This American Woman Bikes Around the World with Her Dog and Her Violin

Cyclist Jasmine Reese

Hi, my name is Jasmine Reese. I grew up in Los Angeles, CA. I am currently in Indiana, preparing for the next segment of my life on the road in Asia and Europe. At the moment, my life is consumed by travel, violin and my loyal friend and pup, Fiji.

Outside of that, I am addicted to Korean Dramas; I love listening to music in most all genres, but I’ve been heavy on the Korean Pop lately. If you were to look through my playlist, there’s a bit of Classical, Dubstep, Heavy Metal, Rock & Roll, Old-time & American Folk, Canadian Old-time and Maritime, R & B, Blues, Jazz, Pop and so much more. I think I am the most predictable and yet an unpredictable person because I have a routine outside of a normal box. I am predictable because I am, simply, a woman who travels with her dog and violin on a cycle, and I am unpredictable because I am a woman who travels with her dog and violin on a cycle. I live a spontaneous life, and I try not to fit into any box.

Violin is my ultimate passion, and I dream of one day reaching a professional level where I can effectively share my emotions and message through this instrument. Therefore, I’ve combined my love of cycling and traveling with my goal to become a professional musician. While on the road, I try to meet as many musicians as possible, barter for lessons, and give myself performance opportunities such as busking or playing house concerts to combat my stage fright. Therefore, it’s like I’ve turned the road into my roaming school of music.

Cyclist Jasmine Reese

How and why did you get into adventuring?

It was a spontaneous decision born of dissatisfaction with my life at the time. Depression found me, and I had quit so many important things including violin and University. I felt like a failure. I gained over 60 pounds and spent abnormal amounts of time in my room, hiding away from the world. Thankfully, my mom moved down to Missouri (where I was attending college at the time), and I moved in with her. But even still I was depressed and found myself physically and mentally unable to go back to school.

In my mom’s garage, there was a Walmart bicycle. Since I hated the gym, the bicycle seemed like a fun idea to try to make some last efforts to get to school and also lose weight while doing it. It was about two or three weeks of consistently riding back and forth to school where I finally just asked myself, “I wonder, how far one can go on a bicycle?” That led to discovering Adventure Cycling and their map routes, and I made the decision in less than a day to bicycle across the U.S. This was back in 2013. I pretty much decided to give up on school. My GPA was shot, and I didn’t have the motivation in me to begin working hard to bring it back up. Deciding to ride cross country, at that time, was an ego-boost. I needed to do something to prove to myself that I could do anything. If I could survive cycling cross country as an out-of-shape woman with no experience camping or cycling long distance, then I could do anything. Therefore, I didn’t have any fear. To me, completing this mission wasn’t something to fear; it was something that would inspire me, and in many ways, save me from the darkness within my mind — that nasty depression.

So, I set off with less than $50.00 in my pocket because I figured if I waited to save money, I’d have to wait another couple of years, and for me, it was a now or never sorta deal. My first time riding with a loaded touring bike was on my first day on the road. I only did five miles my first day, but slowly built up stamina on the road. I experienced amazing kindness from strangers and learned a valuable lesson. Slow bicycle travel taught me patience, endurance and appreciation. It showed me that this journey we take through life is so much more important than the destination we are trying to reach. I thought I need to complete my journey to go from New York and reach California. That’s what I thought would help me and boost my ego. But, in reality, it was everything that happened in between that restored my faith not only in humanity, but myself. I kicked depression’s butt.

Cyclist Jasmine Reese

Why is adventuring important for you?

Travel is so important because it teaches us to think outside of our boxes. It forces us to get out, meet people we wouldn’t normally encounter on a daily basis, and to see the world through more than just a T.V. screen, computer or device. Yes, there are bad things in the world, but there is also so much good. We tend to focus on the negative, and if you only stay in your home or town, you stew in the bad until hate, bitterness and sadness has burnt itself your soul.

