Cycling and housesitting around the world

2 Mar, 2023

Cycling and housesitting around the world

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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

housesitting around the world
Eric goes everywhere with a bike

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 HouseSit Match.

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 and housesitting around the world

Question  –

What is your background Eric, and have you always been a keen cyclist?

Eric –

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. It’s years later when I found it was great preparation for cycling and housesitting around the world.

Question  –

What gave you the idea of going long distance cycling?

Eric –

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 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”. Without realising it this was the start of a big trip  housesitting around the world.

Google maps and other satellite navigation systems

housesitting around the world
My cycling routes across Eurasia to date

Question –

How did you start planning and tracing your initial and subsequent cycle routes?

Eric –

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 housesitting 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 was really committed and wouldn’t give up.  That’s probably how I pulled it off.
housesitting around the world
Cycling and housesitting around the world means you get a great ground level perspective and you live like a local

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.

housesitting around the world
Cycling through China is something I’ve done several times and want to do again. There is so much to see

Unexpected highlights on the road

Question –

Can you share some of the highlights you experiences on your epic journey so far?

Eric –

– 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.

housesitting around the world
Some of the places I visited were amazing. The Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum famous for the China Clay soldiers is still being excavated

– France –

Carcassonne, in the French region of Occitanie, is an entirely intact medieval walled city which I really liked.  The medieval fortress is so well preserved that it is a recognised UNESCO world heritage site. At the opposite end of the country while visiting Paris I also rode past Versailles.  The Louvre is amazing.  It took me three days just to walk through it. There are some places that make you want to go back.
I like visiting museums on my travels – some impress more than others

– Russia –

SCUBA diving in Lake Baikal in Southern Siberia, was a real highlight. It is the largest body of fresh water in the world.  It even has sponges and Seals.  There are also palm sized Amphipods, kind of like shrimp.  They look like little aliens.  In Moscow I stayed at a high end hotel near the Kremlin.  Of course, it was amazing to spend a day inside the Kremlin visiting the museums.
I cycled through Red Square, riding all the way out of town. When you cycle around the country in Russia you really see how wild the landscape is. There are vast tracts, in fact hundreds of miles of untouched landscape between towns and urban landscapes even between well known destinations.
Language can be a great barrier while travelling – I try to grasp the basics before I travel

Language barrier

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 –

I first started housesitting around the world through Housesitmatch when I wanted to visit Spain. I was researching my tour through Southern Europe and down to North Africa when I found the site online. There’s the Alhambra, which is a day trip from Philippa, my host’s home in Andalucía. This is where I have been housesitting regularly since 2015.
housesitting around the world
Petsitting for Philippa a British expat based in Andalucía
I also love Gibraltar.  The Sunborn casino cruise ship that’s permanently docked there is a great place to stay.  I haven’t been to the Extremadura yet.  There’s still lots still to see.
– Other highlights – On two trips I visited the Nürburgring and spent the day driving on the track. The walls of Fez, Meknes, and Marrakech were amazing.
The medieval city walls in the cities of Fez, Meknes and Marrakech were stunning and often well preserved


City life continues within the protection of the city walls

Travel and housesitting around the world

Question –

How has housesitting helped you on your various tours?

Eric –

While housesitting around the world has helped me save money, it meant that I can travel further. Stopping at someone’s home to care for their pets long the way is the best way to housesit. I have the pets company and a comfortable home, and I am giving my services in exchange for a free bed. It’s a good deal.

Also, 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

Question –

What do you look for in a housesit to facilitate your travels around the world on a bike?

Eric –

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. In effect while cycling I have been housesitting around the world.

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. 

housesitting around the world
This recent trip to France I was near the home of Cognac. I thought it would be rude not to visit


Question –

What bike did you take with you on this three month housesitting tour of France and Spain?

Eric –

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!

The custom Gunnar bike went in the hold of the plane for this trip 3 months cycling and housesitting in Europe

Eric’s next odyssey

Question –

Where do you hope to go to on your next leg of this epic trip?

Eric –

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 around the world. You can find house sitting jobs everywhere.

Have bike will travel…
Thank you to Eric Knudstrup, for sharing glimpses of his epic tale of cycling and housesitting around the world. We also want to thank him for his collaboration as a member of Housesitmatch.

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Founder and Director of HouseSitMatch - I'm a hands-on Admin on the site. Please ask any questions and as soon as I can I'll happily answer and assist where I can.

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