The hardest part of traveling is deciding to go, the rest is easy. I’m Mark, also known as Solo BikePacker, and I’m delighted to welcome you to my Solo Bikepacking Website. The thrill and adventure that Bikepacking offer are incredibly captivating, and I’m here to share the wealth of knowledge I’ve gained throughout the years.
Back in 2020, during the lockdown, the Solo Bikepacker Website came into existence. It had been a long-held dream of mine, and I had been contemplating creating this site for many years. Now, finally, it has become a reality, and I couldn’t be more excited to share my experiences, insights, and tips with fellow Bikepackerlike you.
For most of my life, I have lived abroad. It all started when I took my first holiday at the age of 19 to a Greek island, backpacking and hopping between islands. Initially, I had planned a one-month vacation, having saved up for a year by doing exhausting concrete work that left my hands in a perpetual state of wet crusts that never seemed to heal.
When I arrived in Greece, I experienced warm wind for the first time, a sensation that remains etched in my memory to this day, along with the crystal-clear waters. Having suffered from eczema my entire life, constantly in and out of hospitals and relying on various creams, including steroids (which were banned in some countries), I was shocked to find that after just two weeks of swimming in the sea and basking in the sun, my eczema had completely disappeared. It was the first time since I was a baby that I had felt relief.
This experience made me realize that the cold weather in Ireland might bring back my eczema, so I began contemplating how I could live in hot countries.
While sitting at a pool bar, I struck up a conversation with an Australian guy. I proudly mentioned that I was on a one-month holiday, as most people I knew back home would only go on holiday for a maximum of two weeks. To my surprise, the Aussie informed me that he had been on holiday for three years straight. As I met more backpackers, they confirmed the possibility of such a lifestyle. They explained that they would work in one country for six months, such as Spain, and then spend the next six months backpacking and truly immersing themselves in the local culture. They saved up their money and then embarked on a six-month holiday anywhere in the world, be it India, South America, or elsewhere. Afterward, they would find another country to work in and repeat the cycle.
When I flew back home after my holiday, digging holes and dodging concrete pours, I couldn’t help but think about what those long-term backpackers had said. I worked all day, came home, paid my bills, and repeated the cycle. By winter, my skin was a mess again, so I made the decision to save some money and return to Greece for seasonal work in April. It was challenging to save when 90% of my earnings went toward bills, but I managed to accumulate around $1500 in six months. With my final two-week paycheck, I left for the Greek island and found work at the same campsite where I had stayed the previous year, Santa Maria Camping.
The job was simple: attracting customers and assisting potential customers at the port. I earned about $30 per day and enjoyed free accommodation, food, and drinks. By the end of six months, I essentially had no bills except for cigarettes, which were inexpensive. I also took up a side gig promoting the beach bar. Within those six months, I had accumulated over $8000, despite earning less compared to working in Europe. The absence of expenses like rent, insurance, food, bills, and other miscellaneous costs allowed me to save every penny.
With that money, I was able to embark on a six-month holiday in India. I rented a house on the beach and bought a used Norton motorbike for around $200, living a life of luxury. After my holiday, I flew back to Greece to repeat the cycle.
I continued this lifestyle for over 16 years, and with each passing year, my savings increased. By the third year, I was able to go to the America , well not really America but a place called Utah. I was told there was a lot of LSD there to my disappointment and dam dyslexia I found out they meant LDS. The place was full of morons I mean Mormons . All well I rent a small apartment in St. George close to Zions National park amazing place , and enjoy a six-month holiday before repeating the process. I joke a lot about Utah but I ended up 9 years there great place except for the men in Black suits knocking my doors every week asking if i knew a guy called Smith ..I always told them the same answer yes he owns me money lol
After 16 years of this lifestyle, my passion for scuba diving emerged during one of my holidays. Within three years, I had established my own dive center and a hotel for divers. This led me back to working year-round, but in a field I was truly passionate about.
Over the years, I have transitioned from owning my own business to selling them, and eventually to managing a luxurious 5-star resort in breathtaking locations such as the Maldives. The income I generated was substantial, but honestly, I ended up spending most of it on bikepacking gear, women, and drinks. The rest of it was simply wasted.
For the past three years, my intention has been to return to work as my funds were dwindling. However, that idea turned sour with the world descending into chaos and frequent lockdowns. The tourist industry, in which I had previously worked, was completely destroyed. Even in 2023, when applying for a job, you used to compete against 50 people. Now, especially for management positions, you’re up against a thousand CVs. Money doesn’t last forever.
