She Changed Her Corporate Job For a Solo Bike Ride Around the World and Has Never Been Happier
Picture this: you’re at your desk, at a job you’re not exactly crazy about, and dare to ask yourself, "what would I do if I weren’t afraid?" The answer that rushes to your mind is you’d get on a bike and travel the world by yourself. So you quit your job, take a one-way flight to the place you’ll begin your trip, and never look back.
In a few words, that’s the story of Juanita Arias, the 27-year-old Colombian who completed a one-year bike ride from Vietnam to Spain in 2018. If you’re anything like us you have a million questions about the why and how of this story, so read on for the details of her astonishing journey, that by the way, is just beginning.
In all honesty, there’s more to the way Juanita decided to get on that bike. It wasn't exactly a decision she made in one day. Like most of us, she had many concerns about should's and cannot's. But around the time she was fidgeting with the idea, a childhood friend passed away, and “looking back, that was the trigger that started all this,” Juanita told Mindful Feminism. “I thought to myself, ‘what are we all doing?’, we can die right now, and here we are, doubting the possibility of making our dreams come true to carry out all the ‘obligations’ of our lives.”
As you can imagine, Juanita has always loved bikes. She rode to school and to work, but never really thought she’d be doing it across the world. Here’s her description of day 1: “the first day I was obviously full of fear and excitement I got on the bike, and I perfectly remember being amidst the crazy Vietnam traffic, feeling so vulnerable, basically learning to ride a bike again because of the amount of weight I carried. I just felt so small in this world, but at the end of the day, after 80km (50mi), I had never felt more powerful.”
“Rain or shine” took a very literal meaning in Juanita’s crossing. “Some days, even weeks, were very overwhelming, especially when it wouldn’t stop raining and I had to be going up steep hills, but that’s also how I really learned to find motivation within. I remembered the days at the office when I dreamed of being out there, seeing the world, and at the moment, when my legs where killing me, or the weather was crazy, I tried to tell myself ‘there’s no time for complaining, you’re doing it, you’re making your dreams come true!’”
The solitude of the trip has taught Juanita invaluable lessons about herself. “One of the things I’ve loved the most about this trip is learning the power we have to motivate ourselves when we’re alone. In solitude, all of your feelings intensify: if you’re happy, your ecstatic, I had days when I would sing at the top of my lungs; and when I was sad or nostalgic, I would sob on the bike, unapologetically.”
“One of the most breathtaking memories until now has been the moment I reached the Tibetan Plateau. Getting there and seeing that immensity, I couldn’t avoid the joyful tears that ran down my face”. But if she had to choose one thing that has made it all worth it, it would be the people. “I’ve realized people are wonderful everywhere, places, cultures, all of that doesn’t matter, people are always willing to help, and for me, that has just been, wow. All the prejudice I had in my head completely vanished. Humans are very social and caring beings, no matter where you are.”
One day in Switzerland, after fifteen days without entering a home and biking at -2ºC (23ºF), a woman came up to her offering a place to stay and a warm meal including a toast to the success of her trip. Women, in fact, have been the ones to express the most amount of solidarity on this voyage.
“This trip has allowed me to see female solidarity in a new way, everywhere I’ve been women who see me alone have offered all kinds of help.” This realization helped to demystify the “women are out to get each-other” ideas Juanita previously had. “I used to think, ‘women are so hard on each other,’ or ‘I prefer to have guy friends’ but my experience on this trip has completely changed that mindset. Knowing that all around the world there are women who are going to be there for me gives me peace. Literally, when I saw a woman during the trip, I’d breathe easy again.”
Fascinating things happen when we let go of fear, Juanita is perfect proof, and she's not done inspiring us. On February 8th, her latest adventure begins: biking from Patagonia to Alaska! Yes, you read that right. We wish her the best of luck and can't wait to hear again from this fantastic woman.
Distance Travelled: 17629 Km / 10954.153 Mi
Average Daily Distance: 85Km (Longest is 150Km)/ 52.81 Mi (Longest is 93.20 Mi)
Days Traveling: 345
Days of Camping: 156
Number of Flat Tires: More than 15, she’s lost count.