Actually, I did not intend to write about my seven year anniversary. Somehow, I didn’t find the number all that groundbreaking. But then I posted this anniversary picture on my social media channels and received so many nice and loving comments that I decided to write this article.
It was taken at the first day of my trip in May 2013 in front of the castle in Heidelberg, Germany.
My stories here are dedicated to you, my fans and friends, my supporters and the many strangers I’ve met along the way and hopefully the ones I will meet in the future!
I thank everyone of you, all of you who got in contact with me in any way during the last 7 years on my journey.
This article differs a little bit from my usual posts. I decided to include a few of your comments which I received to my anniversary social media post and tagged them between my little stories from the road. The idea is that others can see how much my journey connects people with each other.
Lovely comments with shared memories, many compliments, support and affection.
Many thanks for that!
I hope my little anecdotes from the road will show you how important such encounters can be and how it can give me the needed strength and motivation to cycle on. Being on the road is not always a picnic, therefore meaningful encounters are the spice of every journey – especially for a solo traveler like myself.
As you can probably imagine, it is impossible to mention all the people I’ve met. All those I have not spoken of are still in my heart, because every meeting has a value for me!
Day 1 – May 14th 2013 – Germany – 0 KM
The last minutes at my mum’s were some of the most difficult of the entire journey. I stowed my boxes in the basement, packed the bike, hugged my mother goodbye, fought with tears and cycled into a new life.
I didn’t feel well at all and when I looked behind me again to wave one last time before turning around the corner and headed for the big, wide world, my mother had already disappeared into the house. Surely, she could no longer bear the pain of parting.
A few kilometers along the way I met my father and said to him: “By the way I’m just going out for a ride to Australia, see you! “That’s a bloody long way to go!” he replied with a smile.
With a thick lump in my throat and a not very positive mood I posed in front of the Heidelberg Castle and shot my first selfie.
From then on, I was all alone. I cycled out into a world that I neither knew nor where I knew anyone – I was a total stranger no matter where I went.
I remember sitting in your mom’s living room on Feb 23, 2013 and reinforcing the idea in your head. A moment I will never forget. When an idea becomes reality! You are the light for so many.
– Micky –
The funeral of my dear mom also had a positive result! That day Patti gave you the final push to start your journey.
– Babsi –
Day 4 – Germany – a few hundred kilometers
I sat on a bench in front of a church. My body was sore, I wasn’t used to the big load on my bike. My thoughts were anything but great and somehow everything was dark and grey and not only because it was raining. Almost every minute I asked myself why am I doing this? What am I doing here in the boondocks of Bavaria?
Actually, I was used to traveling by myself. I have spent many years of my life alone in the world. But this was not the same. This time it was in a different league – my initial goal, Australia, was a tough one – scary far away!
Roland showed up. “You seem to have a long journey ahead of you – I don’t know anybody else carrying that many water bottles on their bike”. We chatted, not very long, but Roland remains a good memory.
Two days later I got an e-mail from Paypal – you received a donation – Roland was my first donor!
Unbelievable! There was a total stranger who believed more in this project than I did. Roland had only known me for a few minutes and had such confidence in me that he had sent money for my trip!
I am still very grateful to him to this day. They were the most important Euros of the whole trip – and gave me a lot of strength. They came exactly at the right time!
That’s really incredible, who would have thought that you would travel the whole world on a bicycle. 7 years Heike, respect for your courage and energy.
– Beate –
From then on, we started enjoying the world through your eyes and heart. Happy anniversary…!!
October 2013 – 8000 KM – Turkey, Erzurum
Along the way I met a long-distance hiker. Stephan from Munich, on the road for two years heading towards Tibet. I didn’t like Turkey all that much, I had some unpleasant experiences and was very happy to meet a fellow countryman to chat with.
