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Ten Things I Learned While Cycling Round the World

Morning lessons

Not including all the big, valuable lessons that long journeys in foreign land teach you (independence, humility, gratitude, sociability, flexibility, patience, self-confidence and so on), here are ten things I learned while cycling round the world:

  1. The Middle East was one of the kindest, most welcoming regions I have visited. Not only do people consider it polite to share food with strangers, they actually give the guest all that he can eat before even beginning to think about themselves
  2. This proved to me that preconceptions are dangerous. Most countries are not. Lay aside your preconceptions and go visit almost any place on Earth. You’ll be positively surprised
  3. I would never go back to Egypt as a normal tourist: I found the tourist areas to be extremely annoying, whereas the non-touristy places were far more relaxing, genuine, and interesting
  4. Being cold is worse than being hot. Unless you are too hot and therefore dreaming of snow. I think the real answer to this conundrum is that the preference lies in that which you are not currently enduring
  5. “Mealie meal”, “pap”, “sadza”, “nsima”, “ugali”: call it what you wish, but the staple maize meal of Eastern and Southern Africa will never win a recipe contest
  6. Georgian food, on the other hand, is wonderful. Arriving into Georgia after a grim few months of a Central Asian / Soviet diet of fat noodles and greasy lamb was a revelation! Khachapuri saved my soul
  7. Communication is king. The single best thing about the year or so I spent in Latin America was getting good enough at Spanish (mas o menos) to be able to talk properly to people
  8. America has a lot of critics, and for many good reasons. But spending 6 months there made me conclude that I would prefer to have an American hegemony than any of the other main candidates (China, Russia, India, the Ummah)
  9. I love travelling through China, Russia, India, the Ummah. So don’t get mad at me for point number 8! In fact I could make a good argument for these four regions to be ranked as the most fascinating places in the world to visit
  10. In Bulgaria nodding your head means “no” whilst shaking it from side to side means “yes”

This post first appeared on the As We Travel blog

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  1. One other thing I learnt (although I didn’t quite cycle round the world) is how precious water is. Something we all consider as normal and easy to get, but once on the road every drop matters.
    I like to keep that in mind when I have the comfort of a house.

  2. Lee Hughes Posted

    “Mealie meal”, “pap”, “sadza”, “nsima”, “ugali”: call it what you wish, but the staple maize meal of Eastern and Southern Africa will never win a recipe contest


  3. We are guilty of having had preconceptions about every country we cycled through (including Guy’s home country, Australia, which we expected to be barren and boring!), and mostly they were untrue – how nice it is to be surprised in this way.

    Although we had had plenty of preconceptions ourselves before we started, we still get annoyed by other people commenting on our route with their own preconceptions (“lucky you didn’t get shot” is our favourite re cycling Iran, the friendliest country we have visited!)



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