JAN-BATHYSTE Goudreau pulls out a map of the world and begins to outline the continents with his index finger.
“I started in Montreal six months ago,” he says, pausing over the Canadian city. “I did the Appalachian Mountains, went to New Orleans and I did the coast to Mexico. Then I crossed Mexico and Central America. The next step is to take a boat from Panama to Ecuador, then go through the mountains to Buenos Aires or go to the ChiloéIslands,” he says, tracing diverging paths down through South America.
He slides his finger over the Atlantic Ocean. “Then I’ll take a plane to North Africa, Morocco to Egypt, then on to the Middle East, through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Istanbul. Then go back and do Iran, Pakistan, India, Nepal and South East Asia to Singapore and Indonesia.”
“On to Australia and New Zealand and some islands here,” he circles around the South Pacific. “And then take a plane to Vancouver and cross back to Montreal.” He looks up from the map. That’s a long trip.
IN fact, it’s inconceivably long to most people. Perhaps not by car, bus or plane, but when you consider that Goudreau is making his journey by bicycle, it seems unimaginable. Less than a year ago, Goudreau was spending his days sitting in front of a computer screen designing plans for hospitals Montreal. Unsatisfied, he wanted something more.
“When you’re a student, you think being an architect is exciting,” he told The Tico Times recentl during his stay in San José.
“It’s not true. It’s a good job, but at the end of the day you don’t have any interaction except with your computer. I worked as an architect for 10 years and I saved my money like almost everybody. After 10 years I realized it would be crazy to just keep this money in the bank. I thought ‘OK, I’m 40 now, let’s use this money.’”
SO he began planning a bike trip to end all bike trips, one that would span more than 100,000 kilometers, taking him to all corners of the world, from the Amazon to the Nile, from the Andes to the Himalayas, across straits and seas and deserts.
“You can prepare this kind of trip in a month or two weeks,” he says. “But I took one year to prepare – mentally, more than physically.”
In fact, he says he did almost no physical training before starting his trip. While he had been into biking before, he says he conditioned while he rode, starting out slowly and adding distance to his daily ride over time.
ON Aug. 1, after almost a year of planning, Goudreau peddled out of Montreal. He left everything behind – family, friends, job, apartment, furniture, cat, plants – and travels with only four small packs strapped over the front and back of his bicycle.
Riding roughly 80 km each day takes him five to six hours. Allotting himself roughly $10 a day, Goudreau estimates the entire trip will run him slightly over $10,000. In the United States he spent more but figures it will average out while passing through countries in the Middle and Far East.
Goudreau saves money by finding places he can stay for free. In the United States, he got in touch with several people on the Warm Shower List: people, primarily other cyclists, who open their homes to people traveling the country by bicycle (www.rogergravel.com/wsl/vh_for_a.html.)
In Mexico, he camped on the beach. In larger cities, such as San José, he stays in hostels. Outside of town, he asks in restaurants, churches, police stations and Red Crosses if he can sleep there.
Sometimes he is offered a shower or a bed or a meal. Other nights, he puts his sleeping bag on the floor or ground, sleeping a few hours before heading out again.
WHILE he attempts to keep his schedule flexible, Goudreau must take into account that he has to reach certain countries before it is too hot or cold to travel there. This can clash with his desire to take in all he can in each country.
“In a way it’s a bad thing, traveling the world,” he says. “You have to keep going but you also have to see something. If you just ride and don’t see anything, why travel?” For the most part, the trip has been an amazing adventure.
Passing through El Salvador has been one of the highlights of the trip.
“There are not many tourists in El Salavador,” he says. “[The locals] were really happy to see me. They would come talk to me and invite me to their homes or to visit their country by car.”
The kindness of the people he’s encountered as well as the breathtaking sights he’s seen keep Goudreau going day after day. However, he admits there are drawbacks.
He was robbed on a bus in Costa Rica while taking a break from his bike trip to see the country. There is the occasional flat tire. And sometimes on long stretches loneliness sets in.
“You’re riding for six hours alone,” he says. “You see people passing but you just say hello and keep going. Most of the people I meet are in restaurants when I stop to eat.”
ALTHOUGH the end of his journey is still years away, Goudreau is already certain that his life will be drastically changed when he returns.
“I’ve thought a lot about this,” he says. “I don’t want to go back to architecture. I would like to work with people or plants or animals.”
However, right now he is primarily focused on the moment.
“It’s a dream of a lot of people to travel,” says Goudreau. “I want to see other people, other countries, learn languages.”
With that thought, Goudreau says he must be going, he has to be in Panama in three days. After all, there is still so much road left to cover and so much of the world left to see.
Carefully, he folds up his map and prepares to leave.
To follow his progress, see www.jibi.ca.