New Zealander Kylie Phaup-Stephens had grown fed up of her life in London and decided it was time to head home. However, she chose an unusual method of transport – cycling solo. After 17 months and 22 countries she’s made it to Queensland, where we caught up with her…
Why did you decide to do this?
I’d had enough of life in the UK. Whilst London is a city I will always love, it took me a while to realise the quality of life isn’t what I had back home. I love the outdoors, camping, hiking, fishing, everything I ever took for granted in NZ.
But to cycle home, are you crazy?
Cycling is THE best way to see a country. It’s the perfect pace to travel enough distance per day yet still slow enough to take it all in… the integration into a country, being a part of the landscape and mixing with its people. I love trains too but they frustrate me… not being able to stop, take photos and mix with the locals.
Were you much of a cyclist before?
Not at all! I worked in Essex and there was no public transport to this hideous industrial estate, so buying a bike seemed logical. That was all the training I did.
What was your favourite destination?
Afghanistan. It’s surprisingly beautiful. The way it’s represented in the media is so different to how I found it. It was nothing like I perceived. Admittedly I probably shouldn’t have been there (I was officially one of three tourists in the country). But the people were so smiley despite being so poor and having nothing. The scenery was stunning! Breathtakingly beautiful.
Any scary moments?
I guess the scariest thing was the attention from men. I died my hair dark and that stopped a bit of attention but it was still something that I couldn’t escape.
Especially in the Middle East?
Yes there, but everywhere really. It’s like when people meet a Western woman they think Hollywood and they think porn and they think that I’m just going to jump straight into bed with them!
What did you do to relax?
I don’t think I have relaxed the whole time! That hasn’t bothered me though. It’s the loneliness that really got to me at times. I would just go to all the tourist hot spots where I could meet people. It was human interaction I craved the most. And I always kept my friends and family up to date with Facebook updates. All the comments I would get from them would keep me motivated. That stuff really keeps you going. And I guess just listening to my iPod was a way of relaxing too.
Any favourite travel tunes?
My friends made some cycling playlists with some cheesy songs like “Pump It” (Black Eyed Peas) to get me going. That helped.
Was it a hassle sorting all the visas?
The hardest place to get a visa for was Australia! Which is unbelievable for a Kiwi. I did overstay my time in Iran, that was a bit of a nightmare.
How did you get from Indonesia to Australia, not by illegal fishing boat?
No, it was tempting but I tried to do it the right way. I was in Indonesia at the wrong time of year though, the Trade Winds were going the wrong direction so not many boats were travelling south. I tried all ways, like contacting cargo vessels, anything, and then started putting up posters. In the end I got a job on a yacht. It took around four weeks. It was this billionaire who wanted his yacht to sail to the Whitsundays so his kids could play on it!
So, what’s next? A book?
Well, it wasn’t the plan but if I am approached, sure. I certainly have lots of crazy stories to tell.
Just make it happen. If you’re working a crappy job and you want to get out and do something, just do it. I’m just an average Kiwi girl on her way home. If I can do it, anyone can. I just love life and am making my dream happen.
Read more about Kylie’s amazing adventure at http://www.bugbitten.com/blogs/kyles/my_webpage.html[www.bugbitten.com/kyles]