These Swiss Bicycle Nomads Have Cycled 100,000 Kilometers Across the World for 7 Years

To see beautiful places, to meet wonderful people, and to embrace the simplicity of life are some of the reasons why world cyclists Brigitte and Ivo from Switzerland have traveled around the world on bicycles for 7 years!

In this interview, they tackle the importance of traveling to find solutions for the world’s major environmental issues. They also go through their favorite gear, how to choose the best bikes, their best advice for new adventurers, and much more!

Cyclists Brigitte & Ivo

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

We are Brigitte and Ivo Jost from Switzerland. So far, we have traveled with our bikes for seven years, the last four years in a row. We have cycled about 100,000 kilometers all over the world.

Initially, we used classic touring bikes, but over time we were riding more often in remote areas. We were attracted to wild solitary landscapes and encounters with people who live in such areas. We started to ride high passes and dirtroads in the Andes and the Himalayas, cycled in winter at minus 40 degrees through Mongolia, over frozen Lake Baikal and as far as Magadan, the extreme end of Siberia. To cope better with these terrain, we changed to a mountainbike with a lighter bikepacking system 18 months ago.

But we do not only cycle, we love to trek as well. Summer 2011, for example, we bought a donkey and hiked several weeks through the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan. Nepal, Kyrgyzstan and Peru are other countries, where we were not only by bike, but also on foot.

Cyclists Brigitte & Ivo

How and why did you get into bike touring?

We know each other since we are teenagers. Our first bike tour was in Holland twenty years ago. From then on we spent our holidays mostly on our bikes. Firstly because of a small budget, later, because we had learned to appreciate the bicycle as a mean of transport, which allows you to meet people at eye level.

After several summer holidays in Europe, a longer trip in Madagascar followed. We realized that we needed more time when traveling so slowly, took a year off and cycled through South America. From then on, our passion for traveling could not be stopped anymore, and after working for another three years, we saved enough money for another year in Central Asia. Four years later, we started to the current trip with open time horizon.

Giving up our good jobs and leaving friends and family for an indefinite time was not easy in the beginning. We felt comfortable at home, but from our previous journeys we knew that this step was worth it. We have never regretted it.

Cyclists Brigitte & Ivo

Why is adventuring and traveling important for you?

Traveling has become our life, with all highs and lows. While we were often overwhelmed by impressions and experiences during our early travels, we now feel at home in almost every culture. We see this world as a global networked habitat. When traveling we learned, that values like hospitality, tolerance, and willingness to help are lived by many and that disrespect, hate, the spread of fear or stereotypes are either in the interest of very rich or very desperate people.

We think that traveling is basically changing the view of the world. A Mongolian saying means “to see once is better than to hear a thousand times”. To experience climate change as real, when fighting against 100km/h strong storm wind in the Andes, when there should be the best travel season, when ending a trip on the frozen Yukon in March, because suddenly the ice melts away or when being in panic because the expected water source in Sudan is simply dried out, prevents any debate about.

Finding solutions for important issues such as pollution, corruption or sustainable use of resources would be more creative, more evasive and probably more successful if more people traveled. Questions such as cultural or religious affiliation would probably become less important.

Cyclists Brigitte & Ivo

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

To experience the globe as a whole world. To see how different people live, how diverse our planet is. To walk through a city like Dubai or to be invited by a nomad family on the Tibetan plateau in their Yak hair tent is such a huge difference that we often feel not only as a traveler from place to place, but also as a traveler in different time zones. To experience deserts, rainforests, mountains and steppes, to feel a warming fire in the Arctic cold, or to hear a wolf howling in the wilderness, is a wonderful experience.

As bicycle travelers, we are vulnerable. We do not have a car, with which you can simply speed up and get away from a scary situation. It is also not as easy to skip a difficult region with just a longer day stage. In the meantime, we have enough experience to plan and manage such situations.

If we feel unsafe in a country or region, we sleep in a hotel rather than in the tent. If a road is too busy, we take a bus or load onto a truck. Previously, we felt that we had to complete every single mile by bike. This has sometimes led to emotionally or physically difficult situations, which we no longer face today or which we can avoid through careful planning. The longer we are on the road, the more attention needs our motivation. Where and how we travel so that we can challenge ourselves and meet inspiring people. Internet has become an important source of inspiration for us.

Cyclists Brigitte & Ivo

How do you eat and sleep on the road?

We eat locally whenever possible. The street kitchen in India, Southeast Asia or China is cheap and fantastic. It makes no sense to cook for yourself there. On lonely routes, or in countries where restaurants are expensive or the food monotonous, we cook ourselves.