When you get out and travel, even when you see or experience the bad, the endorphins from activity, from being apart of something greater than yourself (especially when volunteering or doing some type of social impact work), will keep you sane, human and alive. But, more surprising, is when you embark on an adventure, you get to see the positive and hope that our home (Earth) has left. There is still so much potential, beauty and awe. In reference to how adventuring has changed me — it’s helped me to realize that there are so many paths in life I can take, and I don’t have to be afraid to just try to accomplish what I set out to do. Failure is the least scary thing that could happen to me.

Cyclist Jasmine Reese

What have been the best and most difficult parts of your adventures?

Meeting kind people and seeing gorgeous landscapes!

Biggest danger on the road is traffic but it doesn’t scare me. I tend to know my limits and try to follow all the road rules. If a road makes me uncomfortable, I’ll either hitchhike off of it, or find an alternate route. In other cases, I have ran out of food and money while on the road. Thankfully, my dog, Fiji, I can carry about 14 pounds of her food at a time, so she never runs out. I will spend my last dollars on her before I spend it on myself. But there have been times when I just had powdered meal replacement shakes for two days in a row. That’s when it’s time to get an odd job and make money. That’s another thing this life has taught me. You can’t be afraid to ask people a question. I used to be so scared of how people would react if I asked, “Can I pitch a tent in your back yard for the night?” “Is there some gardening work or something I can help you with?” I used to fear the word “no.” But you learn to face rejection head on and move on.

Right now, I am kind of tired of the financial aspect of traveling, so I am doing a lot to monetize my story and make my dreams a reality. I want to sell e-books, gig more on violin and get freelance work. So far, I am meeting my goals. I have a patron contribution area on my website where people can contribute to the production of my e-book and eventual CDs. I also use a portion of that money to pay-it-forward and donate to causes near and dear to me. And recently, I landed a couple of remote jobs – one in data entry and the other as a blogger for Fiddlershop.com. The latter allows me to write about violin and music — which I love dearly — and get paid! It seems like my dreams come true in unique ways everyday. Of course, the remote jobs take away some of the financial insecurities that my nomadic life has brought about thus far.

Cyclist Jasmine Reese

How do you eat and sleep on the road?

I don’t carry any cooking equipment. Remember, I didn’t and still don’t have much survival/outdoors experience. I don’t even know how to use that cooking gear. I just brought a tent, sleeping bag and meal replacement shakes powder that I’d mix with water. I also tried to take supplements.

Most of my hearty meals, I bought or were provided by kind hosts on the road. But I didn’t carry food, and I am constantly trying to figure out a healthier eating system on the road. As far as accommodation, I mostly stay with kind strangers. Facebook, Warmshowers.org and churches have been amazing in finding places to stay with a network of people.

However, I most of the time pull into a town, start a conversation with a nice group of people and eventually someone is giving us a room and bed to rest our heads for the night. One time, we slept in a family’s garage. I pulled into town after sunset with no lights on my bicycle. It was cold, but I was prepared to camp out. So, I asked a man sitting in his driveway if I could pitch a tent in front yard, and he was like “It’s way too cold for camping outside!” Before I knew it, Fiji and I were in his family’s heated garage. They invited us into the main house for pizza with them and their children. And I left the next morning with hugs and well-wishes.

Cyclist Jasmine Reese

Why did you bring your dog?

I adopted Fiji from a foster family of a local pound when she was about 4 months old. She was about to be put down as the foster family could no longer foster her and the pound was at capacity. I didn’t actually want to adopt her for myself. She was a gift for my mom. We had just lost our Rottweiler a couple of months prior, and with depression and everything else, I just never wanted a dog ever again. My mom was gone a business trip at the time. Fiji’s foster family brought her over, and Fiji peed on the floor as soon as she came in the house. So, I kept her in bed with me, so I could easily take her outside and begin training her to go out back. I guess, I made the mistake of letting her sleep with me because she followed me everywhere from that point on. I tried to get her to sleep in the bed with my mom, but you’d hear the pitter patter of her little paws as she made her way from my mom’s room to mine. She’d whimper at my door, and well, that’s how it went.

