World trip on bike

Cycling around the world

At the age of 24, Dennis Kailing left his hometown in the German state of Hesse to circumnavigate the globe on a bicycle. For 761 days he traveled eastbound through 41 countries, covering a total of 43,600 kilometers.

Dennis Kailing in the Bolivian salt flats. (Image: Dennis Kailing)

“I’ve always been interested in faraway places, maybe because I never really went on long trips with my parents – just short hops to the North Sea or the Alps. When I stumbled upon an internet report about traveling around the world by bicycle, I was instantly hooked. I spent six months researching the subject, reading blogs, debating back and forth – and then decided: I’m going to do this now, too. Bike around the world! I had never embarked on a cycling tour before, so I just roughly estimated the distances and stages. Ultimately, though, the two years I had calculated turned out to be pretty accurate. The bicycle was my vehicle of choice, because it’s relatively inexpensive and would keep me independent of factors like departure times and routes. I can stop whenever I want and still make good progress. What’s more, it’s environmentally friendly and always good for an adventure. The fact that traveling by bicycle would mean lots of invitations and encounters, and that I would come into close contact with people and their cultures, was something I didn’t realize until I was on the road. That was really fascinating; I gained insights into completely different worlds. For instance, from a Central European perspective, it is financially viable to bike around the world. For many of the people I met along the way, though, buying a bicycle was out of the question. But they have so many advantages: you can ride to work or school, you can transport things, provide mobile medical care – plus the fact that it’s healthy and great exercise. I hadn’t realized all those things until now.

Slowly but surely, I crossed borders and explored different countries: Germany, Austria, Slovakia etc. By the time I reached Turkey, I had finally entered full travel mode: I realized that I was doing exactly what I had set out to do and what I wanted to do. That was a brilliant moment. I had an app for navigating, and had entered the routes and stopovers. I could zoom out and at one point I had to actually make the globe revolve a bit so I could view my entire itinerary – I had already covered so much ground! Home was really far away. That said, during those two years I was hardly lacking for anything. What I had in my saddle bags was more than enough. I only missed my stereo system; I would have liked to have been able to listen to music out loud.

The first night I spent alone in my tent was the most frightening time. But that was mostly down to me, because there were obviously lots of much more dangerous situations. At the end of the day, everything worked out well. The thought of turning back or giving up never really occurred to me, although there were days when nothing went right – when there were strong, nonstop headwinds or I had two flat tires back-to-back. What motivated me to keep going was all the wonderful experiences I’d already had, and the knowledge that the wind would die down sooner or later and the sun would come out again.

The main thing my trip gave me was a new perspective on my life and future. As a child and teenager, I was always told that a good education, a secure job and a fixed address were the most important things in life. On the road I met so many people for whom this is not – or cannot be – their goal. They have completely different problems in their everyday lives, or simply other priorities, and that gave me a lot of confidence. There will always be something to help me on through life, and I don’t need to know what it is right now. That realization lets me calmly face the future with a positive outlook.”

Around the world in numbers

Days on the road:
Average distance covered daily: 90 kilometers
Longest stage on a single day: 231 kilometers
Total elevation climbed: 295,000 meters
Overall duration of trip: 2,350 hours
Maximum speed: 78.6 kilometers per hour
Average speed: 18.5 kilometers per hour
Punctured tires: 63

The main thing is having plenty of provisions in your saddlebags: Cycling through Armenia. (Image: Dennis Kailing)
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