However, the reality is that Vietnam is incredibly affordable. What you would spend on living expenses in the USA for just a month could easily sustain you for an entire 6 months in Vietnam. Consequently, I have been able to stretch the last of my savings for these past six years, enjoying the affordability and tranquility of Vietnam.
If you’re considering this lifestyle, my advice is to take any job you get, whether it’s working in a bar or managing a hotel, seriously. Many backpackers who come to work treat it as a joke, arriving late and showing up whenever they feel like it because they’re on holiday. However, if you work hard and take your job seriously, you will stand out and make good money – I mean really good money. Treat your work as if you were back home, with bills or a mortgage to pay. By the time I left Santa Maria Camping, I was earning nearly $7000 a month. When I worked in the Maldives, that doubled to $14,000 a month. And when I owned my own dive centers and hotel, I was earning double that amount.
My point is, even though I have always been a backpacker at heart, I approached my work with a business mindset. I worked as if I owned the business and did whatever it took to make it successful, even if I was starting from the bottom. I put in the hours and dedicated myself to the job, which ultimately paid off in the form of increased earnings and success.
To me, success means being able to embark on extended periods of travel. It’s not about having a permanent home been there done that rat race life style from usa to Germany to Asia , as home can be wherever you find rest at night, whether it’s sleeping on the edge of a cliff or hammocking in the enchanting redwood forests.
In 2007, I acquired my first bike since childhood and was taken aback by the prices. Determined to regain fitness and explore Vietnam’s rice fields and mountains on long rides, I purchased a Canadale Trail 5. However, as I ventured out, the desire to keep going and camp out grew stronger, leading me to discover bikepacking.
Over the course of six months, I painstakingly assembled my first bikepacking rig, despite the limited information available at the time. The allure of the bikepacking setup, with its badass appearance and suitability for trail riding, captivated me, and I decided to pursue this approach instead of the traditional pannier setup that was popular then.
Filled with excitement, I embarked on my inaugural international bikepacking trip, eager to explore the Ho Chi Minh trails spanning Vietnam and Laos. Though I believed I was prepared for this adventure, I quickly realized my lack of experience. Despite having a camping background since childhood, from joining my father on trips to the Mourne Mountains at the age of 7 to completing the Duke of Edinburgh Awards up to the Gold level by the time I was 15, and even participating in military exercises during my time in the British army, I still faced unexpected challenges.
Choosing a hammock over a tent, I encountered difficulties finding suitable camp spots in the dense jungle, often ending up on the cold and damp forest floor. The trails presented additional obstacles, resembling more of a bike and hike experience with steep inclines reaching a 25% grade. At times, I found myself walking the bike down after reaching the top. It felt like a backpacking adventure rather than a bike adventure. However, the true test came when I had a severe fall on the trail, rendering me immobile and in excruciating pain. With a dislocated shoulder, I resorted to using my sleeping bag and enduring a restless night. Alone in the wilderness, I finally made the decision to move forward after three long days. To stabilize my injured shoulder, I fashioned a makeshift sling using a strap and tape, but the pain persisted as I pushed myself to escape the remote area.
After 10 hours of challenging bike and hike sections, I reached a main road, albeit a local one between villages. Exhausted, I stumbled upon a village where the local chief graciously provided a room for me to rest. With no doctors available, the villagers offered painkillers, which I eagerly accepted. After three days of recuperation, I gathered enough strength to continue my journey toward the larger cities. On one remarkable day, fueled by painkillers, I rode 180 miles, experiencing the intense endurance required by professional racers like Armstrong (although I now know their secret is doping).
Finally arriving at a city, I sought medical attention and obtained an X-ray, which clearly showed my broken shoulder. However, to my surprise, the doctor claimed it wasn’t broken and prescribed more painkillers. Frustrated by the misdiagnosis, I decided to reach the capital, where I could find a reputable hospital. Strapped up, with my hand securely fastened to the handlebars and filled with painkillers, I embarked on another grueling 160-mile day. Despite encountering multiple doctors along the way, all repeating the same misdiagnosis, I pressed on.
