I decided to move to Korea in 2010 because I needed a change of pace. I had planned on staying one, maybe two years and then returning home to get my teaching license. Those plans quickly changed. Six months into my first year in Korea I met my husband. Of course at the time I didn’t know we would eventually get married but meeting him changed my path forever. We started dating in 2010 and my plans of returning home quickly faded. We loved our lives in Korea and my one, maybe two years, turned into four. We are an adventurous couple and spent our weekends cycling and running in the beautiful mountains of Korea with close friends. We cherished our time in Korea but after my four years and my husband’s 10 years in the country, we needed a change.
My husband was a cyclist before I met him and had embarked on an incredible cycling journey from South Korea to London. It was a six month trip that I heard so much about and was very envious of his extensive travel. Not soon after we started dating he got me into cycle touring and before I knew it we were on our own mini-adventure cycling for one month through Turkey. That trip gave me a taste of cycle touring and I was hooked. It also gave me a fiance as my husband proposed on that trip!
Once back in Korea, we started not only planning our wedding but our own six month cycle trip. The next two years consisted of planning and saving but in February 2014 we left Korea for good. Our first stop was New Zealand to visit my husband’s family, then back to Korea for one last good bye to our friends, then onto Hong Kong were the adventure would really begin.
We left Hong Kong on April 2nd and headed to the border of China. We spend 2 months cycling various sections of China, the Yunnan Province neighboring Tibet was the most challenging but also my favorite. We also spend time in northwestern China in the Qinghai province, which brought its own challenges. China was not what I expected it to be, it was better. The China I saw was not the China on television and the food was not the Chinese food we grow accustom to in the states. Even though we enjoyed China, after two months we were ready for a new culture and new country.
We spend the next two months cycling through Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. This was a whole new world for us. We had to learn a new language, new customs, and new food but that’s the excitement of cycle touring, everything was always changing. Cycling through the Stans was some of the most difficult terrain I have ever been on. We spent about two weeks over 4,000 meters (13,000ft) on the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan, one of the “Holy Grail” of cycle touring. The cycling was extremely difficult, the land was desolate, and we went days without seeing another person. We carried 5 days’ worth of food with us but the scenery and experience was worth it.
After the Stans we spent our last two months of traveling in Turkey, with a four day stop in Georgia. We landed in Istanbul and quickly hopped another plane to Elazig in Southeastern Turkey. We spent two weeks cycling Eastern Turkey and then headed into Georgia for a few days. Georgia was a beautiful country and we both want to spend an extended amount of time there but this trip didn’t allow it. Once back in Turkey we rode along the Black Sea coast, caught a bus to a cycle festival in a small town called Batin, and from there caught another bus to Bursa, which is just across the bay from Istanbul. We spent our last two weeks on the western part of the country enjoying the scenery; the food, the amazing hospitality, and one last stop to Bergama, the place my husband proposed.
From there we headed to Istanbul where the cycling stopped but the traveling did not. After a few days in Istanbul being tourists, we flew to Bahrain to visit friends for five days and enjoy some well-deserved relaxation. After our vacation from vacation we boarded our last plane to Thailand where we currently reside. We have a house in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai to be exact, and plan to be here for the next few years.
We are not sure where life will take us from here but there is already another cycle trip in the making, South America 2019.
By Katie Eichten, Master’s in Counseling and Psychological Services, St. Mary’s University, Class of 2007