Stephan taught me that hurrying along the way makes no sense at all. His calm, balanced nature impressed me greatly at that time. He took the stress out of my journey and I felt our meeting was an absolute stroke of luck for me. Sometimes short encounters are very long lasting and can give you a new direction.
I met you once in Northern part of Ghana a town called Salaga…
– Abdul –
You have stayed at my little apartment in Kyoto!
– Ken –
December 2013 – 9000 KM – Armenia’s border with Iran
I can still see myself standing at the border. Barren mountains, beautiful scenery and an Iranian flag waving in the wind that frightened me. In other words, you could also say that I was scared shitless when the Armenian officer slammed the exit stamp into my passport and I arranged my clothes according to the Iranian dress code.
“Take a deep breath Heike – it will all work out” I said to myself and rolled towards a new country that hadn’t had any positive press in the past.
The first border police officer smiled at me and said: “You don’t need to be afraid; we Iranians are friendly people; you will love our country! The next “Welcome to Iran, you’ll come back for sure, people love Iran.” And the third one said “We Iranians will take care of you, nothing will happen to you.
The border to Iran had probably been the biggest hurdle of the whole trip; thanks to the friendly border soldiers, it was much less dramatic in the end.
Iran gave me the confidence to accomplish anything I wanted to.
You are inspiring, I’m certain that many are living vicariously through your adventures!
– Michael –
I am thankful. Your blogs have entertained and inspired me. Sometimes, when I am cycling in the middle of nowhere and I feel frightened I think of you and all of the times you have been in the middle of nowhere. After that, my anxiety subsides and I continue on my way without fears.
– Ruth –
Oman – February 2014 – 12,500 KM
I was camped near houses and the evening before I had met a family who brought me a mat for the tent and allowed me to sleep near their property.
Early in the morning a man suddenly stood in front of my tent and looked in. Scared to death, I stared back at him not knowing what to expect. What does this guy want?
But then I saw he was holding something in his hands. He brought a bowl of food and a bowl of water to wash. And so, we sat together next to the tent, laughed and I enjoyed our breakfast, even if it was in pantomime.
Wow, it’s very special to read of all the lives you’ve touched throughout this journey.
– Donna –
Kyrgyzstan – June 2014 – 16,000 KM
Dark clouds, a meadow full of sheep poo. The mountains within your grasp. An almost perfect campsite.
The clouds turned black, the first drops fell and the nice lady persuaded me to come inside and to sleep with her in her bed.
When asked if I wanted to wash myself, I said: “yes of course” and was more than surprised when the husband went out with a donkey, a big empty plastic barrel and came back after 30 min and fired the stove in a small shed to heat the water.
It was a sauna. And definitely my most enjoyable sauna ever.
In the evening there was Plov – the traditional dish from Uzbekistan. A mechanic came to visit and fished around with his dirty-oily fingers in the rice to find the biggest chicken pieces for me. When he found them, he threw them on my plate one by one with his big paws, smiled at me with his huge gaps in his teeth and made me laugh.
I stayed with the family for three days and was really sad, but also very grateful when I set off alone once again.
I always anticipate your adventuresome writings. Your inspiration is infectious!
– Frosene –
China – September 2014 – 21,000 KM
China, a country where communication is almost impossible. Even my picture book, in which I can point at to explain something, has only occasionally led to success here.
Somewhere in the eternal expanses of Sichuan, on a totally remote road where only 2-3 cars pass by every day, I saw two Westerners sitting in a car from far away. I waved with both arms – SOS – a signal like in the mountains when one wants to be rescued.
Please stop – please – I want to talk to you – was all I had in mind.
When they rolled down the window, I said to them: “Please talk to me – I haven’t been able to talk to anyone for two months.”
They were Belgian and our 10-minute conversation felt like a gift!
Certainly, I thought about every single sentence they said for the rest of the day. Or perhaps I spoke for the whole 10 minutes and never gave them a chance!
But I didn’t care about any of that. I had had a 10-minute conversation and that was all that mattered that day or probably for the whole week.
