Patrick Martin Schröder is a 26-year-old German hiker and cyclist who has visited over 100 countries over the course of the last 7 years. I asked him to share his story for Grand Adventures because he is a great example of how simply having the nerve to begin an adventure can lead – perhaps – to living a full-time life of adventure. His challenge to himself is to visit every country on earth.
– What did you do first?
I was 19 when I started. I had no idea what I was doing, I had little money, a backpack and only one goal: Round-The-World. Little did I know how easy it actually is with today’s means. It took exactly 1 year, and after that I was hooked. I got a bicycle and cycled around Europe. When it got too cold and snowy, I flew to India. This time, with only a 30l backpack, I tramped around India and Nepal for 4 months.
I was trying to come up with a long bike tour that I could do, to challenge myself, so I headed towards Africa because I have never been there. I had a €100 bike and I made it to Israel before the bike literally broke apart. I finished the rest of the trip to Cape Town, on a €400 bike from Israel that I built myself.
Since then I’ve continued to travel throughout the world. I’ve secured some sponsors now which really helps my travels. I’ve been going for 7 years through over 100 countries. My goal now is to go to every single one, while getting a boat at some point to reach the more remote island states.
– What were a couple of highlights from that first adventure?
Definitely the people and how they change you. It’s impossible to be a pessimist, to be distrustful or to be racist if you have seen what I have seen. The locals have always been amazing. When I asked people in Sudan if they knew a place that sells food, they just told me to sit down and they would come back with food. I remember sitting in Peru, playing chess with a shoeshine boy, and being cheered by Malawian schoolchildren while cycling up a steep hill. I have encountered so much goodness and hospitality.
I also count the incredible food, the sunrises and sunsets that I always miss when I am back in Germany, the mountain ranges of Patagonia and the Himalayas. Having my hair ruffled by red uakaris (a type of monkey) in the Amazon region, the wildlife in Africa, diving with manta rays… there is just too much to name it all.
– Why did you do it, why did you begin?
It seemed like a good idea at the time. I had the opportunity to do it, and I am so happy that I did it.
– What impact did your first round the world adventure have on your life?
It changed everything, as you can guess from the previous answers. My life is geared towards adventure, doing crazy sports and expeditions. Without that initial Round-the-World trip, I would probably have a Bachelor and Masters degree by now, and do some rather boring desk job. But because my priority is not job, money, house, marry, pension, die, but instead to experience as much as I can do, and learn whatever I can, my life is very unconventional.
I know this: Travelling made my richer, even if I have less money. It has made me wiser, even if I have never been to a university. And it has made me a happier person. It has made me someone who opens up and helps others more readily, instead of just living in a bubble. I recommend it to anyone. Give it a try at the very least.
Money is probably not the thing stopping you, but the fact that you have to leave your comfort zone. That you have to do something scary. Once you step over that line, once you are on the road, everything gets easier.
– What do you know now that you wish you’d known before your trip?
That most of these supposedly super-human things that explorers and travellers do, are actually something anyone can do. If you can ride a bicycle, nothing stops you from biking from Europe to China. If you can walk, nothing stops you from walking from Mexico to Canada. It’s baby steps, one by one. And I would have loved to know that many of the things that I deemed essential, are actually just luxury. Nothing you need to live. Yes, I am looking at you, 25kg backpack (which is now just a 7kg backpack)!
– What practical steps should people take to make their adventure happen?
Save some money, as you already suggested. Sit down and write a bucket list, things they absolutely want to do in their life. Even if your means only enable you to do a fraction of them, concentrate on these goals. Go online and get in contact with people that have already done something similar. It’s amazing how seemingly large obstacles are reduced to nothing once you talk with someone who has the experience, who knows how to do it, and who can teach you. I do AMAs on Reddit for example, to share knowledge about bike tours. Don’t just read the blogs you like, but talk to their creators. Tell people in your life that you are going to do it. This forces you to stick to your plan, or look like a douche. Maybe not the friendliest tip, but it works! If you live near or in a large city, just go to a hostel and talk to the guests. Chances are that they are more than willing to tell you stories from their own tours, giving you more ideas about what’s possible.
– Any tips on living cheap during the trip?
Accommodation, food and transport are the biggest expenses. If you use Couchsurfing.org or Warmshowers.org a lot, and/or camp, you spend very little on accommodation. If you have your own transport, you save tons of money, especially by using something that does not require fuel, be it a bicycle, a skateboard or your two feet. Cook yourself.
To give an example with real numbers:
I spent $0 on accommodation and $6 on transport in 4 months in the USA and Canada. These are expensive countries, but my only spending was food and entry tickets.
The slower you travel, the less money you spend.
Another huge factor is the country you want to travel in. 6 months of Europe are probably much more expensive than buying a flight ticket to India and spending 6 months there.
You can follow Martin online as he continues to maraud around the world:
My new book, Grand Adventures, is out now.
It’s designed to help you dream big, plan quick, then go explore.
The book contains interviews and expertise from around 100 adventurers, plus masses of great photos to get you excited.
I would be extremely grateful if you bought a copy here today!
Thank you so much!