After 22 Countries, the Freewheelers Explain How to Take a Sabbatical and Live Two Lives

Ewan and Katie (28) from The Freewheelers, have been travelling around the world by bicycle for the last nine months covering 18,000 kms in 22 countries.

In this interview, they share everything about their alternative lives – and how it’s really different from their real lives in London.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

In our real lives we are Katie Halliday and Ewan Paterson, both 28, a marketing consultant and drinks salesman living in London, although originally from Southampton and Edinburgh.

In our alternative lives we are currently leading, we are on the last leg of our round the world cycle trip, heading from Athens back to London. We’ve already covered 18,000km having passed through 22 countries and four continents in the last nine months.

Cyclists Ewan Paterson and Katie Halliday

How and why did you get into cycling and traveling?

We had been into casual Sunday road cycling, but we had never considered doing a bike tour, until a chance meeting with a friend one Saturday morning whilst running in a park.

We went for coffee afterwards and she told us about her friend James who had recently completed a round the world cycle. We met James for a drink and he explained about his trip. It sounded so adventurous and fun, we were inspired and decided that we wanted to do something similar.

From our meeting with James, it took us about nine months to plan, save enough money and sort things out with work. Katie is a freelance marketing consultant so managed to work it out with her clients that she’d take a year’s break – and Ewan’s company kindly agreed to let him take a 12-month sabbatical.

Cyclists Ewan Paterson and Katie Halliday

Why is adventuring and traveling important for you?

It’s easy to get stuck in your comfort zone, and find yourself getting up and going to work week in week out every week until you retire, without having gotten out and seen the world.

Going on an adventure like this is a constant test of your resilience, initiative and mental and physical toughness. Every day is a new adventure and you never know where it will end. It’s an incredible way to see beautiful places, meet new people and learn about the world we live in.

Cyclists Ewan Paterson and Katie Halliday

What has been the best parts of your cycling adventures?

The best parts have come in the most unexpected places. Cycling through the beautiful lakes and breath taking mountains of Kyrgyzstan – a country we’d never heard of before our trip – was an experience we’ll never forget.

The hospitality we experienced in so called dangerous countries was like Bangladesh and Turkey was humbling and reaffirmed our belief in humanity.

In a hilarious night in Nepal, we ended up being invited back to a local’s house. One thing led to another and we ended up in full Nepalese wedding clothing with a family photo on the sofa!

Cyclists Ewan Paterson and Katie Halliday

What has been the most difficult parts?

The most dangerous and difficult times have come on the roads. Some of the driving in the developing world is so reckless it borders on suicidal. Huge trucks steaming past unbelievably close, and roads so bad they are made of rubble.

Getting almost mauled by six wild dogs in Turkey, and a near escape from a robbery in hotel room in India were also scary moments, but the vast majority of the time we’ve been made to feel incredibly safe and welcomed like royalty.

Cyclists Ewan Paterson and Katie Halliday

How do you eat and sleep on the road?

We’ve slept in every conceivable place in our nine months on the road. In our tent, in guest houses, hostels, horse boxes, under bridges, slept rough, slept under the stars, slept in temples, churches and mosques and with kind strangers who have invited us into their house.

Our tent is a Hiliberg, Anjan 2 and one of our top pieces of advice would be to invest in good sleeping bag liners – these keep you cool in hot climates and add an extra layer of warmth in cold places.

Where we sleep largely depends on where we are in the world – in India we didn’t feel safe camping, so slept in guest houses – they only cost around $6/night. In developed countries, we try to avoid paying for accommodation as much as we can so take whatever we can get.

In Asia, we primarily ate at roadside restaurants as the food is delicious and incredibly cheap. In developed countries and remote places, we cooked our own food from a small camp stove. We didn’t use an MSR as found it awkward to maintain and heavy to carry. We used a small canister of compressed camping gas, which can boil water in minutes.

Cyclists Ewan Paterson and Katie Halliday

What are your best advice for new cyclists and adventurers?

Two key bits of advice – the first would be … to just do it!

The hardest part of a big trip is actually making the brave decision to get out the door and go. Once you have made the decision to do it, you will find a way to get the time off work, save the money and put all your affairs in order.

You won’t regret it. We certainly don’t, and not one person we’ve met on the road (and there have been many) regret going on an adventure. We have, however, had countless messages from people at home who say things like, “I wish I’d have done something like this when I was your age”. Do you want to be one of these people?

The second bit of advice would be go as light as possible with kit. Unless you are going to an extremely cold climate, or require specialized equipment, you don’t need front paniers. Go as light and lean as possible, only take the bare minimum and you will be thankful when you’re powering up the mountain passes!

Cyclists Ewan Paterson and Katie Halliday

How do you prepare for your cycling adventures?

We prepared by a week long trip around the Scottish Islands on the west coast. It was brilliant preparation as the conditions can be extreme – rain and wind – it’s very challenging cycling, but also a beautiful part of the world. This trip meant we could test our kit out and make sure it was fit for purpose.

An example of how this was useful was one night we camped in a near hurricane, and half our tent pegs blew out the ground meaning our tent was flapping around like a useless sail! Thankfully we were rescued by a kind fellow camper, but after this we invested in some stronger pegs and made a few other tweaks to our kit.

Cyclists Ewan Paterson and Katie Halliday

How do you finance your cycling adventures?

We didn’t work whilst on our trip, we saved up our money whilst at home and have been budgeting it throughout the year. We didn’t look for financial sponsors, although did get some free clothes and have had discounts with various bike shops in return for mentions on our blog and Instagram feed.

In developed countries i.e. USA, NZ and Europe, we budgeted $15/head/day for everything including food/accommodation, etc. Using our tent as much as possible was key as once you start paying for accommodation the costs go through the roof.

In Asia, the cost of living is so much cheaper so we could live off around $5/person/day. There are always hidden costs like new tyres, bike parts and other things that inevitably go wrong so you’ll need to budget for things to go wrong, but it’s certainly possible to live very cheaply, provided you are comfortable sleeping in some interesting places!

Cyclists Ewan Paterson and Katie Halliday

How do you balance normal life with cycling?

We decided to do our trip when we did as we didn’t have any ties to “normal life”, no kids, no mortgage and no dependent relatives. In our case, it wasn’t so much a case of “balancing with normal life”, but finding a time in our normal lives that enabled us to take the time off.

Cyclists Ewan Paterson and Katie Halliday

What has been your best adventuring purchase below $100?

We have a Leatherman multi tool pen knife that we use pretty much every day, it cost around $30 and has many functions like knife, pliers, screwdriver etc.

We each also have a rucksack that folds up to the size of a fist. The brand is called “Dare2B”, and in terms of value for money it’s been probably our best bit of kit. It’s very strong so can hold a lot of weight, weighs nothing, and only cost around $15.

What other favorite gear do you have?

Our Hileberg tent was expensive, but worth it. On something as important as a tent it’s worth spending a bit of money to invest in a high quality kit. Ours is incredibly lightweight, simple to erect and fast-drying. The only thing I’d change about it is to get a free standing tent that can easily be erected on concrete.

Our shoes are Shimano touring shoes that have cleats, but are also suitable for gentle hiking and walking around town. Save weight by getting these and not carrying around an extra pair for when you’re off the bike.

What will the future bring?

When we return home we’ll return to work, and we are actually recently engaged so getting married will be the next adventure!

Down the line we will resurrect The Freewheelers and do another cycle trip – we’ve never been to South America so maybe that will be the next adventure!

Cyclists Ewan Paterson and Katie Halliday

Follow Ewan and Katie on their website and on Instagram.

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