a dream, and I have done quite a good job of getting off the meds I have done thus far.

Mid Feb, and I'm getting pretty excited about how things are going to schedule. I have just the kitchen in this house to complete, followed by a little general maintenance outside and the planting of some flowers, and I will be ready to call in the estate agents and contact the storage company. 


My daughter phoned me the other day because she couldn't get out of her flat due to the lock braking, and of course I was around there like a shot with a car full of tools. It made me think how being close by can be handy for the girls, and the thought of not being around, kind of upset me on my way back home.  Its funny how you change emotionally once you have children, and look at things in such different ways. At the same time, I know they will be just fine, and if anything major does happen (god forbid) I will return as quickly as I can, but things will be cool, I just know it.


Late Feb, and this renovation regarding the house, is complete. Just a few outside touch-ups and I will be calling in the estate agents. I am impressed that this time last year, I said I would buy this house to restore, and put it back on the market for a profit, by early March 2017, one year later. And I am right on schedule. Now its a case of getting the right price for all my hard work, and then to order the KOGA Worldtraveller S, belt drive and Rohloff hub. Plus new camera equipment, DJI Mavic Pro drone, and everything else I am going to want to take along for the ride. A full list of equipment and expenditure will be available on another page. 


March 2017

Early March, The estate agents have been in, and I was very surprised to find the valuation was much higher than I expected, enough of an increase over my expectations, to cover the cost of all my equipment including my bike, and including any other travel costs that won't include cycling. This is a real bonus. 


The house went on the market yesterday, and I have 3 viewings lined up already. Let's hope it sells quickly. The afternoon after I instructed the agents, I spent at the hospital with my eldest daughter Chelsea, who really wasn't very well. There was some tests to be done due to pains, but all is well now, she will be just fine thank goodness. 


My plans are still on track to leave during this summer and head west through France, Spain, Italy, and Greece. 


March 11 17, My restored house went on the market yesterday, 3 viewings booked for today, first booking offered full asking price. I'm thrilled of course, but my arse has just gone :) It's on now, it is finally here. After a couple of years of planning and wondering, I'm finally at the point where I am now able to live that lifelong dream. It's thrilling, crazy, and just around the corner. I now have about 6 weeks in which to get sorted and everything into storage. Once that's done, I will be staying with my sister in Llandudno North Wales for around 6 weeks in order to get my bike and equipment together. 


A rough estimate of the date I will be setting out on the cycle, will be June 1st. Which is 2 months ahead of schedule, and pretty amazing really that I get to cycle through our European summer. It's all go now, no more sitting idly by the TV watching the crap - which I will no doubt miss - for hours on end.


March 18 17, Now that my currant house has a sold sign hanging off it, I am viewing a flat today to maybe purchase as an investment to rent out, as I was thinking about at least having a base other than a relatives house. I downsized over a year ago to a nice little house in need of renovation in order to make a little money and keep me close to my children while I decided if I was really going to start this cycle. I decided I was going to cycle, so sold this one last week.


Even before I view it, I'm having second thoughts, as renting it out is not always a good idea and may just give more more headaches if something goes wrong while I'm away. It also means I still can't just return and kick them out, I have to give notice or have them on a short lease. The value of this flat hasn't gone up since it was built in 2007, even though it is in a much sought after area, so I find it hard to imagine it will shoot through the roof over the next few years, although it might.


My other thought is that on my travels I might find somewhere I want to stay or buy a place in. Renting out is not a good idea for me, as I'm really funny about people trashing my things. If I just keep it to go back to, it will cost me as much as £80 per week just to maintain it, which is £12k over 3 years, and will likely way overtake the profit it might make, given it hasn't made any in 10 years. 


The other reason is that I would like the funds available to my children if anything happened to me, rather than them trying to deal with a property. The other thought is that having downsized once, sold another, and now thinking of buying another, feels like I will just never get going and end up tied up again in something I don't really want.