I’ll always remember, when we met in Mulege! You were standing in the middle of the street outside a bakery. I knew it was you from afar. We talked for hours. One of my best memories!
– Harry –
Laos – October 2014 – 23.000 KM
Monica from Vienna contacted me many months before I reached Laos. At that time, she lived in a small remote village in the western part of Laos. She is known as the jam lady who sells her preserves to the expats in Laos. She offered elephant rides and has a guesthouse – she now lives in Luang Prabang.
“Come to me, I’ll cook you some “German Kässpätzle” and I want to get to know you!”
Monica was definitely not on my route, but the detour was more than worth it! I stayed for a whole week and was not only allowed to enjoy her great cooking, but also to meet many German-speaking travelers to finally have some meaningful conversations.
After 1.5 years and 23.000 KM, Monica’s little paradise was a real taste of home.
Home is sometimes important, the “Kässpätzle” were the absolute bomb – and it satisfied my stomach and comforted my soul.
Amazing first picture! I just realized I’ve “known” you for such a long time!
– Rita –
Vietnam – January 2015 – 24.500 KM
The fog hung deep, I was soaking wet and had been looking for a place to pitch my tent for some time. The mountain slopes were steep and it was already getting dark when I discovered a tiny flat patch of ground behind a house.
I knocked on the door and a beautiful, traditionally dressed lady opened the door for me. She was extremely petite and surprised when I suddenly stood in front of her. She smiled and as I pulled out my picture book and pointed at the tent symbol she nodded and let me in.
She was busy making rice liquor on her wood stove. Shortly afterwards she started a fire in the middle of the house, right on the floor, to prepare dinner.
I was invited to join in and enjoyed my first bamboo root baked in the fire, which was super tasty.
When I pitched my tent in the darkness of the night, the whole family was standing around it watching the show. And even the next morning my tent was still the attraction of the year.
What an inspiration you are!!! Go girl!!!!!!!
– Paul –
Japan – August 2015 – 31,000 KM
There is a cyclist, shot through my head when I saw a western woman rolling down the little hill on the other side of the road. I immediately changed sides and introduced myself to her.
“Nice to meet you Heike, I’m Catherine from Vancouver, my partner is somewhere behind me, he always needs a little longer” and Dan showed up a few minutes later and we chatted for a while.
Catherine worked as an English teacher in Hokkaido for a short time and so they invited me to their house.
The two Canadians were just great and they treated me like a little princess in their traditional Japanese house. For the first time I was able to bathe in a talking bathtub and they even had a heated toilet seat for a comfortable session!
The two invited me to visit them again in Vancouver, where I arrived about 9 months later and experienced another 14 days of great friendship. We went kayaking, discovered a whale right on the city beach and had lots of fun.
Some people I would love to see again. Dan and Catherine are definitely among them.
Your perspective and attitude have always been interesting.
– Kyösti –
Now you have admirers all over the world. Keep going.
– Sing –
Japan – August 2015 – 31,500 KM
It was the third time I met the same hiker and wondered how it was possible that he was faster than me? And why does he walk along the road? He was Japanese, much older than me, had a tiny backpack which anyone else would have thrown out years ago.
We got into a conversation and he told me right off that he usually does not talk to anyone. His English was good. He has no friends and no family.
He likes to punish himself, to suffer. The old man only allows himself to spend two Euros a day. He is sleeping on a very thin pad somewhere in the undergrowth and has been walking 40 KM through Japan for three years. Every day – without a single rest day.
We spent some hours together. He showed me in which shop you can get something to eat for free, because with his small budget he depends on it. He has glued extra rubber on the soles of his shoes, so that they last longer.
He eats the same toast every day and smears it with soybean paste. Three slices – three times a day. He spoils himself with dry oatmeal for a snack.
We laughed a lot, we talked a lot, we got along well. I was not allowed to take a picture of him, I don’t know his name. And yet he was one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met.
