Forget Money. You Don’t Need to Be Super Rich to Cycle Around the World

What is stopping you from living the life you have always imagined for yourself? For cyclist and adventurer Danny Yates, commitment and confidence are some of the keys to achieve any goal.

Together with his girlfriend Jess, these travel and nature junkies have seen a lot of amazing places on bike. Let’s find out the highlights of their trip, their favorite gear, and what to do next if you run out of money!

Cyclist Jess and Danny Yates

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Danny Yates and I am a Primary school teacher from England and I am currently back living in the Lake district while my girlfriend trains as a teacher herself.

In my spare time, I love to be outside, whether that be climbing, whitewater kayaking, mountaineering or of course, on my bike! I also enjoy photography but this is very much on an amateur level!

Cyclists Jess and Danny Yates

How and why did you get into adventuring?

I’ve always loved the idea of adventuring. As a child, my family had a caravan that we would use most weekends and I would disappear in the mornings until the sun went down — only returning for a quick sandwich for lunch! My parents were keen wakers so I was introduced to the mountains through that medium.

Slowly as I got older, I wanted to do bigger and harder routes, and through scouts, I was given the opportunity to go to Switzerland. Here I crossed my first glacier and I never looked back. From that moment, I knew I wanted to be outside as much as possible. My degree was in Sports Science with outdoor activities and through that I developed my skills and was even lucky enough to go to the Himalayas for my thesis. It was surrounding myself with like-minded people at University that made the possibility of adventure so easy, everyone was keen to get out and you were never short of a climbing or hiking buddy.

Then, I left Uni and I went travelling around Canada with a friend from Uni and again we spent our time trying to do the things that normal backpackers didn’t. We loved venturing at a local climbing spot and being the only foreigners there. I returned home to the UK to train as a teacher but the wanderlust had got me.

After two years, it wasn’t so much a fact of wanting to travel and have an adventure, I needed to. This time, New Zealand was on the list with my same friend. Another epic year of adventures and he was ready to go home for a girl, I wasn’t! I booked a one-way ticket to South East Asia with a cheap bike and invited two friends to come join me.

Seven months of cycling and my funds had dried up, I went to work in an International School. I worked my ass off and saved every penny I could. South America was already high on my lists so once the school year was over, my self and Jess flew one way for the biggest adventure yet.

For myself, the hardest part is booking the ticket, once I have done that I know there is no going back, from that moment I’m so much more motivated to save and go.

In regards to training, I don’t really do anything specific. I’m relatively active, anyway, as I love riding my bike and being outside. I’m doing this regardless of whether or not I have a big trip coming up. I do find the first week or so tough though, the transition from doing one or two rides a week to riding all day everyday does take a toll on your body but very quickly your body adapts, you find you’re still tired but you’ve gone further by the end of the week or you’re going faster.

Cyclists Jess and Danny Yates

Why is adventuring and traveling important for you?

For me, it’s a release, there is no stress, there are no expectations, I am rewarded for the effort I put into it and I forget about anything else that may have been bogging me down.

Just like Jess would tell me: If I’ve had a busy week and I haven’t managed to get outside, I become antsy, short tempered, and flustered. Just going for a 25-minute run or walk in the hills seems to blow all that away. Some people say they get that from a book or meditation, I get it from being outside in nature.

Cyclists Jess and Danny Yates

What has been the best parts of your adventures and travels?

The best parts are hard. A lot of the time it’s the people you meet rather than the actual riding the bike. The hospitality you are shown when in these “3rd world” countries is humbling and it’s the experiences of sharing a family home with people is amazing. Seeing how these people live and survive in often tough environments, it’s awe-inspiring.

We spent an evening in a village school, the whole village, and every village from the surrounding area I think, were here partying, the mayor welcomed us with a shot of god knows what and a promise that our bikes would be safe, he gestured for us to sit under one of the marquees and drink. For the next hour, I stood and had my photo taken with every person partying. I have a no found sympathy for celebrities being hassled when they are just trying to get on with eh food shopping. We spent the evening trying to dance to local music and drinking local beers. That was definitely a highlight of the trip, then again 70km downhills are pretty good too.

Cyclist Danny Yates

What has been the most difficult parts?

For me the hardest part is just before an adventure ends, you know you have to get into a city, find a bike box, pack everything up; at this stage I loose all motivation to keep riding because I know the end is near so why bother prolonging it.

After being on the road for 17 months, the last month was tough. We had booked our flight and I just couldn’t motivate myself to get up and go, even though I knew I would look back and regret not taking that dirt road that would take an extra day, I lost the desire to take the road less travelled, hell, I lost the desire to even get on my bike. It’s also tough when the weather closes in on you, not just that odd day, but when it has been raining for the last four days and nights, everything you own is wet, at this point all I am dreaming off is a nice hotel room with enough space to hang everything I own up to dry!

Cyclists Jess and Danny Yates

How do you eat and sleep on the road?

Our first trip around Asia, we bought street food every day, we didn’t have a stove nor did we carry supplies, we could always rely on being able to find some form of shop that would usually cook us up some type of food even if we didn’t know what it was! We also didn’t carry a tent for this trip, cheap hotels were very easy to find as long as we weren’t fussy on the quality of the room. On some occasions, a tent would have been far nicer!