I think for a good two weeks I was in denial that she was my dog, and I tried to shoo her away, but eventually I fell madly in love. She made me happy during this dark period of isolation. She also was also a reason to get out of the house for walks and socializing. So, she kind of rescued me. There was no way I was going to leave my life-saver behind! Fiji and I are best pals. My mom said when I’d leave to go to the store or when I rode my bike off to school in the morning, she’d wait the whole day by the window for me to come back. She wouldn’t eat or drink water. I couldn’t imagine leaving her on this bicycle trip, which ended up taking 6 months!

So, I began to research ways to bring her with me. I found a leash attachment, stuff to protect her paws when she ran alongside the bike, and a doggy trailer to pull behind me. For the most part, people react pretty positively to me bringing Fiji. They often reference her as protection for a woman traveling alone. However, I just think of Fiji as a family member or friend who travels with me. Of course, people are very protective of her — like a child. They’ll offer to buy her food, and she even had a food sponsor for the longest time. If I couldn’t buy food, that angel sponsor would purchase it for her. People wanted to take care of her, and I’d have people stop me in the road to give her wet food cans and doggy treats. Hahaha But I often let people know that I’d starve to death before Fiji ever missed a meal. I am hyper-protective of her because while she enjoys herself thoroughly (she gets to spend hours outside, seeing new things and experiencing new smells and she’s always with the person she loves), I know I chose this life for her. So, I have to always check my priorities and make sure she’s comfortable and happy. Because I have her with me, I can’t do as much indoor sight-seeing (like going to museums or art galleries). I can’t go into stores. But that’s a small sacrifice because 1) I can’t afford too much sight-seeing anyway and 2) the benefits of having her with me far outweigh the negatives. She’s hilarious. She’s resilient, and she’s a great friend.

Cyclist Jasmine Reese

What is your best advice for new adventurers?

I would just say “do you.” Don’t let anyone else dictate to you how your adventure should take shape. You can plan or not. It’s all up to you. But also don’t be disappointed or give up when a plan doesn’t work out. Prepare for the unpredictability of the journey and that not everything may happen as you envisioned. The best advice I can give is to leave your mind open to the unexpected and reroute accordingly.

How do you prepare and finance your adventures?

I don’t prepare much, but I love to read forums or just Google. I don’t buy much gear. I tend to find what I need while on the road.

I finance my adventures through odd jobs, house concerts, busking, and now I have a couple of remote jobs. Before I didn’t finance it myself, I’d get a few contributions from kind people who wanted to see me succeed, but other than that, I winged it and used free resources such Warmshowers.org and Workaway.info I also try to raise money for causes. I’ve raised a few hundred dollars for Eye Disease Research, Alzheimer’s Alliance and dog rescues. I am always looking for ways to do this better and actively participate in volunteer work while on the road. I don’t get compensated for that, of course. But connecting with these organizations has led to places to stay and a hot meal. I’ve played at nursing homes and gotten a free meal with the performance, and I am fine with that. I have learned to live off a little.

Cyclist Jasmine Reese

What favorite gear do you have?

I love my Cycletote Dog Trailer and my ICE Adventure HD Recumbent trike. Other than those two, I don’t really have a go to piece of gear that I don’t consider replaceable or disposable.

How do you balance normal life with adventuring?

Adventuring is my life. So, no balance. I just kind of take life one moment at a time. I don’t know what I’ll be doing each day. It just kind of takes shape as it goes. I don’t have children, so that probably makes my lifestyle a little bit easier when it comes to the “no planning” aspect. But I’ve seen people with children on the road living a nomadic life, so it’s possible. You asked, do I ever feel like I miss out on something because of adventuring? I missed out when I was isolated in my room. Now, I am overwhelmed with all the opportunities and paths I can take.

Cyclist Jasmine Reese

What will the future bring?

In September, I am planning to head overseas to South Korea, trike across Asia to Europe and then down into Africa. But who knows what the future holds? I am open to taking a number of different roads.


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One Comment

  1. Susan Edwards says:

    What a terrific, in-depth article! Jasmine and Figi stayed with me last summer and it was transformational for me. I wish them both the very best with the new trike and the next leg of their adventure.

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