Also this morning, I'm going through insurance companies online to find a good price for my cycle tour, and WOW, what a nightmare! Talk about rip'offs. The cheapest I have found thus far is World Nomads at just over £600 for 1 year on their cycle touring insurance for the European leg of the tour, and get this, it doesn't cover independent cycle touring? You have to be part of an arranged tour under the leadership of a qualified professional. I will add more soon about this. 


March 21 17, I took a drive with my youngest daughter Chloe up to Leeds to CycleSense, a bike shop that deals with Koga bikes. It was an 80 mile drive out but worth it. Dave - the owner - checked out my requirements and based on my height and size, we worked out what we felt would be the best bike for me.


The Koga Worldtraveler Signature and quite a large frame in forest green. Trouble is, after we talked through the specs and the pros and cons of the Rohloff 14 speed hub and Gates belt drive, I came away feeling confident I had the right bike at £4100. But, when I actually got home after my daughter and I went for lunch, I started to really think about the fact that for what appears roughly £1500 extra over a Deore XT setup, I started to question whether or not the hub would be a good idea.


Don't get me wrong, there would be no question if all I was doing was taking off for a few weeks or months every now and then on a cycle tour somewhere, where I could just call my trip short if I was having a few problems with the bike, get home and get it sorted. But because I am planning to be away for years, passing through some countries with really tight visa restrictions, and with calling my trip short and returning home not an option, I'm rethinking the idea of the hub and belt.


Also, it turns out that according to Dave, the hub is only under warranty for 2 years, meaning if it goes pear shaped 2 years into my cycle, I'm screwed and will have to fork out another grand or more for a new hub. Fixing punctures and taking the wheel on and off is a concern to me too, as I like cycling along the coast and have had as many as 3 punctures in one day due to shards of seashells going through the tires on my Giant Escape 2. The thought of having to tension and mess around with the belt on the hub every day - if I'm unlucky - would spoil my fun, and I'm told sand a grit and seashells could shred a belt or send it out. 


You can't carry a spare belt either in a pannier, as they come in the position they are meant to be fitted in, as you can't bend or twist or fold a belt. And so, if I were to just be taking the odd tour from time to time, I wouldn't have to think like this, but to be away for what could be many years, its far too greater risk. 


The bike also comes with disk breaks, and I'm no longer happy about that either and will likely replace them with just simple cantilever breaks. The bike will be ordered once this house has completed and not before. 


It is better to risk starving to death then surrender. If you give up on your dreams, what’s left? 

Jim Carrey


March 27 17, I'm happy again with the spec, including the hub and belt :)

April 2017

April 1, Went for a lovely sunny cycling on my GIANT Escape 2 along the canal, and only reached 6 miles before stopping and chatting to a lovely fellow named Colin. After a long chat and a few things in common, we set off cycling in different directions. A few minutes later while I was sat at the side of the road trying to fix a puncture :/, Colin came cycling up, invited me back to his place to meet his lovely wife and to throw my bike in the back of his car to drive me back, as my puncture kit needed ditching.


The world is full of nice and helpful people, especially so when you are a cyclist I have found. When I was younger and cycling, I would appear exhausted and would be offered drinks and food from complete strangers, but while on foot at times with no bike, I have not met with the same goodwill. The people are the same good people no doubt about it, but I really have noticed that people feel less threatened and more eager to help a cyclist than someone with a backpack. Another great reason to cycle instead of walk :)

April 3, I was a bit concerned that it is getting on for 4 weeks since an offer was made on the house, and I should have at least had a letter confirming the offer and a sales memorandum being received by my solicitor. But not so, so I charged into the estate agents today. As I entered the brightly sunlit office, the room darkened :), as I stood there blocking out all the light, not smiling, and demanding to speak with the manager.


Our conversation went well of course, as I wasn't leaving there otherwise, and when I look like I mean business, I mean business. Later today I received a phone call from the supervisor dealing with my property, and she told me that she had sent everything over to all parties, and everything was cool. She had even called the buyer in Spain while on his holiday to ask him when he would like to be in my house, to which he said he would like to be in by the end of May - next month. Which again is great news.


So, two months to go if the solicitors pull their fingers out, and then two months in North Wales for me, then I'm off by the end of July. 


