Interview solo female cyclist
Ewa Świderska – Ewcyna
born on a sunny August summer day in the 70-ies somewhere in Poland.
Ewa, called Ewcyna (hence the webpage name) by her closest friends. Ewa is a cycling freak and has covered about 70.000 km in 30 countries while touring the world.
I am happily “infected by cyclosis” for many years now. I represent the species individual bike wanderer of the feminine gender.
Travelling has always been my passion, but travelling by bike has become an addiction. Under the wheels many roads here and there, but addiction is an addiction – holds tight and still wants more.
1. The header of your website says “You can’t buy happiness but you can buy a bike and that’s pretty close”. Even after more than 70.000 km on the road, are you still feeling this way?
All these distances are not that important, it is not for speed and it is not a race.
Yes, definitely I feel that way. I came across this sentence some time ago and immediately thought it is just all about how I feel. I keep it as a header on my website since it describes well what bike touring means to me – it gives me the most happiness and it comes from the feeling of freedom and living something new every day. I guess the only experience that would give me more happiness would be love. That’s why I think the ending “and that’s pretty close” is also very true.
— By-the-road cooking – Laos —
2. One of your incurable symptom is “After having completed the very hard piece of route I decide that I give up cycling for a week or month and two days later I cannot sit still” why do you think that you feel this way?
I do not know why, it just feels this way. Bike is also the best means of transport to me, I do not like walking that much. Usually after a difficult part of the road my bike stays untouched for a day and I pick it up the next.
— Sometimes I just ask myself – what am I doing here? With minorites in China —
3. Have you had tough times in between? What have you done to get back the positive mood?
Sure. Even though overall a great experience as bike touring is sometimes worse moments happen.
Even recently I experienced one and I broke down a bit. It was probably the mixture of unbearable heat, difficult cycling conditions, some news I got and overall personal experiences that made me feel unhappy.
I thought the best would be to change environment, give myself some time to get things organized and catch up with my friends and family so I decided to fly back home for a few weeks. It helped me to get on the right track again.
It is important to remember that we are just human, not superheroes, and therefore experience the variety of emotions. The roads are not just running smoothly under your wheels all the time, and some less enjoyable moments happen as well.
— Unused train wagon in Hokkaido/Japan became my home for two rainy days —-
4. Sometimes we are lucky to meet someone very special on the road. Have you been lucky?
Well, while travelling I have met people that become special for different reasons. Sometimes it is an important talk, sometimes only a gesture that remains in you or even changes you in some way. It was still in my home country that a young man on a street asked me something about my bike.
Frankly speaking, I would never think I would have anything to talk about with him – simply he looked a bit like a criminal. But then we finished by walking for a few hours talking life. I thought it was special and that I should never again judge anyone from looks. Also, I met men that were more special to me than others. Yes, I’ve been lucky.
It is forbidden to sleep at people’s places or camp wild in Myanmar, but I was hosted by this family with the permission of police
5. You are over 40. I am pretty sure that a lot of people have asked you why you don’t have kids, a husband, a house and a regular job? How do you answer them most of the time?
Yes, that is the most common question especially outside Europe, I am sure you know something about that, too.
I try not to exploit the subject too much unless there’s a serious discussion, which does not happen often.
I answer that I do not know. How can anybody be sure? I believe it is a mixture of priorities (to marry and having children has never been one) followed by our own decisions and – but maybe first of all – destiny. I used to have regular job for many years and yes, I have a flat and its rental fee helps me to keep going.
— Road is not always going smoothly under your wheels – challenging China —
6. What annoys you the most while touring?
Quite a few things actually.
Noise, especially cars honking. Hate it – truly, madly, deeply. It is a problem in some countries like China or Vietnam. Many times I start screaming at them, behavior I am not proud of and I know it will not help, but it is so annoying that I just cannot stop.
Being the center of interest, having people staring at me. Even too many “hellos”, although usually friendly, when you are supposed to reply to them constantly throughout the day can at some point become annoying too.
Dogs. It is a downside in my beloved Thailand.
Heat. It kills me. I think it is more problem then cold.
Being followed by police or basically by anyone.
— The kids will always find you ! —
7. Have you ever cursed that you took off to pedal the world?
No, never. absolutely not. That was the best decision I ever made. This kind of life is my choice, I truly love being on the road and actually cannot imagine doing something different now… I would love to do it until I can and stop when don’t enjoy it any more.
— Spectacular karst formations near Vang Vieng – Laos —
8. If someone come and offered you $ 100.000 without ulterior motives, what would you do?
I would be tempted to use part of it to travel further ..and then I’ve seen so much poverty that I just would love to be able to help some of people I meet to live more worthily. Especially old people.
— Meetings on the road in Myanmar —
9. With all the experiences you have had while travelling in different parts worldwide, if there was the chance for you to change one thing worldwide, no matter what it was. What would you love to change?
I would love the community pressure would not affect so many people’s lives. I would love people get rid of too many “shoulds” –“should” is someone else’s expectation, not yours. I was told so many times from random people “I envy you” that I would love just make them stop and reflect whether they are happy and if not really what they can do to change it. It obviously does not have to be cycling and it does not have to be something big. Do what you love, as long as you do not hurt others, it is fine.
— One of the most scenic parts of Yunnan/China. Tiger Leaping Gorge —
10. Out of 100 days, how often do you camp wild, stay with people, pay for accommodation or using warmshowers opportunities ?
I try to make it cheap and I love wild camping so I tend to camp wild wherever I can since it actually gives me the sense of freedom (yes, you hear this word again!) most, so I would say 50-80%, depending on the country. I love lazy mornings with no reason to rush, no obligations, just enjoy the start of a new day, have my morning coffee, sometimes read a bit – usually fellow cyclists start quickly. The longest I haven’t paid for accommodation in a row was 103 days, the only country I haven’t paid for accommodation at all was South Korea – 2,5 months.
Sure sleeping in a bed is so nice as well especially in cold or rain. I am happy to meet friends in cycling so I find warm showers community absolutely fantastic, but you do not find them everywhere.
Sometimes random people offer me a place at their homes, or I can ask for that – I find it great opportunity to mix with local people and learn how they live, but I do it just from time to time. I am simply not that sociable to enjoy doing it every day.
But it is so much fun to exploit and discover new possibilities or free sleeping. Churches – whatever religion it is (I am catholic), monasteries, schools or kindergartens, public parks and even toilets (!) in some countries can be of use since they are so clean… You have to be creative especially in Asia which is so densely populated in many areas.
–Toilets in South Korea and Japan are so clean, I felt tempted to sleep there- overall not a big difference to a hotel room–
11. You spent most of your time cycling in Asia. Why?
I’ve spent most of the last 2 years in Asia by chance. First, I was sent on business to Japan in 2010 and 2011 and discovered Asia is not the end of the world. I found this country fascinating and planned that whenever I can I come back there for cycling.
So I did in 2013 when I quit job and I came back to cycle the length of Japan which took me 3 months. I loved the feeling of being on the road for long so I made up my mind just to keep going and Asia seemed to be more safe and cheaper than (so they say) South America.
Simply I started cycling the world here and got stuck for nearly 1,5 years. But all the time I am cycling towards South America, a dream of mine. Will get there sooner or later…. have to fuel up with money somehow before– in all of the dreaming world it is necessary!
— Myanmar was a mysterious country – being chased by the police a new experience —
Read more about Ewa and her fascinating bike stories on her website www.ewcyna.com