The Good Oil: Edition 10
Greetings everyone, and welcome back to The Good Oil!
If this is the first time you’re receiving this newsletter, my name’s Adrian Crawford and I’m a content strategist here at CBDistillery® as well as a native Australian, the father of a 3-year-old girl and an enthusiast of all things hemp-derived.
If you’ve read previous editions of The Good Oil, this one will look a little different in format. This time around I wanted to share an excerpt of an interview I did recently with someone who completed the incredible feat of cycling more than 20,000 miles through 25 countries to raise money for a cause important to her heart. Let’s dive right in.
I met Lisa Achatzi on my very first trip to the U.S., way back in 2008. Since then, we’ve sporadically kept in touch via social media, where she’s spent the past three years documenting what I learned to be an unfathomable feat of physical and mental toughness: riding a bike all over the world.
Adrian Crawford: First of all, would you introduce yourself to our readers and tell them all about yourself?
Lisa Achatzi: Hi! I am Lisa, a 35-year-old German who loves exploring the world. When I am not out there traveling, I am using my creativity to help create change in this world by working as a social media manager for NGOs or social businesses.
AC: Have you always dreamed of riding around the world? How did the idea come about and what was involved in planning and pulling it off?
LA: To be honest, I don’t really know where the idea came from. It just popped into my head out of nowhere. It’s not like I had been following bikepacking accounts on social media or that I have always been passionate about cycling. The first bike trip I had ever done was cycling the U.S. west coast in 2015. I had once again quit my job, sold everything I own and was on a backpacking trip that started in Canada and was supposed to go as far south as my money would let me.
I had lived in the U.S. for a year back in 2007 when I was an au pair, so I had seen a fair bit of the country – also thanks to a crazy Contiki trip haha. So I wanted to do something different to bussing down the west coast and somehow, out of nowhere, the idea of riding a bike came to my mind. So I left my backpack with a friend in Vancouver and crossed the border with only two plastic bags filled with some clothes and electronics. In Seattle I went to an outdoor shop, bought everything I thought I needed or learned I needed and then cycled 2,800 kilometers (1,700 miles) along the coast. I didn’t even know how to fix a flat tire back then…
AC: Can you give us a rundown of your latest journey, where it took you and how long you spent riding?
LA: Thanks to covid, this is a bit complicated, but I’ll try. I left Germany in August 2019 and took a plane to Medellin, Colombia, with my bike. Flying with a bike is actually quite easy and sometimes even free, depending on the airline. I then spent seven months cycling 10,500km (6,500mi) through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina and Chile. Once I reached Ushuaia, literally the end of the world, Covid was declared a pandemic.
Since Covid arrived to South America a bit later than Europe, I was very naive and thought I could just keep on cycling. My plan was to hitchhike up to Buenos Aires, hop on a ferry to Uruguay and continue with the plan. And then it all happened very fast and about two days later I found myself in Germany. Two years passed. Two tough years, but at least my bank account was being fed, and that brought new options along… I could extend this trip. And of course Pamir Highway, the Mount Everest of bikepacking, came to mind. So the plan was to “finish” South America and then head east.
In April 2022 I left again to reunite with my bike, which I had left with a friend in Buenos Aires. (Again, I was that naive that I thought I’d have to go home for three months and then return, once the world was back to normal. Covid was laughing at me back then, knowing it would take 24 months.)
So I picked up where I had left things and took the ferry to Uruguay. From there I cycled through Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil. Then I took a flight to Spain, cycled from Barcelona to the very south to hop on a ferry to Morocco, cruised around Morocco, then took a ferry to Italy, cycled around there and left my bike for a month to spend Christmas with the family. Then yet another long ferry ride to Greece.
In Greece I volunteered for nine weeks on the island of Samos with a grassroots NGO called Samos Volunteers. They support refugees and asylum-seekers on the island. From there I took the ferry to Turkey. Unfortunately my plan to cycle towards Pamir Highway was crushed by the (still ongoing) protests in Iran. But this is a luxury problem compared to people risking their lives to fight for basic human rights. So I took a plane to Uzbekistan, then cycled from there to Pamir Highway in Tajikistan, continued through Kyrgyzstan to Kazakhstan and then hopped on a plane back to Turkey. From there I cycled to Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy once more and then Austria and “home” to Germany.
All in all it was 32,615 kilometers (20,266 miles) through 25 countries on four continents.
AC: I know that coming home after just a few days away from the responsibilities of day-to-day existence feels like a tough change. How has it felt to transition back to what one might call “normal life?”
LA: I think only people who have been on a long trip, especially a bike trip, can really understand, but I’ll try to explain! When you finish a trip, there is no transitioning phase. You cycle to your final destination, get off the bike and then it is done.
After years of watching the kilometer count on my bike computer rise, all of a sudden it is over. A huge achievement, but also a part of your life. All of a sudden you’re sleeping in a house, in the same bed, every night. In the morning you don’t have to find a bush, you just go to the bathroom and do your business on a toilet. You can take a shower whenever you want, and you don’t really have to do the “how many days can I survive on the food and water I have?” math.
For a month I kept waking up at night, with my heart racing in panic, because I didn't know where I had left my bike and why I was in a house and not my tent. I also had moments where I was simply overwhelmed. I went to the supermarket in Berlin on a Saturday afternoon, and it was packed with people. I wanted to get some oat milk. As I was standing in front of the shelves filled with what felt like thousands of plant milks, I felt panic rising. It was all too much. Too many people, too many noises, too many options.
And then you have to build up that “normal life” again. Job, place to live, furniture… Find a new/old routine while questioning if you actually fit back into this “normal life.” But of course it is also amazing to see friends and family, to have the luxuries of a bathroom, tap water, tofu and other vegan stuff and being able to cook oven-roasted veggies.
AC: Apart from your bike (obviously), what were the pieces of equipment you absolutely couldn’t live without during your ride?
LA: Peanut butter. Hahaha. My water filter, for sure. Combined with my platypus bottles that hold two liters but take up no space, since you can roll them up, water supply was no big issue. Definitely my hub dynamo, which I could recharge my phone with while cycling, and also my phone, since it was often the only communication tool I had. I was able to communicate with friends and family, tell them I am still alive, get support when I was feeling down, but also to use Google Translate. I speak English, Spanish and French, but my Russian or Tajik vocabulary is about as big as a six-month-old baby’s haha.
And also a proper camera. I don’t care that it takes up room and weighs more, but in the end photos and clips taken with an actual real camera are still better than photos taken with a phone.
Our conversation was a long one, so if you'd like to read more of Lisa's story, you can find the full Q&A here.