Interview with Traveler Jason Browne — 14 Months, 8,700 Miles, All By Bicycle

by Jason -- March 1, 2011

Today’s interview is with Jason Browne, a cycling traveler that Sharon and I originally met in China. I’m very excited to bring you today’s interview, for two reasons:

  1. I get to tell the story of how we met and became friends with Jason.
  2. I’ve never met a traveler like Jason and his story is a great one.

How we met Jason in 5 cities & 3 countries on accident

Sharon and I first met today’s interviewee, Jason, about 3 weeks into our year-long trip in Sanya, China. It was there that we joined a group of people on a surf adventure. Jason had already been traveling for a few months. He’s originally from Canada, but 10 years ago, while traveling, he met a woman from Austria, married her and moved to Austria. He hasn’t been back to Canada since.

A week later we again ran into Jason, this time in Haikou, China.

Two weeks later we again found ourselves staying at the same hostel in Nanning, China. By this time we realized we were both following the same general path through Southeast Asia.

It wasn’t until two months later however that our paths crossed again. This time in Bangkok, Thailand, where we spent a fun night drinking Thai beer on the curb next to a 7-11.

The last time our paths crossed was 4 months and 2300 miles later in Busan, South Korea, where again we stayed at the same hostel.

We were always amazed that everywhere we went (with a couple exceptions) Jason had cycled there. After numerous Emails asking him for an interview, I was finally able to ask him about his 14-month, 8,700 mile trip on his bike!

Can you give me an overview summary of your most recent trip? Where did you start, which countries did you go through? How long were you on the road?

I was on the road for about 14 months. I live in Austria so I cycled out from here through Germany, Switzerland and France while I got my visa’s together, then I took a train to Moscow and hopped on the trans-Siberian to Beijing with my bicycle. I then traveled through China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, South Korea, Japan, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece and Italy.

Do you have an estimate of how many kilometers/miles you put on your bike? On a typical day, how many kilometers/miles would you ride?

My bike computer reset to 0 while cycling in the rain in Japan, which was a bummer because it was at 9600 km (5965 mi) and I was looking forward to it turning over to 10 000. I didn’t really keep track after that but would imagine I did around 14 000 km (8700 mi) on this trip including Europe. There never seems to be a typical day on the bike, many factor’s come into play such as terrain, weather, suitable accommodation or camping spot. I went through a period where I was doing 150 km (93 mi) a day or more every day (190 [118] was the highest) and then in western China we were cycling up hill at altitude and averaging 40 km (25 mi) a day. Ideally on flattish terrain I would like to do about 80 km (50 mi) a day, it just rarely seems to happen.

What kind of biking experience did you have prior to this trip?

This is my second year long trip, on the last one I spent four months cycling in India, but like this time traveled overland from Europe, so we cycled in Austria,Slovakia,Hungary,Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Nepal, China, Mongolia, Russia, Poland, and the Czech Republic as well. The highlights for me were India and Mongolia and I was planning on returning even before I left. Other than that I had done some small tours in Europe, it’s a pretty easy sport to get into as all you need is a bike, strap some belongings on and off you go. It’s a great way to travel, the only problem is it’s hard to stop.

What was your scariest moment (or two) of the trip?

Well I was robbed in southern China, and in western China attacked by a dog and then unknowingly rode into a forbidden area only to be kicked out of town by the police after dark, both in the same day. Neither of these experiences were much fun, but the only truly scary moments came off the bike, when we were going through the flooded area’s of southern Pakistan by bus. It wasn’t the flood waters but the threat of “bandits” that made things tense, our bus made it through all right but another bus in our convoy was robbed by men with guns, knives and big sticks. Let’s just say that no-one was very excited to be on the bus with the two foreigners, the two foreigners included.

What was your favorite country? What made it your favorite country?

In southeast Asia my surprise favorites were Cambodia and Laos, unfortunately I went through them too quickly, not realizing beforehand how much I would enjoy them. Overall, however, I would have to say Pakistan, sure I had some of my scariest moments there but also some of my best. We cycled the Karakoram Highway, which was a highlight as far as scenery and hard yet super fun cycling, but in the end it was the friendliness of the Pakistani people that made the experience so great, we were really treated like Honored guests everywhere we went.

What kinds of things did you do to keep yourself entertained while riding through countryside? Did it get boring?

I am sure I went through every emotion imaginable, sometimes all in the same day, but I don’t remember being bored. In the beginning you think too much, your body has to fight harder because it’s not used to the exertion, you get pissed off at yourself and the world, and then after a few days you start to get into a rhythm, you think less and observe more. Unfortunately, I have to go through the whole process every time I take more than a week off, like some sort of detox. I tend to come up with some crazy ass theories about the country I’m in as I ride through it. I met a cyclist on the edge of the Gobi dessert on the last trip, we were going in opposite directions and so just stopped for a chat, he literally talked non stop for half an hour and covered everything from world politics to crossing Antarctica on foot, it was amazing, he was simply spewing out all of his thoughts and theories that he had had while alone in the desert, I loved it. My first trip I cycled with a partner and this trip I cycled the first half mostly alone and then met a partner and we cycled together for the last 5 months. It’s nice to have someone to share the experience with as long as you get along.

How did you plan out your routes and know where to go?

Well, next time, I’m going to be better organized, which is of course what I said last time. I knew the countries I wanted to cycle and so from there I researched the best times to cycle each country weather wise and came up with a loose route. I hopped on the trans-Siberian (train) with a map of southeast Asia and picked up the rest on the road. It’s actually better to have a map in the local language a lot of the time because then you can just point at your destination when asking directions, presuming you can figure out the local map. I cycled with another cyclist for a while who had a gps and stopped paying attention to the names of any towns, we just followed the arrow. I think the best solution is the map and the gps.

What’s Jason’s next crazy adventure?

Good question, I’m working from a long list. The plan when I first got to Europe was to travel around the world without flying. That was almost eleven years ago so it’s taking a bit longer than expected. That said I don’t think that I could have imagined then how truly amazing it would be. So a few mini adventures while I save my money and then we’ll see.

I’ve got about 5 weeks to go until I leave the mountain and then I am thinking about a surf camp and some cycling in Portugal and Morocco before I start work for the summer. Winter is always a bit hectic so a little vacation will do me some good.


Thanks again to Jason for the interview. If you have any questions for him, leave them in the comments, I’ll make sure to pass them along.

Be awesome and help us share:

3 Responses to “Interview with Traveler Jason Browne — 14 Months, 8,700 Miles, All By Bicycle”

  1. Hey Jason,
    What a great interview. You have inspired me to travel the world without flying as well. My goal is to sail around the world but riding a bike through a country sounds fascinating. You get to experience rich cultures and history and meet great people. Congrats on marrying. Austria must be a real nice place to reside. What kind work do you do when your not traveling? Take care Jason. Hope all your travels are smooth. cheers mate, Charlie

  2. Hi Charlie,

    Awesome! Great to hear! Sailing around the world would be an amazing experience.

    Jason works at a ski resort in the winter and I’m not actually sure what he does in the summer.

    Good luck!

  3. Hi Jason,

    Great to hear of your travels. I don’t know if you remember me, but we met at Lotusland in Nanning where you stayed for a month after you got robbed. I’m the one who helped you get that super dooper gadget phone/camera/ebook/ipod etc. at the multi-story computer centre. Anyway, it’s nice to hear about your other hairy adventures.

    Cheers Lorraine

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