After 7 days days and covering over 900 miles, I finally reached the capital of Laos and entered a local hospital. The receptionist greeted me in English, exclaiming joyfully, “I see you’ve broken your shoulder! Let me get you a doctor.” At last, someone recognized my injury. The doctor conducted an X-ray, confirming a class 4 separation, and recommended a surgery involving four screws to repair it. Accepting the diagnosis, I was advised by the local Lao Doctor to seek treatment at a hospital in Thailand, as the local facility was deemed less capable (which made me laugh and cry at the same time .fuck it i getting the train lol even with all the hardship i never felt so much a live from the experience of bikepacking going a slow pace meeting great people and experience pure adventure .. at this point i decide this was for me
Embarking on the thrilling journey of bikepacking is like opening the door to a world of endless possibilities and uncharted territories. It ignites a deep sense of curiosity and inspires the quest for new frontiers. As a passionate bikepacker, you understand that this immersive experience goes far beyond mere travel—it’s a transformative adventure that fuels the explorer within.
With every pedal stroke, you push the boundaries of your comfort zone, embracing the unknown and welcoming the challenges that lie ahead. Bikepacking empowers you to break free from the confines of everyday life and dive headfirst into the vast landscapes that await. It’s a liberating experience that stirs the soul and awakens a sense of wonder.
The quest for new frontiers is not limited to physical boundaries alone. Bikepacking nurtures a spirit of exploration that transcends geographic limits and delves into the depths of your inner self. It becomes a personal journey of self-discovery, where you uncover hidden strengths, confront fears, and emerge stronger than ever before.
The lockdown had a profound impact on my life, completely shifting my perspective and priorities. For years, I lived a carefree existence, driven solely by my desire to travel and explore the world. I went to great lengths to make that lifestyle a reality. Sometimes, I would get caught up in the rat race and even got married a few times, sidetracked, you know what I mean, “keeping up with the Joneses.” I was accustomed to a comfortable life, with a fancy car in the driveway next to my beloved R1 motorbike and Hummer H1, but I was in debt up to my eyeballs, chasing the American dream.
However, deep down, I knew that settling down was never meant for me. Despite my attempts to conform, the longing to wander never left me. Thankfully, for the words “I want a divorce, you can have everything, I just want my passport” (lol). Or the best one was when my second wife, at the time, asked what I wanted for Christmas. As I had everything, I was always hard to buy for. I thought deeply about it, and I really wanted to travel again. But I knew my American wife wanted the homely life, even though I had met her while traveling 10 years earlier. I was just burnt out and wanted a divorce for my Christmas present. That didn’t go down too well, but 23 years later, she still doesn’t speak to me. That’s okay; it was the right call. A few years later, I saw a photo of my ex-sister-in-law out for dinner with her big mother, I mean big Texas mother, I mean a big woman. When I commented to say hi to Janis, i.e., the ex-mother-in-law, I was informed that she wasn’t my mother-in-law but my ex-wife. Damn, lucky escape.
But then, everything changed when I found myself stuck in Vietnam during the lockdown. Being stuck at home during the lockdown didn’t leave us with much to do, so my girlfriend and I had to find ways to pass the time, and that’s when, 9 months later, Logan entered my life. It was a shock that I’m still trying to comprehend—turning 50 and suddenly becoming a father.
Being a father to Logan has been an incredible journey in itself. I’ve cherished every moment, from witnessing his first steps and hearing his laughter to being awakened by his mischievous kicks to my balls. These priceless moments have transformed my perspective and reshaped my plans. While I had originally intended to continue my bikepacking expeditions, completing one adventure after another and being on the road for years, Logan’s arrival made me realize the need to adjust my priorities.
Instead of long, continuous journeys, I’ve decided to opt for shorter getaways over the next few years. I still embark on my bucket list bikepacking expeditions, but I now come home in between each adventure to spend quality time with Logan. These experiences are no longer just for me; they are meant to show my son, and eventually his own children when I’m long gone, how important it is to see and explore the world.
Undoubtedly, I will take Logan on many Bikepacking trips, but I will prioritize his safety above all else. We will focus more on cycle touring routes rather than trail routes, like the Evolve 16 across Europe, which is great for family cyclists. Being a gear junkie that I am, I enjoy buying all sorts of equipment for Logan, from a kids’ bike trailer to his very own down sleeping bag. Just a few days ago, Logan received his British passport at the age of two. It’s amazing to think that he already has two passports, British and Vietnamese, while I didn’t get my first passport until I was 18. He’s off to a great start in life, and I am grateful for the opportunity.