Xu Yukan, 71, always had dreams of cycling around the world. But his duties as a father held him back. “I’d wanted to do this since 1999, but my family held me back,” Xu told SCMP. So he waited until his kids were adults and taking care of themselves before the idea came rushing back to him.
In 2007, when he was 61, he bought his bicycle and stored it at his friend’s house. He didn’t want his family to know what he was going to embark on. He worried his family would talk him out of it. One day Xu got up and started biking from his hometown in Nanyang, China. He was so scared of what his wife would say he didn’t tell her until 60 miles later.
At the three year mark, he covered China, Macau, and Hong Kong. Then he traveled to Southern Asia, covering Laos, Thailand, and Malaysia. Right after that, he bicycled through Russia, Mongolia, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar. Recently he traveled through Australia after he biked through Europe. Because of his travels, he is now broke.
Xu’s usual routine would be to fly to a destination, if he can’t bike there, cycle through the country, then fly back home. His accommodation is his tent while he travels. He’s gotten so used to living in his tent, that when he’s home in China he prefers to sleep in it.
This lifestyle stripped him of his life savings and now he’s fundraising so he can fly to Africa, and North and South America. Along his ten years of traveling, he’s written a diary detailing his expedition that he sells copies of for $1.50 to aid in his travels.
“It seemed too costly to them,” Xu told the SCMP talking about how his four children stopped giving him money. “I have so far covered half of the globe, but my children remain unsupportive of what I’m doing, although they aren’t stopping me from doing it either. They worry about me.” Nevertheless, he thinks his family will slowly come around as he gets more and more media exposure.
Xu started this to scratch an itch that’s been bugging him his whole life. When he embarked on this journey, Xu wanted to fulfill his dream but also raise awareness for cutting down on one’s footprint on this world. But it’s a become a lifestyle now. Not only does it bring so much satisfaction in his life, but it also brings him great health. ” Cycling has not only alleviated the heart disease and stomach problems I used to suffer 10 years ago, it’s also made me healthier, stronger and happier.”