Not many Taiwanese have traveled around the world before turning 30, let alone on a bicycle, but Wu Shih-chang (吳時暢), a 30-year-old Taipei native, has nearly accomplished just that on his first-ever overseas trip.
He is still yearning to travel a bit more.
Wu has traveled across two continents in 20 months on a two-wheeler, a mode of travel not for the faint-hearted. The idea came to him one day in 2010.
At the time, Wu said, he had gradually been losing his passion for life after having spent all his years in the concrete jungle of Taipei. He yearned for a change. That was when he came up with the idea of cycling around the world.
“Traveling around the world should not just be a dream ... no matter how hard it is, I will accomplish it with passion and perseverance,” he wrote in a blog entry.
To prepare for the trip, he started by cycling across Taiwan. After checking that off on his to-do list, he flew to Alaska in June last year and began his trip.
He cycled across Alaska, Canada, the US, Mexico, Belize and Central America before pedaling south to Peru, Chile and Argentina.
He flew or traveled by boat when necessary. He weathered a snowstorm on a mountain road in Argentina, experienced acute altitude sickness in Peru and once had diarrhea for a week.
Despite all this, he said that after witnessing the beauty of plateaus, experiencing desert weather and feeling coastal breezes, all the discomfort went away. Money was a big issue and visa fees accounted for his largest expenses.
As Taiwan lacks formal diplomatic ties with many countries, entering other countries can be expensive. He had originally planned to fly from Argentina to South Africa, but was unable to as the South African embassy in Argentina denied him a visa.
He traveled to Europe instead and spent his 30th birthday at an airport in Madrid.
His journey took a turn for the worse on Friday when his bicycle, donated by Taiwanese bike maker Giant, was stolen in Paris. Wu was forced to contact his friends in Taiwan and ask them to send another bike so he could continue his trip.
He said he did not know when he would finish traveling, but that the trip has made him realize the importance of family.