#THISISMYADVENTURE - Jaimi Wilson on Cycling Around the World
Nearly sixty thousand kilometres, five continents, fourty-three countries and roughly one hundred flat tyres later...
Jaimi Wilson spent over three years cycling around the world. Now back home in Penrith, Cumbria, we caught up with her to find out more about this incredible adventure.
So how did this all come about..
Coming from a sporting background, Jaimi had previously been a part of the National Women’s Football Academy as well as completing a four year football scholarship in the US. Cycling didn’t enter the frame until later in life but it didn’t take long for casual cycles to become a RTW adventure..
Jaimi explains; ‘cycling and exploring the lakes through hiking and running didn’t start until I was about 27. I was only a fair weather cyclist, heading out a few times in the summer on my road bike but I always loved the sense of freedom the bike gave me. I was happy in my life, I had a great family, a good social life and enjoyed my job but I had started pondering over the purpose of life a little and felt a bit daunted by the pace at which it was passing me by and what I wanted from it. Life is fleeting and I didn’t want to be one of those people that has to have something dramatic happen to them to make them wake up and go after the things that are important to them. My driving force is the urge to experience it all. I want to go everywhere, meet everyone. I want to try all food, and get to take part in every culture. I want to see every view and I really want to get to know this world. One day someone had tagged me in a video on Facebook of a guy who had quit his job in the states to cycle from North to South America…and that was it…within three months I had quit my job, bought a bike and some camping gear and was pedalling out of my back yard intent on cycling the world’.
The whole trip was planned in that three month period and upon leaving Jaimi had never been on a fully loaded touring bike, wild camped, used a camping stove, repaired a puncture or been to a non English speaking country alone. ‘In some ways I was naive but I was excited about the massive challenge, eager to learn and pretty confident in my ability to give it a good go. I had a rough idea of the route I wanted to take but you have to be flexible and willing to adapt as you go’.
The journey itself..
The journey itself was split into two main sections; cycling from England to Singapore took about eighteen months and from there Jaimi flew to Darwin, Australia before cycling roughly 350km into the outback to work and save money for six months before finishing off the rest of the trip. In terms of distance covered she cycled exactly 58,204km - 100km-140km on average per day (60-80km if there was a huge mountain pass or dirt roads to contend with).
‘The furthest I ever cycled in one day was 210 kilometres…twice actually…one time in the Taklamakan dessert in China I had a beautiful tail wind and another time I was fed up of being harassed in Malaysia and was determined to make it out of the country by the end of the day!‘
The numerous flat tyres seemed to attack her sporadically; she’d had twelve by the time she got to Barcelona but then didn’t have a single one all the way to China. ‘I remember the day I arrived in Sydney I had 5 in that one day…it was Christmas eve and I had 126km to do to surprise my sister for Christmas who I hadn’t seen in 3 years...that was pretty frustrating!’
The hottest temperature she cycled through was 47 degrees in the Australian outback and the Coldest was -17, on the Tibetan Plateau. We of course had to ask which was worse but Jaimi’s answer was simple.. ‘extreme heat or extreme cold...they're both torture’.
The mental and physical battles..
‘Giving up or going home has not once crossed my mind, but obviously I do run into trouble and rough times. I find it easier to cope with right-here-right-now issues, whether it's having mechanical issues in storms or being stalked and sexually harassed by men. I have just been able to solve the problem and get a move on.
The time I did struggle was in the United States...everything was too easy. And probably that was the very reason why I felt like I lost my spark. The challenge was nowhere to be found.
I think actually when the physical challenge was toughest that’s when I thrived most…I seemed to embrace the times when I knew there was a big challenge coming up and those type 2 fun kinda times are what I got most out of, testing my limits both physically and mentally. Cycling through the dirt roads of outback Australia on a budget of £7 per day was one of the toughest physical challenges I faced. The heat was intense and relentless, the distance between places was vast and the environment was brutal. It felt like my limits of comfort were being pushed to the max, there was no relief from it and the only person I could rely on was myself…I had to work through it. You have to learn how to deal with problems and not get to stressed out about things. For me, patience was always a personal flaw and I still battle with this now but if you don’t learn to manage your frustrations, you’ll constantly be fighting with yourself’.
Sticking to her £7 per day budget Jaimi incredibly managed to spend no more than £12,000 completing the epic journey - the rest of the money being spent on flights, visas and other one off costs. Comfort, understandably, wasn’t a priority when budgeting and Jaimi slept in all kinds of places; wild camping, staying with locals, warmshowers, couch-surfing and the odd hostel - ‘I have slept in pretty much every place imaginable. I had a tight budget so it was very rare I paid for accommodation...I was prepared to live roughly and comfort wasn't something I was trying to chase so a place to throw my tent was all I ever needed’.
We asked Jaimi to give us a couple of highlights and, understandably this was a difficult task..
‘The unforgettable experiences are too many to count, but top of mind comes the endless hospitality and good of people in Iran. All those incredible months in the Himalayas and the Andes. The vastness of Australia's outback. And probably more than anything else, those deeply humbling times when people with seemingly nothing to give, without batting an eye open their hearts and doors to make me feel welcome’.
When we asked if she had any advice though, there was no hesitation..
’My best advice is to live your own dream. Stop researching and planning the right time to go, just do it…get out there and do it your way. The problem is that there is too much information available…everyone is doing the same trip with the same gear. Don’t worry if you don’t have the yellow ortlieb, waterproof panniers, surly bike or the brooks leather saddle, those aren’t the things that make the trip. You’re attitude is the single most important thing…the way you think about things will define how they are.
Another important thing I would say is not to limit your life through fears. People say to me always that I am so brave and courageous, well, I am not. I get scared and have fears like anybody else. The difference is I don’t want my fears to limit my dreams. I think it takes a braver person to do something they fear rather than a person doing something they have no fear of’!
The world Record attempt..
So what’s next for Jaimi? Well she’s already preparing for her next adventure... ‘I will attempt to break the world record for the fastest woman to cycle around the world. Currently the record stands at 124 days. It is a very different challenge to the one I have just undertaken but the experience from my first adventure will help me a lot for this next one. Ever since I set out over three years ago I was always obsessed with pushing my physical and mental limits and I want to see how fast and how far I can go. I am currently trying to squeeze in 30 hours of training a week and figure out all the equipment, logistics and funding needed’.