Joey, the Singaporean dude who traveled South America with a bicycle
Dedicated to Joey Wan Jin and our triumphs in Buenos Aires as young travelers. Thank you for proving that if we want to, the human body is capable of anything.
I want to introduce you to someone I met while I was in Argentina. He wrote to me and said, “I’ve been following your journey and I hope you are free for coffee.” I always take time to meet my readers so I went. We spent 3 hours talking and my mouth gaped open. This dude is traveling by bike! Yes, by bike! He said he was following my journey but then I realized I should be following his.
Joey is from the beautiful country of Singapore. He was a financial consultant before he quit his job to travel. He’s fond of collecting scars from his adventures and writing stories about it. He commenced his South America biking trip on May 6, 2014, flying to London first. He had the chance to visit the cities of Edinburgh, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt for two weeks. After which, he flew to Brasil from Germany. For him, it was just a normal backpacking trip — traveling by bus, planes, you know, the normal mode of transportation. Salvador, Recife, Natal, Belem, Manaus, Fortaleza, Jericoacoara are some of the beautiful cities he was fortunate enough to visit in Brazil. Additionally, he volunteered as an English teacher in a small town in the Amazon Rainforest called Itacoatiara. Oh, he also witnessed the legendary World Cup! Joey does Couchsurfing all the time and believe it or not, he found his first host on Tinder!
On July 21, 2014, he bought a bike in Brazil and departed from Rio das Pedras, Rio de Janeiro.
Challenges in traveling South America with a bicycle
When asked about the challenges about biking a continent, Joey said, “I think the challenges began even before the trip started. It was mostly about a lot of thinking, self-inflicted pain, fears, doubts, and too many negative thoughts.” He also thought of running out of budget, difficulties with the terrain and weather and bike problems.
True enough, all these happened to him but he was able to get through them anyway. Over-fatigue is also a part of the journey but he said he’s used to it now. Other challenges include running low on water which led him to drink from tap water everywhere. When he’s in the middle of nowhere, he always finds a place to set up his tent but going on days without shower makes him a bit uncomfortable. In this trip, the longest he’d gone without showering was one week!
Want to know Joey’s scariest experience while biking? Quick, read it here! It will give you the chills.
I’m sure you all want to know how Joey funds his travels. Joey had a long-term relationship and was saving up for years to settle down with her. And then they broke up and all the money he saved is now being used to sustain his travel. Look, a blessing in disguise! I really believe when a door closes, another one opens.
In this case, the window did! He’s also using Couchsurfing (a lot), stays with new friends he meets along the way, Tinder (why am I not surprised?!) and of course, camping. In short, he hasn’t spent any dime on accommodations while traveling South America. He also enjoyed eating home-cooked meals from his hosts!
We’ve both known about the famous ‘dumpster diving’ where travelers spend $0 on food by taking leftovers in restaurants and garbage bins. For Joey, he still has enough money to eat so there’s no need to go there yet.
FYI: This dude is not using a professional bike and this remains a question to everyone he meets on the road. How can he survive with a basic bike? My bike? Serious riders don’t use this because it’s simply less power efficient. Some better brands with quality stuff are Koga Miyata touring bikes, with Ortlieb panniers (dry bags fixed at the wheels for baggage), Rohloff gears, Schwalbe road tires but these will cost thousands of dollars put together. I have none of that. My first bike was a simple 120USD bike which was stolen after 20 days in Curitiba. The Couchsufers and cycling community in Curitiba came together to help me by giving a donation and I bought a used 120USD bike, Cavalinho II to continue on my journey. Till now, I’m still using Cavalinho II and I’m really touched and grateful to the Curitibanos for their help and generosity.
Believe it or not, Joey told me that physical strength has the least to do with traveling on a bike. He said anyone can do it and he wasn’t kidding at all! For him, riding 1, 5, 10 and 100 km are all the same. As long as you keep riding hour after hour, day after day, there is almost no reason not to reach where you want to go, if you want to. Your body will get used to it. The only failure is to take action. This thought is inspired by Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries.
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”
Mary Anne Radmacher
Joey’s Advice to people who want to travel by bike: “If you have to prepare, prepare your heart, and prepare your mind. Having the heart and strong desire to make things happen, and the right mind set and positive attitude to carry it out, is the most important. I think this is true not only for biking, but also for all other things in life with love, family, friends, work, sports, regular travel, overcoming obstacles etc. The physical part for biking is the least one should worry about.
You are really going to get training while on the job, a lot of it! So to surmise, it is not really about the bike or physical strength, but rather the heart, desire and mental fortitude to accomplish your goals.”
Additionally, Joey wants to emphasize that he is not on the bike tour. He is traveling on his own, solely depending on the map and his instincts. For the rest of his trip, he’s taking it one step at a time. He is currently in Argentina and plans to visit the South of the country onto Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador up to Colombia.