In South America, it was a whole different experience; we carried days worth of food at a time in our panniers and cooked almost all our meals on a small MSR WhisperLight camping stove, this thing will burn almost anything but we mostly used petrol or gasoline. We used to reward ourselves with a meal out once a month as a treat and to keep ourselves motivated. Pasta and rice can get pretty mundane after a month of eating it! We also carried a tent and sleeping bags on this trip, we had a Hilleberg Nallo 2 GT, it was an amazing home for us and only towards the end did the zips let us down.

Our sleeping bags are from mountain equipment, the dreamcatcher 500 range but I don’t think they are still made, these would also be the first thing we would replace, they were far too bulky in our panniers and took up most of our room. We are hoping to replace them soon with a Criterion bag due to its crazy small pack size!

Cyclists Jess and Danny Yates

What are your best advice for new adventurers and travelers?

The hardest part of any adventure is committing to it. My advice would be when you think you are sure you want to do it, book the flights, everything else will fall into place because it will have to.

So many of my friends talk of how jealous they are or how lucky I am. That’s rubbish! They were in the same position as myself when I left, I had a good job, a nice place and good friends, but I risked it all, I had the confidence to walk away from it and because of that I have had these amazing experiences.

Any one can do what I did, I am not an athlete, I am not super rich. I’m an average guy that was willing to give up some of the luxuries. I had become accustomed to in order to get away.

Cyclists Jess and Danny Yates

How do you prepare for your adventures and travels?

I read a lot of blogs before South America but to be honest, nothing can prepare you for that first day sitting on a fully loaded bike in a foreign country. I did not do any specific training although I was riding my bike to work as a way of getting used to it. When googling about a country often the same must see places crop up, some of them, actually a lot of the must see places, were a real disappointment after what we had seen on the road. They often felt fake and manufactured, the sights you see on the road aren’t for tourists, its real life and that’s one of the joys of travelling by bike, you taste, feel and smell a country, you’re part of it for a short period of time rather than just passing through it.

Cyclists Jess and Danny Yates

How do you finance your adventures and travels?

I’m a primary school teacher and in that sense I am lucky. I am able to work all over the world relatively easily. Every country will have international schools that I can apply for if the money is getting low. This is what I did after my trip in South East Asia. I ran out of money so I sent countless CV’s to every international school I could and I ended up working in Ho Chi Minh City for 15 months.

While there, I carried on living cheap and put as much money away as I possibly could. I then bought a new bike and flights and set off to South America. Gear is a big cost but it only really occurs once, sure, you have to replace parts when on the road but you are looking at 50 pounds here and there, not a huge amount when you think what you spend in normal day to day living!

Cyclists Jess and Danny Yates

How do you balance normal life with adventuring and traveling?

It can be hard being away for so long, I have missed some of my best friends’ weddings, christenings and big birthdays. The thing about friends and family though is that they are stoked for you, at least my friends and family are, anyway. They are happy your are out doing these awesome things and sure they would like to see more of you but they are living their lives just like I am living mine. In the last 6 years, I have spent just six months in the UK I think, but in this time I do my best to meet up with friends, and it’s at these times you realize who you want to be friends with, it’s like Facebook friends cull only a bit harsher.

Cyclists Jess and Danny Yates

What has been your best adventuring purchase below $100?

I love my Therm-a-rest NeoAir, it’s a little noisy at first but you soon get used to it and it’s so comfy. I’ve had a few different camping matts and this one stands out, it’s my favourite. We camped everywhere from rocky lake shore to a concrete parking lot and the mat was great on everything! Actually, wanting to go to bed is a real comfort when on these trips, there would be nothing worse than dreading getting into bed after a big day in the mountains.

I also love my Kindle. I wasn’t convinced when I bought it as I love to have a book in my hand and actually turn the pages but I am a convert. The joy of carrying in excess of 20 books and the bonus of having the PaperWhite version, which has a backlight is great. You can read without draining your torch battery and the battery on the kindle seems to last for ages.

Cyclists Jess and Danny Yates

What other favorite gear do you have?

We had to buy a water filter for this trip and we were undecided on what would be best for our style of travel, in the end we went with the Platypus GravityWorks and it was perfect for us.

You fill up the dirty water reservoir, hook it up to the filter and hang it up and leave it. No pumping, no sitting around squeezing; its a lazy mans filter, but after a tough day it means that I can get on with cooking while Jess sorts the tent and before we know it we have 4 litres of clean, drinkable water with very little effort!

Cyclists Jess and Danny Yates

What will the future bring?

We are already dreaming up the next adventure, it’s the best way to get over the post-trip blues. So far we are thinking a short tour in Ireland followed, hopefully, by Iceland next summer. After that, we will see, maybe the silk road?!

We also have our eyes on some new bikes, we realized how much we enjoyed getting off road on our last trip and our bikes weren’t perfectly set up for this. We are now looking at getting 3″ tyres and swapping the panniers for bike-packing bags. Got a few more months working before we can afford any of that though!!!

Follow Danny and Jess on their website and on Instagram

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