My plan has been to get as far East as possible before January 2018, in order to beat the really bad weather like we get here in the UK in winter. It would be great if I was as far as southern Spain by February 18, or maybe, just maybe as far as Greece :)


April 4 17,     And wow! As I type this I am looking out of the window in my little - sold - bungalow in Cheshire. It's windy and threatening to rain. Its still not quite light. 


I have just had waves of what I could best describe as butterflies through my chest. It's such a weird feeling. I'm sat on a comfy big settee, with the news going on in the background on my 55" 4k Android TV, the heating set to a nice 15c, and I'm about to set out on for however many years, living in a tent for most part, no more big TV, no more comfy big chair, no more window for that matter, and in extreme weathers we just don't get here in the UK. 


I have had these feelings before, and it's only natural I guess, given what I am about to do. All that time I have dreamed of doing this but never thought it would happen, the last few years where it has been on my mind more than at any other time in my life, the last few months where I realized it is entirely possible, and these last few weeks and days where I have realized it is actually happening. It is truly Amazing. 

April 6 17I had planned to take the DJI Mavic Pro Drone, but...

I had high hopes of taking a DJI Mavic Pro Drone around with me, but sadly, after doing tonnes of research, it’s looking like this will be far too difficult, especially with regard to the way I am travelling anyway, because so many of the countries I will be travelling through have tough restrictions and laws, with hard to get permit requirements and other factors, and some countries won't let you in with one regardless.

To take a drone would mean my somehow posting it ahead to different places that allow drones more freely. But without having an address to actually post it to, and not even knowing if it would make it through customs, could be simply throwing a lot of money away, and getting myself into trouble at the same time, with possibly added fines and fees to cover on top of a confiscated drone.

Due to the growing popularity of drones right now, many countries are having no choice but to make restrictions. Too many accidents are being reported, drones in flight paths, or flying over sensitive military and other areas, and I suppose I can understand it, but I’m still disappointed.

I don’t see any other way around it, the drone idea will have to go. But, I will spend that money on maybe a really great macro or other lens. Or gimbal for the GoPro 5. And, I will have more room in my panniers for other items. Still sad though.

Route I have been giving some real thought to

April 8 17, Had a really nice day yesterday. My daughters came round to my house and I BBQ'd some nice sirloins and jacket potatoes. My daughters just can't pass up my BBQ :). We had a really nice chat and watched Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion. 

They both have plans, and both are very content with their lives and are excited about what lies ahead for them. This of course makes a dad feel very happy indeed. In fact, my youngest daughter Chloe told me more than once yesterday that I look different, happier, better, but different. 

I was feeling great that's why. Just knowing my girls are happy and have plans for their futures is everything to me, and I was beaming, and of course this make me even happier than ever about my planned adventure, knowing they will be just fine.

My days lately consist of going to bed about 9pm and setting the alarm for 2am. I wake up, a quick coffee and stretch, then off to the gym which is open 24/7. I have an hour workout in the quiet of night, with sometimes just me in the whole gym, then home, showered, a protein shake, then back to bed until about 9am.

Then a nice healthy breakfast, an hour or two cycling along the canal away from the roads, and back home to do my daily housework, cleaning and dusting, and then some packing of items I don't use that will be going into storage. Before I know it, the day is over. A shower and a chill out with a healthy dinner and a couple of hours of news and maybe a movie, then bed for 9pm.

All might sound a little boring to most, but to me, it's my day right now. That will all change very soon. No housework or garden to maintain, no car, no TV, packing and making preparations needing to be made.

Just waking up each day, cycling as far as I want in one direction, setting up my tent or getting into a hotel, writing, and sorting out images and videos from the day. Eating food for fuel, enjoying my surroundings and meeting new people, and getting a good nights sleep ready to do it all again in the morning. Sounds like bliss.

April 11 17, Here come those butterflies again :)


And today I secured my storage completely. I also spent the day on the phone to loads of insurance companies, in an attempt to find cover for a solo cycle tourist with pre-existing conditions, who is not planning on returning back to the UK until mission complete. 


