What started as a joke has now become the real deal – we’re Cycling from England to India!
Our next adventure is officially confirmed and if you know us well you’ve probably already guessed it ain’t gonna be a small one. Boy de we like to challenge ourselves, so we’ve come up with our most adventurous and demanding trip to date: a 6,500+ mile cycling expedition straight from our front door in England all the way to India. That’s right, India. Instead of just finding cheap flights from Air Asia and jumping in car to get to London Gatwick, we thought we’d make it a bit more of a challenge. This article explains why the hell we decided on the trip and how exactly we plan on doing it!
An adventure 4 years in the making!
Before we get into the nitty-gritty trip details I think a bit of background is best, as this journey has been brewing for a number of years. On Tuesday 29th of March 2016 we left to explore the world. We didn’t have a plan but decided to start in Sri Lanka and later move towards our dream destination: India. For years we’d fantasised about exploring the magical country and this was finally going to be our chance.
Low and behold, we didn’t do much research and as our 3 month Sri Lanka visa expired we faced a problem: monsoons. The rains in the south of India meant we would be missing out on hiking opportunities and a big region of the country. So, instead of skipping half of our dream destination we decided to travel east and come back to India later in the trip when we could experience it properly.
A year later we were working in Hanoi, saving up money for travelling to, yes you guessed it, India. We worked in Hanoi for 10 months and planned on taking our motorbikes all the way from Hanoi, through SE Asia and finally arriving to the pearly gates of the Indian border.
10 months of hard graft behind us, our money was saved, a vague route was planned and we were almost ready to go. Then, two weeks before our leaving date disaster struck and we had to return to the United Kingdom. Long story short, we would be in the UK for a prolonged period of time.
This is the point we started Veggie Vagabonds and also started to think about our responsibility as people and travellers. For us, it truly felt like a necessity to explore the world but we knew how detrimental flying was to the environment. Countless destinations we’d visited had been destroyed because of human impacts and pollution. It was time to cut down our carbon footprint and help encourage others to do the same. In 2017 we made the decision to stop flying for good.
With flying was no longer an option we needed to get creative with our adventures. The idea of carbon-free, human-powered escapades had always appealed and jumping on a bicycle seemed to open up a whole world of opportunities – introducing the world of cycle touring!
Quickly, we threw ourselves in at the deep end, training super hard to complete the UK Three Peaks Challenge by Bike – a gruelling but seriously rewarding experience. With the mirage of India still burning in our mind – stopping flying wouldn’t change it – and occasionally we joked together about the crazy ideas of how we could travel to India from UK…
Then it clicked: how about bloody cycling to India!?!?
And it stuck.
We’ve got a point to prove too (well a few…)
The trip was originally born from a desire to reach a destination and now it’s grown into so much more. In today’s times, people are very aware of the beauty around the world and it’s all become so incredibly accessible. We still want to inspire others to go and find that beauty but do it in a sustainable way.
Perhaps it’s not possible for everyone to completely stop flying but it’s most definitely possible to cut down. This doesn’t mean people need to travel less, just be more flexible and imaginative. Showing that continents can be crossed on two wheels will hopefully make people reconsider long-haul plane travel in place of more adventurous overland pursuits.
“Why don’t we save 5 tonnes of carbon emissions and cycle?” Us, 2017
Unless it’s your first time on this blog you’ll also know we’re proud vegan pioneers. It’s been our mission from day one to show that every country can be explored, cuisine conquered and mountain climbed with a plant-based lifestyle. We’re fed up of this ‘weak vegan’ stereotype and want to smash it out of the ballpark. If cycling 6,500+ miles doesn’t do it I don’t know what will…
And, very importantly we also want to break barriers and misconceptions about travelling through the Middle East. When we’ve told people our plans eyebrows are always raised about this section of the trip:
“It’s not safe… there are wars there… do you know how they treat women… do you know how they treat westerners…”
Unfortunately, the list goes on and on.
Whilst we appreciate the concern, it’s really important for us to show that a lot of the stereotypes are wrong. Yes, we understand that cycling through France will be hugely different from cycling through Afghanistan but with the right planning, preparation and common sense we’ll be more worried about the Parisian drivers.
More than anything we’re doing this in the name of adventure. The prospect of living in a tent and cycling from our front door with India in our sights, watching as the world slowly changes along the way, literally gives us goosebumps. It’s going to be life-changing, unforgettable and something we’ve eagerly awaited for far too long already.
How long is it going to take? And which way will you go?
Good question. In a summarised answer we’re going to be cycling through Europe to Turkey, crossing into Central Asia and making our way to North-Western India. Unsurprisingly it’s more complicated than that.
