The year has begun on an unstable note, with natural disasters or geopolitical tensions skyrocketing, placing millions of people in tenuous situations. Travel is seen as riskier than ever, with annual reports of countries that are unsafe for women, or embassies issuing travel warning to politically unstable areas.
Fredrika Ek, a young woman from Sweden, has helped break many stereotypes about traveling to remote corners of the world, and helped quash fears that many solo female travellers have about far-off locations. She has managed to accomplish the Herculean task of biking to over 40 countries across continents, starting from her hometown in Sweden, through Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South America, and West Africa, circling back to her home base.
This three-year journey was inspired by a simple desire — to push herself beyond the limits. “I wanted to push boundaries, I guess, or get to know what I’m capable of and where that limit that everyone keeps telling me about actually is,” Fredrika explains in an interview with Trift. For Fredrika, her initial aim was to simply test her own boundaries, showing that, without restrictions, human beings are capable of truly incredible feats.
Her travel experiences have not been easy but have been extremely eye-opening, especially for a solo female traveller. Despite the world being more connected than ever, many are still nervous about travelling to foreign lands, as they question their safety. One question I get asked more than anything else, is how dangerous or how at risk it must have been, going through the middle east, or these remote mountains of the world”, she adds, opening the discussion on the feasibility for travellers to visit far-off locations. Most fears are heightened by sensationalist media pieces, as these regions house some of the most welcoming people Fredrika has come across. “The one country in the world where I’ve been taken care of the most and had the biggest, warmest, most overwhelming welcome by the people has been in Iran, in the Middle East. Just that, in itself, says a lot,” she adds.
Her journey also involved severe budgeting, and she travelled with a tent and a small gas stove, allowing her to be self-sufficient. A budget of 10 euros a day seems like a pittance, but she was able to survive on much less, thanks in part to the generosity of the various communities she came across. Her blog, “the Bike Ride”, details her journey and her route through the six continents. Overall, her trip cost approximately 15,000 euros.
Solo travelling is one of the best ways to discover important qualities about oneself, including the idea of reliability and trust. “The truth is, that my view of people has changed a lot. I learned what trust is, I guess, that’s not only about me trusting others, but what the value is of others trusting me,” she says, adding that the idea of solo female travelling being risky is misleading — in every space she has visited, women were seen as trustworthy figures, and that is one of the strongest points women have in current society.
After three years of travelling around the world, Fredrika’s journey is far from over. Using the attention that she has garnered, she has now partnered with Actionaid, an international non-governmental organisation whose aim is to work against poverty and injustice, and support girls and women around the world. Thanks to her travels, the organisation has raised over a million Swedish Kronor, and she hopes to further their reach with continued talks, conferences, and events to promote awareness. “To me, my drive is to be able to always talk about this, to actually say something that matters,” she adds, using her travels as a platform to voice serious concerns.
Her other wish is to continue travelling, and she has her eyes set on a tour that is a little closer to home. “I’m looking at Google Maps at the moment,” she laughs. “I want to see if the next adventure will start taking me through Eastern Europe, which is still one part back here at home that I have not seen yet,” she explains.
She has also worked on a book deal, and the work is titled “Around the world in 1000 days”, documenting her 1042-day long bike ride across 45 countries, covering over 50,000 kilometres on her bike. The novel takes the reader along her arduous journey, over mountaintops, across deserts, and straight into the lives of people she met and touched throughout her journey.
Her travels have inspired other enthusiasts to take up similar challenges for worthy causes. One example is in the United Arab Emirates, when Chris Fritze cycled from Germany to the UAE, arriving in Sharjah by the ferry. His aim is to provide funds for classrooms for underprivileged children in Sudan; another story is that of Vlad Belozerov, a 21-year old who travelled via footbike from Russia to the UAE. Such challenges are now being taken up by more people, promoting a number of causes around the world while still showing the importance and ease of travel. For those looking to stay healthy, look for environmentally-friendly ways to travel, and travel cheap, biking has now become more popular than ever.
Fredrika Ek’s journey, to me, is awe-inspiring. Being from a small town in Sweden, Fredrika was still able to make a name for herself on the global stage and bring awareness to pressing issues and concerns with a savings account of a few thousand euros, and a trusted bicycle. That, personally, is the best part. She sees herself as a smalltown girl from Sweden, who was looking for something to do after her graduation. That simple moment of questioning, combined with curiosity and determination, resulted in a fantastic journey across 45 countries spread over six continents.
In a world where it seems like the common person must struggle more and more in order to survive, she has managed to show us the importance of nature, the pure simplicity of a bike ride, and the fact that anyone can take a leap of faith and make a decision that positively affects the lives of countless others. Follow her journey on her Instagram and thebikeramble.com
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