Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cycling Home From Siberia: talk at Nat Geo Store

Last Saturday or so, I went to the Nat Geo Store at Vivo to attend a talk about a super garang British guy who did the thing so quintessentially British - tour the world on two wheels. OK, so it's not really only a British thing to go touring on a bike, but I wrote that because I just finished Long Way Down by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman...

The siao on cyclist goes by the name Rob Lilwall. My, oh my. He gave an hour long lecture on his trials and tribulations around the world. The story goes like this: he got sianned of his work as a Geography teacher and decided to go cycling around the world. It was supposed to be a relaxing trip. Obviously, it wasn't three years of relax.

It really supercharged my wanderlust after he went through his lecture. I am so astounded by how one person can abandon everything pragmatic to do something that he wants to do. Nobody I know in Singapore would ever do such a thing.

Some highlights of his trip was going through dangerous territory such as Afghanistan, Tibet (where he had to sneak through guard patrols). He had a few problems on the way: getting robbed, having no ship to take him to Australia, freezing his ass off at - 40 C, language problems, and a crumbling of his resilience as the trip dragged on.
If you'd ask me, the success of his trip when the difficulties came was due to a few reasons: he was, firstly, well connected. Lilwall mentioned a few places where he had difficulties - in Papua New Guinea where he could not find a boat to Australia. But his undying effort in self-plugging did help a lot: he managed to find a student where he gave a talk whose dad had a yatch which was headed to Australia. The power of the internet was pretty significant to his success. Afghanistan wasn't a particularly safe place, and Lilwall knew that. So he emailed a few expat friends of his in Kabul for some advice.

The Q&A session was pretty important too, it is there that I learnt most about Lilwall. I wondered how the bike could be safe if all he had was a small lock in the likes of that angmoh guy who got his bike stolen in Singapore. He mentioned that, his bike being so heavy, was already a turn off to most people, and nobody would want it due to its extra-conspicuous look. Lilwall mentioned that his faith gave him a lot of strength, and that he prayed every night.

What was surprising was that Lilwall never did any pre-tour training. His logic was, I'll get fit as I tour! Of course, I learnt later on he has done certain smaller tours in Latin America and other places which I don't remember... so he actually does have some road experience!

His talk was very inspiring. He made me want to go bike touring again; he made me feel that it was possible. In the end, all I can say is "BALLS TO YOU". Check his website out at


  1. Wow! Thanks for sharing this!
    If you're interested in some very simple touring or bike camping. I've got some trips lined up in June. One of them being a week long cycle to Cameron Highlands.
    I can hook you up with some like-minded persons as well.
    Would be easier to connect using Facebook. Do you happen to use Facebook? If not, I'll keep you updated by email if you'd like.

  2. Wanderlust,

    emailed your gmail!