I thought about him often.
How I wish I could meet you one day!!!
– Veronika –
Canada – April 2016 – 44,500 KM
Travel Burnout – in the middle of the exceptionally beautiful island Haida Gwaii.
I was done – I was suffering from sensory overload. I was just tired, very tired and couldn’t find the joy any longer.
Then Carol ran into me in a tiny thrift store.
“Where are you going to sleep tonight?” she asked me. “I don’t know,” I answered.
“Come over to my place, I’m baking halibut and my dogs will be happy to have someone in the house.”
An elderly, lonely lady who was delighted to treat me like a daughter. We didn’t have much to talk about, but neither of us cared, we simply needed companionship.
The fresh fish, which she got for free every day and even fed to her dogs, was the absolute highlight on Haida Gwaii.
I stayed with Carol for 14 days.
You are AWESOME, and I love seeing your pictures and reading your stories. Stay well.
– Okla –
I don’t know exactly how long I have been accompanying your tour virtually but I have been fascinated and enjoyed every tour.
– Klaus –
Canada – June 2016 – 45,500 KM
I learned about Nicole through Felix another touring cyclist.
The next day I got an e-mail: “I’m hiding the key for you so you can get into the house if I’m not home yet”, were the lines she sent me.
When she came back, she was smiling from ear to ear, fell around my neck, hugged me very firmly and said: “Heike, you do not know what you mean to me and what I have experienced through you!
All my friends know you. I have always told them about you. There’s this woman who goes around the world on a bicycle and if she can do it, so can I.”
“And because you exist, I took a great bike ride in Europe, all by myself, because you inspired me to do it.”
“Stay as long as you like! I’m so happy that I can finally give something back to you. Tell me what you need and how I can make you happy. I am so grateful.”
We were friends from the first minute we met. Nicole was great and we had a fun time together!
I stayed for 14 days.
Great memories for you Heike….beautiful photos and blogs for us! Stay safe!
– Mary –
You are THE role model! You fulfill a dream that many have!
– Monica –
It all took place very quickly and I didn’t know what happened to me when I was suddenly lying under a pickup truck.
In my shock I yelled at the driver: “You’ve trashed my bike! My bags, everything is damaged”. Then I heard sirens and the ambulance drove up.
“What’s your name?” I was asked by a paramedic. “Heike,” I answered. “Then you’re from Germany” she replied in German.
And from then on, everything hurt and I felt as if I had been tumbled in the washing machine for two hours.
At the hospital the policeman asked me if I knew anybody here. And I answered with a sad voice: “No, I am afraid I know absolutely no one here”.
“The mayor will pay for your hotel and we hope that you will feel better soon” and he smiled at me a little bit sadly but very caring.
A few hours later I called Ronny from Arizona, whom I had met the winter before, and told him the story.
“You are lucky, I just retired today. According to Google I should be able to drive the 2000 KM to Montana in 22 hours.”
Ronny pampered me, helped me to organize a new bike and a new bikepacking setup and after a few weeks he drove me back to Eureka, so I could continue cycling the Great Divide, the longest MTB route in the world.
Ronny is priceless!
Happy that your journey brought you past my front door.
– Ronny –
USA – August 2017 – 51,500 KM
The forest was burning behind me. The clouds of smoke could be seen everywhere in the air and it was almost spooky when it rained ashes.
I stood by the road in Bend, Oregon and held out my thumb. Less than 10 minutes later John and his dog Radar stopped next to me.
“Hello, I am Heike from Germany. I’d like to go to Utah. I’m sure you’re not going that far, but maybe I’ll get lucky and maybe you are heading that way?”
John looked at me with his beautiful light blue eyes and said: “You won’t believe it, but I’m even going to Utah. Normally I would never pick up a hitchhiker, but I’m making an exception for a woman today. I’ve got some room in my truck for your bike.”
We had 1,000 miles to go – because John was going right where I wanted to go.
