Video: What It Takes to Pedal the World in 365 Days

On June 22, 2013, Felix Starck set out on the journey of a lifetime.  His goal was quite simple really: to pedal his bike around the globe.  Over the next 365 days Felix would ride nearly 11,200 miles through 22 countries and live on to tell the tale.  His new film Pedal the World, an entirely self-produced documentary, highlights the journey in incredible fashion.  We sat down with Felix and got a chance to pick his brain on why and how he chose to embark on such a daunting journey.    

Adventure: Tell us about how this idea started.

Felix Starck: I always wanted to travel the world and break out of the system for a while, but I didn’t like the usual backpacking way so I thought of something else. In the beginning I was joking around with my friends and nobody was serious about it – one day I woke up and wanted to know if I would be able to actually do this.  So I started to plan this trip and a few months later I was on the road heading East towards Turkey.

The ultimate reason I did this was to meet people and get to know different cultures in this world. I definitely accomplished that goal.  It was the best decision of my life.

For me the bike is the most environmental and economic way to travel. It’s faster than via foot and cheaper than only with a backpack. With a car you just drive from city to city and see the world through a screen. I experienced the moments with the locals much more than I ever would have otherwise.  Further it was a personal challenge, I wanted to know if I was mentally and physically able to cycle around the world.

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Photograph courtesy Felix Starck

A: Did your friends and family support your decision?

FS: First they were kind of skeptical if I’d able to actually do this trip. My friends definitely believed in me and so did my family, but my parents were also disappointed that I quit my job at Mercedes. After a while they totally understood that this is my dream and supported me all time.

A: What were your best (and worst) moments?

FS: Heat is a big problem as a cyclist, especially in Asia. One day I cycled in the north of Cambodia, when it was 112 degrees Fahrenheit just in the shade; and pushed well over 130 in the sun.  I drank more than 18 liters of water that day and almost collapsed.  Plus there are these crazy truck drivers over there, who barely sleep at all, because they need to make more and more money to survive. They take drugs so they don’t need to sleep and this is when it gets dangerous for a cyclist like me. But I still had great moments.

I was also robbed by the police in Cambodia once. I stopped at a police station to ask if I am allowed to sleep here. I kind of had a weird feeling about the situation but put up my mosquito net and just slept. The next morning five cops came over and wanted all of my cash. They took it, threw my wallet in the sand and told me to get lost. They even said thank you.

It is important to not lose trust in the nation after an incident like this, because there are people like that everywhere.

As for my favorite moment, there were so many, but after all I have to say it was the daily kindness of strangers everywhere in this world. I got invited countless times into people’s homes and this was what kept me going.

First day I left home an elderly woman saw me setting up my tent and stopped. She invited me to her guestroom, made dinner and breakfast for me, and would not accept any type of payment.  I had countless other cases like this. It is unbelievable how kind our species can be.

A: What was the most valuable lesson learned?

FS: I always try to enjoy the moment now. This trip made me the man I am today—more relaxed, joy-oriented, and much more generous than I was before. There is so much misery in this world, especially in countries like Macedonia, Serbia, Laos or Cambodia, but the people there are still happy and smile at you and wave when you pass them on the bike. Here, in Germany, most people are career-oriented and life in a system where its more about what you have than what you are, but I can’t live that life anymore – not after such a trip.

A: Sum up those 365 days in a single sentence.

FS: The adventure doesn’t begin until something goes wrong.

A: Would you do it again?

FS: Every single time.  Best 365 days of my life.