On the most direct route possible, with no diversions, there’s looking to be at least 5,500 miles of cycling between India and England (though we’re definitely partial to a few diversions).
In terms of time, how long is it going to take? This we are not completely sure of. Whilst it would be possible to cycle through most parts of Europe during the winter, in Central Asia, it wouldn’t be so simple. Many mountainous regions would be impassable and overly dangerous to attempt during the colder months. This means it’s unlikely we’ll make the route in one stretch (unless we’re cycling like Chris Hoy) and so we’ll probably need to wait out the winter at a convenient point somewhere.
As we learned from our Three Peaks Challenge life is not enjoyable when you’re in a rush. Every day we missed so many beautiful experiences and opportunities because of our horrifically tight schedule.
Deciding to take on this challenge was not about getting from A to point B; instead, it’s most definitely about the journey in between. Because of this, we’re not setting a deadline and will take this aspect as it comes.
As you can imagine it is truly going to be a journey of two halves. Until Turkey, we have reasonable flexibility, largely safe environments, reliable cycling conditions and to a certain extent political calm. From Turkey onward, there is the potential for things to be very different.
After speaking with locals, experienced travellers and cycle tourers we have pencilled outline for possible routes for the later parts of the trip. However, as political and environmental climates could very well change in the space of a year we’ll reassess our route closer to the time.
Accommodation, food, equipment & budget
Through rural areas, our time will be spent in a tent (it’s a very small tent!) and we will be wild camping along the way. As we pass through more developed regions, or the weather is too harsh, we will likely be finding accommodation through Couch Surfing and Warm Showers or campsites and hostels.
As you also may be aware, we ain’t not flush travellers, nor do we have a particular cooperative bank account. Unless a sizeable donation is made to the Veggie Vagabonds trust we will also be working along the way, online and potentially experimental improv street performances with a hat out…
For food, whilst camping our meals will be cooked on our trusty camping stove. If you’ve followed our travels before you’ll know that we eat bloody well, regardless of where we are, so be prepared for lots of camping stove creations. As we get into more developed areas we’ll be exploring all of the local vegan fare available.
In terms of equipment, we really are scraping the barrel. We’d like to say that all of our second-hand equipment was purchased purely for sustainability reasons but it’s also because we’re skint *cue North Face and Patagonia offering to sponsor us…*. Our camping and sleeping gear is warm but heavy and our clothes are moderately reliable but very well worn.
Obviously the most important piece of kit, the bikes, are top of the range. I wish this were true. We will be cycling on an old Dawes Galaxy and an unbranded Trek hybrid. Both bikes will be going through a serious makeover in the next month.
*Update* we bought second-hand bikes! Sarah has a Ridgeback World Voyage and I’m riding a boootiful Surly LHT. You can check out our full bike touring packing list here.
As you can guess from the last paragraph our budget is tight but cycle touring can be remarkably cheap, even through Europe. As long as the conditions are favourable and we manage to steer away from bigger cities we should be averaging well under £20 a day for the two of us.
It’s a lot more than just cycling from England to India
The whole of this journey is going to offer so many opportunities to explore the other avenues we love. As you can imagine it will be a fantastic chance to document our journey on the website and after a long-awaited time we’ll officially be vagabonds again.
As human beings we’re drawn to nature and can’t wait to be living from a tent, immersing ourselves in the outdoors and always taking the scenic route.
The trip will also serve as the perfect platform to experience a whole host of other adventures: climbing, hiking, swimming, canoeing, skiing… basically if it raises our pulses it’s going to happen. If you have any particularly awesome outdoor suggestions anywhere between England and India then hit us up!
Particularly during the first half of the trip, we’ll have a lot of flexibility and freedom to embrace slow, spontaneous travel and culture. Whether it’s learning new languages and customs, participating in community events or dancing to Balkan music in Romania, it’s all going to be part of the adventure.
And being vegan adds a whole different dimension to the challenge
And finally, it wouldn’t be a Veggie Vagabonds adventure without a huge amount of delicious vegan food! This might not be so easy living from a tent and travelling through certain regions, so it’ll be a serious learning curve. We’ll be sharing all of our vegan adventure knowledge picked up along the way to make it other for fellow herbivores to explore with ease.
There is a lot to prepare…
I wish I could say there was little to do but that would be a lie… this article will be too long if I list everything but some of the key things that need to be done in the next month are:
- Completely overhaul bikes and make them fit to cycle 6,500+ miles
- Sell all of our belongings for some extra cash
- Go to the dentists
- Try to publicise the trip and get a sponsor so we don’t have to spend 2 years eating instant noodles from a camping stove
- Find some waterproof clothing
- Read Full Tilt by Dervla Murphy as research
- Go for a test run!
