MEET OLGA AND MICHEL
Lovers do a lot of things together. When you are in a relationship with someone, you tend to want to do all sorts of activities together. Couples take vacations, cook together, go shopping together and sometimes even work at the same place. But for Michel and Olga, the story is very different. Their commitment towards each other and their passion for travel is unrivaled. This is the story of two enthusiastic and radical travelers who decided to change the way they wanted to see the world – and have one of the most brilliant journeys that we have ever come across.
Meet Olga and Michel. Olga is originally from Russia and Michel is from Germany. In 2012, Olga moved to Hamburg for work and as destiny would conspire – her first home was a flat share with Michel. That is how they first met. They are two cheerful travelers who have cycled more than 30,000 km around the world. And YES! Your eyes have not deceived you. CYCLED! They travel the world on their two bikes. For the areas which are unreachable by biking, they use normal modes of transportations like flights, ferries or buses. But apart from the needed few, they are always on their bikes; zooming around the world. Just recently, they have celebrated their 2 year anniversary on the road.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
Up until 2015, they were just another normal everyday couple. Going to work, coming back and taking short trips together whenever possible. But after that fated year, everything changed for them. Their first vacation together was in 2014, where they traveled to the country of Thailand. Olga enjoyed it immensely and Michel began to take the concept of a World Tour more seriously. At first, they had envisioned doing everything in the most mundane way. Flights and cheap hotel rooms and sightseeing of the common tourist spots. In 2015, they came across triathlete Carmen Mickley’s blog. And inspiration struck! They decided that they too would take up their bikes and prepare for traveling all around the world with it.
They began to research extensively about how to go through with such a plan which seemed quite mind-boggling at first. During their Sweden vacation in the summer of 2015, Michel gifted Olga the perfect inspirational book. It was called Two to Shanghai: 13600 kilometers by bike from Germany to China. Written by brothers Hansen Hoepner and Paul Hoepner, the book chronicles their entire bike journey to the city of Shanghai, traversing through various exotic locations. This made Olga and Michel extremely rooted in their own plan and also helped them to learn that such a massive plan can be safe and beneficial after all. So they quit their jobs, packed their things and began. And now, in 2018, they have ridden their cycles for more than 1885 hours; bearing through sun, rain, cloudy weather, and even snow.
We were extremely humbled and proud to host such inspirational people in our hostel. We were actively waiting to know more about their journey and how this has changed them as people and what they have learned from it. Here is a little transcript of the heartwarming conversation we had with this wonderful couple:
TH: Team Hosteller
OM: Olga and Michel
TH: When did you begin traveling on cycles?
OM: After 9 months of planning and saving and selling unnecessary stuff, we started cycling on the 24th of May, 2016. Our first trip was to the hometown of our parents 100 kms away.
TH: How long have you been doing this?
OM: Before this, we were just using bicycles for local commute; mostly to and from work. Our first official tour is this World Tour that we are on.
TH: What inspired you to use bicycles?
OM: This was initially for cost cutting because bicycles are a cheaper mode of transportation, nature-friendly, good for health and are quite safer in comparison to faster modes of transportation. But it is not always a bed of roses. On our tour of Tajikistan, we met with quite a major accident. We were cycling on a rocky road and our front tyre slipped on a rock. Unfortunately, there was a river running just beside us. And the camera that Michel was filming on slipped out of his hands into the river. We could not find the camera as much as we looked, and lost a lot of saved videos that we didn’t have backups of. Even though it was traumatic, we look back at it and laugh now.
TH: Have you participated in any competitions?
OM: *laughing* No competitions as our cycles are not racing bicycles and we have never been interested in competitions anyway.
TH: What places/countries have you visited?
OM: So far we have visited 33 different countries. France, Germany, Netherlands, Russia, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Iran, Oman, Nepal to name a few. India is the 34th country. It helps that Michael is really good with navigation and orientation. Once he looks at a map, it is imprinted in his head. We usually do not have to worry about getting lost or confused with directions.
TH: What is the first place you ever went?
OM: Amsterdam was our first. We had been there before and it was very beautiful so we wanted to go there on our bicycles. We really enjoyed all the local coffee shops that the city has to offer. Even the roads there are very bicycle friendly. In India, we have to cycle on the main road itself.