I took over the music selection and ate all his licorice while we were driving. We talked non-stop, stayed overnight at his brother’s house in Salt Lake City, who supplied me with fresh vegetables from his garden.
As we got closer and closer to my destination, Goblin Valley State Park, John made a few extra loops to extend the time we had together and to show me an area I didn’t know yet.
We hugged each other, said goodbye with a heavy heart and certainly both of us had the feeling that we could have talked non-stop until New York if we would have driven that far.
A few days later he sent me an e-mail.
Heike, I only now realized who I actually had in my car. It’s a pity I’m too old for you! And that’s exactly what I thought at the time as well.
Such a life changing decision. Thanks for sharing the experience with all who travel virtually with you along the way.
– Rick –
Glad that I had the opportunity to meet you here in Guatemala!
– Consuela –
Morocco – November 2019 – 57.000 KM
My unwanted police escort was on my heels that evening and I wanted to shake them off by cycling through a village and then knocking on a door.
Two ladies opened up and laughed immediately when they saw me. “Come in”, they said to me in Spanish.
The family was wonderful. With Grandma I crawled under the blanket and we ate homemade cookies. With the kids I played outside in the dirt and fed the sheep. With the women, I cooked couscous and tried to learn the tricks of Moroccan cooking. And the mother shared her bed with me for three nights.
Three wonderful days with the family did my soul a lot of good.
Thank you for sharing your experiences as a woman travelling alone. It inspired me and gave me courage for my own journey!
– Esther –
I wish you always safe travels and hope 2 cu again.
– Sonia –
The Gambia – May 2019 – 62.500 KM
I met Peter and his friends in a small village and immediately became part of the group. I set up my tent under my favorite Baobab tree and enjoyed sleeping there for several nights.
In the morning we always came together. We cooked, talked, shot baobab fruits from the trees and chewed on the pulp. We cycled through the National Park and heard the chimpanzees calling and the baboons running through the undergrowth. We fished and listened to music.
I had a really great time with those boys.
Compliments… this is great cycling entertainment!
– Jörn –
So much respect, absolute legend!
– Tristan –
Liberia – August 2019 – 65,000 KM
I knocked at a church and the priest opened the door for me.
“I’m afraid you can’t spend the night here, but follow me, I’ll show you a place where you’ll be safe tonight.”
I cycled many miles through puddles and mud behind his car until we arrived at a large compound where we were welcomed by many children and a few nuns. I had landed at a children’s home and was taken in with a big smile and huge hugs and led around the grounds.
There were nuns from all over the world who dedicate their lives to the children. I was given my own room and was allowed to join in on the meals. I was invited to the service and was showered with love and affection.
A refuge in difficult times. West Africa was not an easy area. The conversations with the nuns were uplifting and important to my well-being. I stayed 3 nights and when I said goodbye, everyone came together, clapped their hands enthusiastically, sang a farewell song and cheered me on for a long time.
Very important moments in the life of a solo traveler.
You look so different now! 7 years have done you good, that’s for sure.
– Petra –
When I look at this picture from back then, exactly 7 years ago, when I left Heidelberg, I see a woman, who was once me. Somehow, I have difficulties to identify myself with her today and I realize how this long journey has made me into who I am now!
I hope that I will be able to pursue my dreams for a very long time and I would be very glad if you would continue to support me, accompany me and cheer me along the way.
I would also like to use today’s article as an opportunity to express my special thanks to Ronny, Stefan, Wolfi, Don, Micky, Esther and Babsi, who have helped me a lot over the past seven years!
But the biggest thank you goes to my parents, because without you I would have never been able to see this beautiful world! Thanks for giving me my life and giving me the chance to develop into the person I am today!
And finally THANK YOU to the universe that I had the luck to be born in Germany and to be able to own a passport which allows me to cross all these borders worldwide without much hassle!
Thanks for sharing the post among your friends! 😉