A Belgian woman has traded her corporate job and city life to travel 20,000kms across three continents by bicycle.
Yasmijn Soete, 31, was working as a project manager at an advertising company and living in the city centre of Antwerp before she become “tired of the hustle and bustle” and decided to try a new lifestyle.
“We chose this way of travelling as it is eco-friendly, cheap and it lets you move at a slower pace than how you usually travel. It requires you to think about your possessions, what you really need and how to travel as light as possible,” she said.
Soete left Antwerp on March 31 to embark on the global adventure with her partner Yannick Leroy.
She hopes the trip will give her time to “discover different opinions and lifestyles” than the ones she has become used to every day.
“Too often, we are crammed in one place, one routine, one group, and it’s not stimulating variety and creativity,” she said.
Soete and her partner have always been interested in living as debt free as possible, and she said this trip would be “a good exercise to see what you really need, miss, prioritise and appreciate in life”.
“Living closer to nature, you are far less distracted by all things a city offers. We don’t know just yet how we will tackle this [aspect] after our trip, as you cannot escape the system completely, of course, nor do we plan to. But for now, we know to prioritise sunshine, good food and family.
“We hope to encounter many interesting people and projects from which we can learn.”
Mapping the route
While their travel route is not fixed, as they want the flexibility to change plans if desired, Soete said the pair hope to eventually make their way to Patagonia – the southernmost tip of South America.
They have already travelled through Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Norway, along the EuroVelo 12 North Sea Cycle route, and Iceland.
They have only booked two flights as part of the trip – to get from Norway to Iceland, then from Iceland to Canada.
From Canada, they plan to travel south to California, USA. Beyond that, they’re not sure where the journey will take them but Soete said it would be rewarding to see the Andes and Patagonia by bike.
Soete estimates they will tally 20,000kms by the time they’re done.
As the pair are travelling by bicycle and camping along the way, their travel and accommodation costs are minimal, allowing them to stay on the road for longer. Soete said the trip could stretch out for as long as their money will last – potentially up to 1.5 years.
They have allocated a budget of 1500 euros per month (combined) to cover costs and they haven’t exceeded that yet. Once they reach regions like Latin America, they expect costs to drop significantly.
Of course, planning a trip like this didn’t happen on a whim. It all began when the pair started turning their holidays into cycling trips.
“We always had a blast, so this way of travelling was sure to be our thing,” Soete said.
“It is a unique way of travelling because you are very much a part of the country. By this I mean: you experience it more slowly, you stumble upon problems and need the help of locals, you can stop wherever you want to, and are more immersed in nature. You earn your miles and views by working hard, but we enjoy it very much. It’s a totally different way of seeing a place.”
Following several biking holidays and plenty of planning – including saving money, leaving their jobs, packing up their apartment and selling most of their belongings – the pair had to decide on the destinations they wanted to incorporate on their journey.
“Route-wise, we had dreamed of riding the Great Divide in Canada and the US for a while, so that was an easy beginning point to knit all the rest to,” Soete said.
Facing the challenges
For all the excitement that this style of travel can bring, it is not without its challenges.
Soete said they have had to allow for hiccups like their bikes breaking, punctured tyres, getting ill or injured, and other unforeseen setbacks they may encounter.
“We have noticed that things break along the way, and it can be pretty frustrating. But this is what happens at home as well. The only difficulty now is that you are not always at a place where you can get it fixed quickly. It takes a different mindset and acceptance of having to be more patient,” she said.
“If we have bad luck and it eats at our budget, then so be it. We are very aware not much will go according to plan. We only have two rules on this trip: when we are out of money, we are going back home to work again; and it has to stay fun.”
For Soete and Leroy, this cycling adventure has evolved into travel with a purpose.
A few weeks into their trip, they announced they will support Greenpeace’s forestation efforts by raising funds as they cycle.
Cycling through the countryside and wild camping has allowed the pair to embrace their love of the outdoors, so part of their mission is about supporting and protecting the environment.
While she feels incredibly privileged to be able to leave the comforts and luxuries of her former life, Soete said this trip is also about giving back.
“We’re very much looking forward to spending time outside, in fresh air. But we realise that when you take a little, you’ve got to give a little too,” she said.
The pair hope to raise one euro for every kilometre they cycle.
To follow Yasmijn and Yannick’s travels or to make a donation to their charity, visit their website Land of Nod.