TH: What difficulties/challenges do you face while traveling?
OM: The weather is something that takes a toll. It is quite unpredictable and ends up causing problems. It is especially difficult to cycle in the snow. Apart from that, general wear and tear of equipment is also an issue we have to tackle.
TH: Where do you usually stay?
OM: We prefer living in the tents that we carry with us. Since we are bicyclers, we usually do not have fixed spots for shelter. So these camps are extremely helpful. When there aren’t places to camp, we stay at the hostels. Michael enjoys staying in hostels.
TH: How have you liked your stay at The Hosteller?
OM: We have loved staying at The Hosteller. Both the Delhi and the Rishikesh properties are really beautiful. We have made friends with lots of energetic travelers. This is truly the best place for us to rest, relax, get the new power and rejuvenate for our next tour cycle.
TH: Does traveling bring you closer together?
OM: Yes, because now we spend 24 hrs together. Before we were working and only could see each other at the weekends. We have learned a lot about each other and it’s nice to have a partner, who has the same dreams and hobbies and wants to travel the world. On the 1st of June, 2016 – we got married. This trip is essentially a honeymoon trip.
TH: What tips/advice do you have for people traveling or wanting to travel like you guys?
OM: The most difficult thing is to start! Quitting your jobs, selling unnecessary stuff, and just getting the courage to Get Up and GO! Apart from that traveling isn’t difficult. Everyone can do it. Don’t be shy. Go to people and ask. ASK! People will be super happy to help you. And always remember to save for travel.
TH: How do you arrange your funds?
OM: I am a mechanical engineer and Olga is a graphic designer. We have saved our salaries for 9 long months so we could fulfill our dreams of traveling the world. We sold our apartment, and all unnecessary items to arrange funds for our trip.
TH: How do you decide where to go next?
OM: There are a lot of countries that we plan to see. Our website has a map of all the places that we would like to go to next.
TH: What are some must-have travel essentials that you never forget to carry?
Canned and packed food
Spare parts of the bicycles
Tents and foldable mattress(sleep is very important because cycling is stressful so you need rest)
A portable cooking stove
An e-book reader
Really comfortable clothing
A camera for photos and memories.
TH: What country has been your favorite so far?
OM: Iran has by far been our favorite.
TH: Where do you want to go next?
OM: Our next plan is to tour as much of India as possible. We have to see the entire country.
TH: How do you like India?
OM: India is a really vibrant country. There are so many cultures here and so many different types of traditions. Ranging from music to clothes to food. Even the fruits here are really yummy!!
TH: What is the longest you have cycled without stopping and where?
OM: That would be 134 Kms in South Of Russia.
TH: When and how did you learn to fix your bicycles?
OM: Michael is a mechanical engineer so he knows how to fix bicycles. Youtube videos have also helped us a lot. The online community is sometimes a lifesaver.
TH: What are some of your other interests?
OM: Olga is a graphic designer so she designs and illustrates in her spare time. I have an interest in photography so I end up taking most of our video travelogues and photographs.
TH: Tell us some special memories of your global travel.
OM: We once found a baby chicken in Iran on the roadside and raised it for 6 months on our bicycle. We named it Herta. And then we gave it to a family who wouldn’t eat it so that the chicken could live a long and healthy natural life. It was so special because whenever we called Herta she used to come running to us. We were practically everything for her.
In Mumbai, we got to celebrate Holi for the first time. 5 days later when we were traveling from Mumbai to Goa, we came across a group of people who were totally stained dark pink. I was in front and Michael was behind me and then they colored Michael. He tried his best to wash it off but it didn’t. The colored stayed on him for more than 2 whole weeks.
TH: What is something that you have learned in all your travels?
OM: There is a lot of things that we have experienced in our journey and we have also learned a lot of things about the world. The only thing we can say right now is that the world is a beautiful place with amazing people everywhere. And we hope it stays the same.
Olga and Michel are currently in the pilgrim city of Rishikesh, staying at The Hosteller. Soon they will start their cycle tour of the Himalayas. To know more about this ingenious couple; visit their website. Their Instagram handle is @rausgefahrenand, you can also check out their travel vlogs on their Youtube channel.