Our kitchen equipment is simple, we have a robust gas stove (MSR WhisperLite), an aluminum pot, knife, spork (combined fork and spoon) and a peeler. If we find a good supermarket, we cook more elaborately. When we carry provisions, our meals often consist of oatmeal, semolina or polenta for breakfast, bread, cheese, instant noodles, nuts/dried fruits and chocolate for lunch and pasta for dinner. We pay attention to mix pasta with proteinaceous foods such as beans, quinoa or soy/tofu and to enrich it with dried vegetables.

In densely populated areas, we stay with people or in simple guesthouses. If accommodations in the country are expensive or if we travel through wilderness areas, we camp. We have a small, light but windproof tent from Hilleberg (Niak).

Cyclists Brigitte & Ivo

What is your best advice for new adventurers and travelers?

We are more and more experiencing that travelers miss the real journey. They travel as comfortably and safely as possible from one tourist highlight to another and want to see as much as possible in a short time. Traveling is becoming more and more passive, something you can consume. In doing so, we think that you miss the most important and the most beautiful of traveling: To be slow and active, to discover the small sights in between and to deal with the simplicity of life.

If you dream of traveling, but fear to give up your usual life and “take the step”, we recommend starting with small adventures and growing into the experience, returning and re-starting. It does not have to be a multi-year journey.

Cyclists Brigitte & Ivo

How do you prepare for your adventures and travels?

We never physically prepared for a trip. The longer we were on the road, the fitter we became, and the more possibilities for challenging routes we found. We are planning roughly the next six months, in which countries and regions we want to stay. We use pictures, blogs and reports from the internet. If we are there, we work out a detailed route for the next 600-700 kilometers. Since we are no longer riding a classic touring bicycle, we try to avoid paved roads and spend a lot of time searching for dirt tracks and trails. We use satellite images and digital maps on the smartphone. This is followed by a detailed planning of provisions and daily stages when we leave populated areas (we have published a more detailed blog post on our website about route planning and offline navigation).

Cyclists Brigitte & Ivo

How do you finance your cycling adventures?

We have lived very cheaply for Switzerland and spent little on our leisure time. Being outside is free, a benefit we also used at home. By traveling by bike, we learned to get along with little and only to buy what we really need. For several years, we were able to put one of our two monthly salaries aside. We never had a car and the last two years before our present trip we lived at a campsite. It has always been important to us that we can pay for our travels ourselves and not take advantage of the hospitality as a way to finance our travels.

On average, we spend $40 per day. This covers all costs, including flights, material purchases, insurance and traveling in more expensive countries such as the US or Japan. Statistically, we spend about 50% of the time off the bike, taking rest days. During this time we are usually in a paid accommodation. We could travel even cheaper if we had to.

In hindsight, we would invest our savings smarter before the journey. Buy an apartment and rent it by AirBnB. Such an income could cover a large part of our expenses.

How do you balance normal life with adventuring and traveling?

Before the first one-year trip, we worked for four years. Then twice in a three-year rhythm. For the past four years, we have no fixed income anymore and are on the road continuously. At the moment, we are thinking about how we want to do this in the future and whether there is a possibility for us to combine the “normal life” and the “nomad life” in a meaningful and balanced way.

Cyclists Brigitte & Ivo

What has been your best adventuring purchase below $100?

Our memories… materially? A smartphone for navigation (Moto E, 70-100 USD). Free offline navigation apps together with a cheap phone can bring you the world in a scale of 1:25’000 to your pocket. No room for nostalgia in this matter 😉

A smartphone is also handy to listen podcasts (but we actually use separate MP3 players for this to save battery). We listen to podcasts and audio books almost every day to stay up-to-date and also not to risk a “brain rot”. …oh, and since two weeks ago, our kick stands (Pletscher) have broken off, we know how useful these things are. Even if they look a bit silly on a mountainbike.

Cyclists Brigitte & Ivo

What other favorite gear do you have?

Outdoor equipment has often a surprisingly short life span if it is in constant use. Over time, we have reduced our material, and we do not buy expensive outdoor clothes anymore. Normal sportswear is good enough.

What we use almost every day are: Stove and pan (MSR), light down sleeping bags (Mountain Hardwear), camping mats (Therm-A-rest Neoair), a thermos bottle (Thermos), and a small tent (Hilleberg). In addition, there is a camera, a cheap smartphone and an iPad mini with keyboard, which we would not want to do without.

And of course, our bike (RAW offroad from MTB Cycletech with Magura suspension fork and Rohloff hub) and the extraordinary smart and sturdy bikepacking system from Alpamayo Designs.

Cyclists Brigitte & Ivo

What will the future bring?

A few days ago, our eighth year of travel started. Sometimes we catch ourselves, as we speak from home, as we feel a slight longing in us to stay longer in a place. Not just to be a stranger on transit, but someone who feels at home. But then we look up into the starry sky, ride into the sunrise and think: “No, not yet, and if, then certainly not forever.”

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