Cycling and housesitting around the world
Eric is a software engineer and latterly a digital nomad. More importantly he’s a very keen cyclist, and a housesitter with Housesitmatch. He has spent years travelling, cycling and housesitting around the world. Here are glimpses from some of his expeditions across the globe and some excerpts from an interview he gave Lamia our Founder recently.
Cycling and housesitting around the world – Tales of a long distance cyclist
Some years ago Eric, an American by birth decided it might be an idea to explore the world on a bike. He started with the small challenge of crossing China on a push bike! One thing led to another and soon he found himself cycling and housesitting around the world. Here are a series of questions that Lamia asked when she caught up with him while he was long term housesitting in France for Housesitmatch. He offers frank and revealing answers about some of the surprising things he discovered on his epic journey.
Origins of Eric’s passion for long distance cycling
What is your background Eric, and have you always been a keen cyclist?
I grew up outside of a village in Northern Michigan, in the United States. Cycling is how I got around by myself when I was growing up.
What gave you the idea of going long distance cycling?
My first real trip was in the US. I crossed it completely in 2009. I even visited my brother for a week in Michigan on the way. Along the way I wrote a few journals on Crazyguyonabike.com though I haven’t used that site for a while.
I slowly got hooked on it. Working in Silicon Valley I started doing longer and longer cycle rides. My first “Century Ride” was from San Jose to San Francisco and back, on a low end Trek mountain bike. I hurt for a few days after that. I started exploring farther and farther out, spending whole days riding around the Santa Cruz Mountains.
My first trip was riding from my home in San Jose to Sacramento to pick up a race car from someone I was renting cars for road races. That took two days because I didn’t want to end up riding into early in the morning. Eventually I started planning that trip, which was about 140 miles so I could do it in one day, 13 hours “wall time”.
Google maps and other satellite navigation systems
How did you start planning and tracing your initial and subsequent cycle routes?
I have done a lot of it using Google Maps. It makes a lot of mistakes, but it’s really been empowering as a bicycle tourist and as a house sitter. I can really be self sufficient.
– France – There are some countries where it doesn’t work very well.
Unfortunately and surprisingly, one of them is France where I’m house sitting right now.
- I look at routes and say “That might have been a road in Louis XIV’s reign, but now I’d have to bring a machete.”
- Between Paris and Reims it sent me through a knee deep swamp. I had to push my bicycle probably a kilometer. Sometimes I get really committed and wouldn’t give up. That’s probably how I pulled it off.
It would be really easy for someone with any sense to get scared off, but I stick with it.
– Morocco – Now, I check closely to make sure Google Maps isn’t sending me across a lake like it did in Morocco.
– USA – Google Maps once sent me through the desert right next to a railroad track in Southern California.
– Russia – I used Yandex Maps in Russia. This was because for one city in particular Izhevsk, there were few details on Google Maps.
It’s in Izhevsk that I had wanted to visit the Kalashnikov Museum,
– China – I started using Baidu Maps in China because Google is completely blocked and my VPN connection failed.
I have basic literacy in Chinese, because my ex wife is from China. So the language barrier added one more challenge.
Unexpected highlights on the road
Can you share some of the highlights you experiences on your epic journey so far?
– China –
There is so much to see. On my first solo trip there I stayed and spent several days in the center of Beijing. I have also visited PingYao on two trips. It’s a three thousand year old walled city. On one trip, where I rode from Beijing to Kunming in Yunnan Province (Approx 1600 Miles/ 2,600 km), near Vietnam, I visited two of China’s four Buddhist mountain monasteries, Mt Wutai and Mt. Emei in Sichuan Province. It is the highest of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains of China. As a souvenir I got a tattoo of a dragon sculpture that was guarding a temple in Mt. Emei. In fact, I’ve ridden past the Forbidden City several times. The scale of this country is immense and you really appreciate this on a bike.
– France –
– Russia –
I’ll admit to jumping in head first a few times. For the most part it’s ok, you can get buy. Though part of the fun in places like Morocco was learning how to order something as simple as lunch!
I really had a head start in China, though. My ex wife and I had an 11 year cultural exchange. I had also studied Russian for a couple of years. Otherwise, outside of the Eastern Block I had to wing it. Except for in Spain, because I speak some Spanish too.
– Spain –
Travel and housesitting around the world
How has housesitting helped you on your various tours?
While housesitting around the world has helped save money so I can travel further, it has especially helped me get more familiar with physical geography along my route. Riding my bicycle helps me to learn, as I literally carve my way through the landscape. I get a much better mental picture of the geography from riding my bicycle at ground level.
I have started more than one trip from Philippa’s house near Granada in Spain. Once it worked out so I was able to start from her house and then onto another sit near Ulm, Germany. I even managed to predict the exact time of day when I would arrive to meet my hosts.
Long term housesitting assignments
What do you look for in a housesit to facilitate your travels around the world on a bike?
It’s all an adventure to me, but coming to Europe from my home in California is a long trip. So I want to make the most of each and every trip. I like staying at least for about a month for long term housesitting if I can. And I have had quite a few long term housesitting assignments through Housesitmatch. It means I can settle between the long stretches of cycling on the road. And it also means I can get to know each location in more detail and appreciate what every region has to offer.
What bike did you take with you on this three month housesitting tour of France and Spain?
This one is a custom built Gunnar, a low volume builder in the US. They designed a frame specifically for the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.
I decided it would be good for my trip that turned out to be from Beijing to Amsterdam that originally was supposed to be Peking to Paris, after the antique car race.
I ordered it with a breakdown frame with S&S couplers so it could be smuggled in a large suitcase. Just that now the only real winter clothes I have with me are for cycling!
Eric’s next odyssey
Where do you hope to go to on your next leg of this epic trip?
My last time in China I left from Kunming, which is only a few days on a bike from Vietnam or Laos. Unfortunately, China is still partially closed due to COVID and we hear of civil unrest in the country. I’m hoping that by 2024 they will be fully reopened. My goal is to ride at least to Singapore, though perhaps I’ll push on to Bali. I might even get a sailboat to Northern Australia and ride on to Sydney.
But another option I am toying with is finishing a trip that I started earlier from California to Key West. I could do that after I get home from France this Spring if I really feel like it.
Who knows – There are so many options when you go cycling and housesitting.
Further reading about housesitters
At Housesitmatch.com we like to share useful blogs and practical advice about housesitters, housesitting and pet sitting. We hope you find this small selection of our blogs on house sitters useful.
Housesitters keep pets safe at home and save money
What a housesitter does – Top 10 responsibilities
Free housesitting websites or free housesitters – Which is best