Graz.Tokyo #2: Two guys – twelve countries – one plan and a thousand adventures
Graz to Tokyo by bike: it’s an ambitious plan - especially for two young men who to date haven’t even clocked up a total of 500 kilometres on a bicycle between them. Perhaps that’s a prerequisite for rushing headlong into a dream of complete freedom on two wheels. Let the adventure begin...
Graz to Tokyo by bike: it’s an ambitious plan – especially for two young men who to date haven’t even clocked up a total of 500 kilometres on a bicycle between them. Perhaps that’s a prerequisite for rushing headlong into a dream of complete freedom on two wheels. When it comes to finances, luggage and friendship, however, the pair are not quite so reckless. A strict daily budget, a well-thought-out packing list and some couple therapy before the first crisis arises should help prepare for the next 365 days. After all, they don’t just want to start together in Graz, they want to still be best friends when they arrive in Tokyo.
Before setting off, Fabio and Elias went to ‘couple therapy’ with a psychologist. (…) It would be a shame for an adventure like this to pull a friendship apart rather than draw it together.
And they’re off!
The two friends from Graz got this idea in their heads some time ago. After spending a long time fleshing it out and filling in plenty of colourful detail, they set off on their adventure on March 10, 2019. How did the two find each other? Simple: they’ve been best friends since childhood. How did this idea come about? Well, that’s a longer story. Besides their long friendship, the two young men share a passion for travel and adventure. And a complete lack of passion for cycling! Whether anything changes (in their friendship, their fascination for foreign countries or the level of their love for cycling) after 14,000 kilometres in the saddle, only time will tell.
Bike Citizens’ Urban Independence Magazine will accompany these two guys on their itinerary, bringing not only up-to-date location checks from twelve nations, but also candid stories and the unvarnished truth from the two-man tent. Right where iron strength and steely friendship start to show the cracks.
What do you say to one another when everything has already been said? What do you think about when you’re not thinking about yesterday or tomorrow? What’s important when you’re no longer counting the kilometres under your wheels? We’ll be right there, all the way to Tokyo. Not on a bike, but still up close!
In search of limitless freedom.
The last preparations have been made, passports and visa applied for, doctors’ and vaccination appointments attended. The rough route has been planned, with a daily goal of 50 kilometres. Fabio has suspended his law studies in Graz to fulfil his big dream, Elias was able put his training as a medical masseur on hold until the autumn of 2020. These two globetrotters are leaving everyday life behind as they journey into the unknown. The feeling of not knowing what challenge the next day will bring both fascinates and excites Fabio and Elias.
Let the search for unlimited freedom begin. Letting the anticipation of endless desert and steppe landscapes and breathtaking mountain passes drive them onward. Far away from everyday life, obligations and deadline pressures. Though there can’t be a complete absence of deadline pressure: Fabio and Elias have to be at the Russian border on April 27 if the trip to Tokyo is to continue. The Russians are definitely not going to turn a blind eye to an expired visa!
The Limits of Freedom
A journey like this – even if reduced to the essentials – costs money. With their own savings and financial support from friends and family, Fabio and Elias have a daily budget of 10 € available. That’s between them, of course. So the pair will only manage to get a cosy bed or warm shower if they find some kind ‘sofa surfing’ hosts. Nights will be spent in a tent, as befits a proper adventure.
Luggage will also be minimal; after all, on a journey of 14,000 kilometres, every gram counts. So only the bare essentials will make it into the panniers. Along with the tent and survival package, there’s space in the luggage for the lads’ photography and filming gear. Luckily, a photographer friend taught Fabio and Elias the basics shortly before their departure. Documenting the journey with moving pictures is especially important to them both.
In addition to technical preparation, physical and mental preparation was also planned in. Well, OK – to check their physical condition, Elias and Fabio tested their new wheels on slightly hilly terrain on a ‘long-distance ride’ over 50 kilometres to southern Styria and back. A day stage, so to speak. They seemed to have more concerns about mental fitness. Before setting off, Fabio and Elias had ‘couple therapy’ with a psychologist. If you’re spending a year together, day and night, arguments are inevitable. And it would be a shame for an adventure like this to pull a friendship apart rather than draw it together.
Having gained some experience, been eased with deer tallow, and fuelled up on enthusiasm, it’s time to hit the next round of daily stages. And their constant companion: the dream of unlimited freedom…”
Storms, hospitality and emergency surgery: check!
After a private farewell party on March 10, family, friends and numerous enthusiastic spectators gathered at the Graz Schlossberg to bid them farewell on their great adventure. The pair cycled across the Hungarian border to Lake Balaton. Each with a fully loaded pair of wheels, these two adventurers have repeatedly been invited in for coffee, meals, and even on one occasion a bed for the night.
Thunderstorms, poor road conditions, some empty kilometres and a flat tyre did nothing to spoil Fabio and Elias’ mood – but a medical emergency in Hungary did briefly dampen spirits. After treatment for an abscess forced an unplanned break, the boys had to wait longer in Hungary. Against medical advice, Fabio and Elias decided to continue cycling towards Romania as long as physical condition permitted. Kilometre after kilometre, the boys battled onward, arriving at the Romanian border just two weeks after their start in Graz.
Their seven key insights after getting the
first 800 kilometres under their wheels:
1. Long hours in the saddle demand more than expected from the backside
2. Concerns about wild camping are diminishing
3. Shared suffering is half the pain, shared pleasure is twice the joy
4. Communication in Hungarian hospitals is dead easy when using Google Translate
5. Palinka (Hungarian plum brandy) should be enjoyed with care and in small doses
6. Hospitality in the East is truly awesome
7. East Hungary has some beautiful spots and wide open expanses to offer
The boys have a few kilometres through Romania, Moldova and Ukraine ahead of them before they reach the Russian border. There’s still some time left before April 27, but the past two weeks have shown Elias and Fabio that things don’t always go according to plan. The duo are still full of confidence, and have their first big intermediate target clearly in sight.
Having gained some experience, been eased with deer tallow, and fuelled up on enthusiasm, it’s time to hit the next round of daily stages. And their constant companion: the dream of unlimited freedom…
Want to find out more?
Read more about Fabio and Elias and their film on the pair’s Website
About the author Melanie Almer
That there could possibly be people who own more than one bike was something this sporty copywriter and author from Graz couldn’t fathom until five years ago. Today, this marketing consultant wouldn’t be without a city bike, racing bike and mountain bike. Even gossiping with friends is better in the saddle than on the sofa. Melanie Almer will be accompanying Elias and Fabio on their journey for Bike Citizens – from her desk at Konzepterei. She will maintain close contact with the two and write regularly about the Graz.Tokyo cycling adventure.