We’d be lying if we said we had no worries
I’d like to say that we’re absolute pros at navigating and masters in outdoors but this would be a bit of a stretch. We are fairly experienced but we could definitely do with brushing up on our map-reading and bushcraft skills.
Though we are not expecting the first half of the trip to be a walk in the park, it will really be our training ground. The majority of this section is close to civilisation, giving us the chance to develop our adventure skills needed the rest of the trip in a relatively safe environment.
Despite a lot of peoples’ concerns, the main dangers will likely be from getting lost, bad weather, bad conditions or angry dogs. And Parisian drivers. The fact is, once past Turkey, we’ll be venturing into some very remote areas where conditions can change very, very quickly – we need to be prepared for it – but that’s all part of the adventure.
Our friends have already asked, “how are you going to get back from India to England”…
We’re Cycling from England to India – No Emissions but Big Ambitions!
I can’t express how excited we are for this UK to India overland adventure, it’s been such a long time coming. For the last 4 years we’ve grown infatuated with the thought of reaching India; now we’re so mesmerised with the journey itself we’ve almost forgotten about the end destination. Almost.
As we mentioned this challenge was also taken on because we have a responsibility. People need to know they can still adventure around the world without flying as much and also that a vegan lifestyle will have nothing but a positive impact for you and everything around you. On top of that, let’s forget these stereotypes and view the world with an open mind.
This expedition across multiple countries, continents and cultures will be a chance for Veggie Vagabonds to grow. We want to develop this into a resource and community that helps make the world a more positive place, and hope you will join us for the ride.
If you want to keep up to date with our journey and the articles we write along the way then follow us on social media or sign up to our newsletter (even better, do both!).
And last but not least, to any potential sponsors you can find our email on the ‘contact’ section at the top of the page – we’d love to rock your gear 😉
Right, I’ve got bikes to fix!
Our England to India Bike Touring Packing List
The Via Rhona Bike Route: A Guide to Eurovelo 17
Hi there, I did a long tour between 1986-1988 as a vegan. My knowledge of my body’s needs for recovery from long days in the saddle back then was non existant! It’d be helpful to hear what you are able to eat on the road these days.
Hey Debbie, after a long day your body is really craving and it’ll be interesting to see what we find along our route. Particularly in the Middle East and Central Asia I think it will be quite challenging! Where did your route take you?
Have a fantastic time. I think the idea, the adventure, the challenge and the ethics are great. I have been to India 4 times so far, and the place is amazing. I envy you but will follow the same plan sometime in the next few years. I will be following your trip. If you need mechanic advice, drop me a line, ( I’m a pro bike mechanic).
Hey Mark, would love to know about your travels in India – which regions have you been to or any places that stand out for you to recommend? Yes, we will definitely appreciate some mechanical advice, my bike (J) is working a dream but Sarah’s is struggling a bit. Also is only a 8 speed rear cassette so we’ll likely be changing that to 9 when we start to approach hillier regions.
Where abouts are you based?
I wish you the very best of luck. I would love to know your precise route and the visa situation towards the eastern end of your journey if you ever have a minute. I plan a similar trip but hopefully via Iran next year. All the best and well done!
Hey Mark, yes the Visa situation is going to be interesting once we get past Turkey. Ideally we would like to go through Iran but for a UK passport that isn’t so easy. It will be over a year before we’re there so hopefully the situation will have changed by that point…
When are you thinking of doing your trip?
This sounds like an awesome adventure and I love your determination to get to India! Looking forward to following this trip
Glad to have you with us for the journey. We would never have guessed how the trip would be so far but it’s already been the experience of a lifetime. Looking forward to all the twists and turns it shows us!
Hiya! I love your guys’ story, beliefs, and your blog overall!
Very inspired. I would love to do some cycle touring promoting sustainability, and turn it into an online business teaching others how to do the same!
Glad I came across your page!
Best of luck XX
Hey Heather! Thanks for such a lovely comment 🙂 Sounds like you’ve got a great business plan, cycle touring is such a great sustainable lifestyle.
Are you already touring? Where are you based?
Always welcome to join us for a leg of our trip, if you fancy it 😀
Hi, Can you please share your itinerary days wise and route you choose for this trip …it will be a big help
Hey Bakcen, due to the Coronavirus we’ve had to return to the UK (after the first 1,000 miles). We’ll continue our trip when international borders reopen and it seems safe, but the political situation may be pretty different and so we wouldn’t be able to say about the route right now.
Are you planning this cycle tour for yourself? Happy to help with some planning!
You guys made me believe , surely one day I’m gonna do it from India to Liverpool ❤️…..
Hey there Yash – what an awesome comment! I believe in ya!
Are you doing a lot of cycling at the moment?