Most cyclists can relate to the letdown that accompanies returning from a bike tour. Left wanting more, one craves the rhythm of the road— eat, pedal, sight see, eat, sleep, repeat— it’s hard not to miss the thrill as normal life sets back in. For some the solution is just to start planning the next year’s trip. For Hera van Willick, though, the answer was to make it a way of life. We were genuinely impressed with her achievement when she talked about 28 national borders she crossed on her last journey.
This 30-year-old cycling enthusiast was already an expert at multi-day trips, and now she was planning to take it to the next level. Having discovered a pursuit that absorbed, challenged, and freed her, Hera began planning the adventure of a lifetime. An unlikely course for a young woman from a small Dutch village, she decided that her bike tours around Europe just weren’t cutting it anymore; she was going to make it all the way to China.
An adventure purist, Hera’s journey began at her front door in Tillburg, where she would bravely start the trip on the same two wheels that would eventually carry her across 28 national borders. Anyone who’s ever embarked on any kind of cycling adventure understands the preparation necessary. When it’s just you and the bike, every detail needs to be considered. Weather and road conditions are always uncertain, let alone the intense emotional and psychological barriers that one must overcome. Will I make it? Can I do this?
Overpowering these fears and doubts, Hera didn’t let it stop her from following her dreams. Refusing to settle for less, she found the strength within herself and ventured out alone to travel around the world on bicycle. With a maximum budget of 10 dollars a day, Hera left all comforts and luxuries behind. Passing through almost 30 countries, across Southeast Asia and over China to Europe, in the end, she clocked around 16.500 kilometers and finally returned home after 415 days on the road.
Speaking to the transformative impact that cycling can have, Hera found a new purpose through her love of riding. One of the most organic ways to travel, her journey also demonstrates a willingness to embrace community and to put faith in the kindness and generosity of strangers. It’s only with the utmost trust in oneself and others that a person is able to embark on such an adventure.
Hera found that her pioneering spirit was contagious, and she was often received enthusiastically by those she encountered along the way. People were inspired and impressed by her courage and determination, frequently inviting her to stay with them or spend the night in their backyards or gardens. Not to say that she wasn’t scared at times, but she is clearly a woman who understands that nothing in life truly worth doing is easy. Following her passion, she is currently off on her next adventure. Having started in Iceland, she is already in Alaska and is planning to travel through Canada and the USA, spreading her inspirational story all the way to the Mexican border. Have you had a life-changing cycling experience? Share your story here.