Wow, what a job it was too. All but one I found allowed you to take out another policy without having to return back to the UK. And although the cover is basic, it covers me if anything happens to me as a result anything unrelated to a pre-existing issue. More on that in my blog section.


New Sony Walkman mp3 player birthday present has been loaded to the now 80gb of memory. I've loaded albums I haven't listened to in forever, but no doubt will be glad I loaded them now, maybe :)


Back to packing today and expecting more boxes to arrive later.

April 25 17, and I'm a bit disappointed at the moment. It will be 7 weeks this coming Saturday that an offer was put on my house, and after my constant calling the solicitors and estate agents. Things better not get drawn out :)


My leaving day is now looking like it is delayed from 1 August to mid September. Any later than that and I will have to plan my route differently in order to follow the warm weather, as I really can't stand the cold. It could mean flying from Manchester England to Miami Florida, and cycling down through the keys and over to Cuba and across to Mexico, then down through South America. I really wanted to cycle East though, but hey, there is still a chance yet. 

May 2017

May 4 17The estate agents have informed my solicitor that everyone was hoping for it to be all done by the end of May, to which the solicitor stated that it should be no problem.  So that's the good news, sort of, but considering that there will be 3 weeks between exchange and completion, and that we are already well into the first week of May, I find it very hard to believe it will be sorted by the end of this month. Of course, I will be thrilled if it is, and thrilled if it is even a couple of weeks into June before it's sorted, but we shall see.


The storage company is contracted from the 9th of this month, just 5 days from now, so I will need some real firm feelings about this all going through OK or I will have to put the storage company back a bit. The storage companies weekly fees started at £48 for enough storage space to house everything I own, and I went back and to between 3 storage companies for weeks, asking each one to beat the other companies price. 


Eventually the company that won, managed to get my weekly fee down from £48 to £20.50, which is a HUGE difference. Playing one company off another for as long as you can, is highly recommended, as none of them want the others to get the business, and you make sure each company knows who you are considering. For 3 years the storage will cost me around £3000, but this is for all my things, which is worth many many times more than the 3 year costs, so well worth it. If I were to sell everything, I would get a fraction of what it's worth, especially what it's worth to me, so I'm quite happy with the fee. At least I feel secure that when I get another house on my return, I have everything I need to fill it.

May 10 17, I have today chosen JUMP Children's Charity as the charity I will be supporting on this adventure. It's a truly wonderful charity which you can read about on the page I have dedicated. JUMP Children's Charity

May 13 17, So a call from my solicitor yesterday and one from the agent today, and we are working on the 2nd of June for sale completion. This will work OK, as I will then have 8 weeks to get paperwork up to date and everything else I need to sort out for the cycle. Then by the end of July, beginning of August, I should be on the road. So much hard work to do over the next two and half months, such as paperwork for banking and insurances, and tying up all the utility companies from the house and re-directing the mail, but then I can relax and enjoy myself for quite some time hopefully.

May 19 2017, Contracts on house were exchanged today, and I have already started moving my things into storage. Removals firm coming in a few days to get the bigger items. Tomorrow I find out the rough delivery date of the new KOGA Worldtraveller. Date of house completion is the June 1, just 13 days from now. 

May 20 2017, KOGA Delivery date is estimated to be July 14, which I am a bit disappointed about to be honest, as I was hoping to get a good few weeks of riding on it before setting off, especially having never used panniers and a fully loaded bike before. But still, at least things are still on target.

May 26 17, After the recent bombing of all those innocent children in Manchester, I was extremely saddened, like most people. I was born in Manchester and currently only live a few miles from there. My daughters had contacted on the day of the bombing, so I knew they were not at the concert that night. 


At ground level, we have been expecting something horrible to happen for a long time, because things are getting worse on a daily basis. We have been expecting bombs to go off, but this attack on children is even worse than I imagined. The government don't care, take no responsibility for the state the country, and never will. 


I have lost all faith in government. Citizens are truly on their own. It should never be about just moving on and getting used to living with terror, as our government states, it should be about fighting against it and removing anyone related to it. I'm so disappointed that I live in a country that allows this to happen, then brushes it aside as the new norm!