Ward and Jacky Budweg – with fellow biker, Jeff Friedhof – Take Tires to the World Once Again
Intro and Interview by Aryn Henning Nichols
Ward and Jacky Budweg are some of the most inspiring people we here at Inspire(d) know. Not that they’d want us to say that out loud (whoops – just did!). But c’mon – after traveling the world for three years, they had to know they were going to inspire a few folks.
“Our trip really wasn’t all that different from any other exploration – it’s all about getting out there for new experiences, no matter where or what you do!” Jacky says with her trademark enthusiasm and positive attitude.
That said, a trip around the world – on bike, no less – IS pretty amazing. On June 24 of 2007, they left Decorah with their bikes, tent, an arsenal of (light) tools – and each other, of course – for an adventure of a lifetime. Starting in Germany, they biked all over the globe, planting feet in 46 countries and tires in 40. Just over three years later, on June 30 of 2010, they peddled home to the Driftless Region (with local friends meeting up to make the ride with them)…but even before that ride back into the valley, they were gearing up for their next adventure.
“When we were in South America, there was a cyclist who said, ‘You guys have to go to India. It’s like no place you will ever go.’ They said it was just so different culturally than even China or Vietnam or Cambodia or any other Asia country …so of course, we had to go,” Ward says.
Jacky jumps in, continuing the story in a “he said/she said” way that they’ve mastered after collecting a many, many tales. “We couldn’t fit India into our trip at that point – we would have only had like two weeks – so we said ‘Let’s make it its own trip!’”
They’ve been planning India ever since – for more than three years now. It was in their minds in all the things they did once they “re-entered’ the US. They got flexible jobs. Tracked their spending. Got things ready. But it wasn’t just for India – India’s just the next trip.
“We know we’re going to travel like this as long as we’re able,” Jacky says.
They’re leaving March 3 and will be back stateside June 12. Friend and fellow biker/Decorah resident Jeff Friedhof will be joining them on the India adventure. Three and a half months is a little more doable than three years for the high school mathematics teacher.
“I’m taking a sabbatical to do this trip,” he says. “As an educator, I really feel it’s important to experience the world. And when you get a chance to travel like this, to a place like India, with world-travelers like Ward and Jacky, you take it. You have to go.”
Much like the world-tour, they’ve got a rough outline of where they’re going, but things are left pretty loose on purpose.
“As we were planning our [world] trip it was not where, but HOW we would do the experience. How many museums. How many miles a day. How much money. To what level are we going to take it?” Ward says.
The “plan” is this: They’ll land in New Delhi and go south along the coast to Goa, take a train back to New Delhi and bike the northern part of India, then bike to Nepal and back. They look forward to whatever’s going to happen, to happen.
“When you travel like this, you never know what little town you will go through, who will stop you, what you’ll get to experience,” Jacky says. “It’s the best way to do it.”
You can follow along on the peddling fun at Ward and Jacky’s blog fromthebenchesoftheworld.com.
What was the most surprising thing about your trip around the world?
Jacky: For me, it seriously was this: when we left, I was really scared, worried about riding along back roads, people pulling over and stopping us and what might happen. What happened was people did stop us, but they asked us if we wanted water. They gave us food. What I feared the most turned into one of the greatest comforts: People are good.
Ward: People’s willingness to take us in – afford us what they have. Even with the language barrier, they gave us everything they could. Really everyone was just so willing to give. One guy even drove past us, then turned his car around, came back, and got out. He walked over to us and gave us a bag full of something. He said, with a little English, “These are Korean donuts. You’ve never had these before.” And he was right. We hadn’t.
What was the most inspiring?
Jacky: Well, it’s the same as the first answer, really. And just like Ward said – what I found inspiring were the people with nothing that just want to give everything.
Why travel by bike?
Jacky: To be honest, I’m traveling by bike until I can’t anymore. I’m traveling by bike ‘til I’m 90. It opens all kinds of doors. Sure, the part where you go slow, can take pictures, stop and smell the roses – that part is great. But the best part is that it opens the doors for people to ask, ‘What are you doing? Where are you going?’ It starts conversations and then we get to know the locals. And on a trip like this, you want to get to know the locals. You trust the locals.
Ward: I agree with Jacky that you are more open to have people approach you and ask questions. But for me, as we traveled I soon learned that you do not end up in towns or cities that necessarily are looking to see travelers coming through their communities. Your reception is not the same as if in a tourist city. There seemed to be a more genuine expression of their culture and how we should look at their town. By bike you are not always on the tourist route and that is what I like.
What do you think were the five most important things to have along (besides your bike and tent and each other, of course)?
- Piece of plastic. This is to sit on, make food on, cover your bags in a downpour, make a windbreak, put water in to bathe.
- Duct tape. No explanation needed
- Tools. For bike repair and fixing other stuff for other people.
- Air pump. So many flat tires
- Salt and pepper and hot sauce. Rice and Pasta actually can be good with those.
Additional useful things: cutting board, paper and pen, sunscreen, and a stove to boil water and cook (“But if it breaks,” Jacky says, “Just use an empty tuna can, coil cardboard into it, and then fill it with wax! Ward’s mom taught him that. She was his Den Mother.”)
Useful “non-things”: Coded back-ups on personal and financial information and code words for dangerous or tense times. For Ward and Jacky: Danger = Birke; “Shut your mouth, I’ve got this!” = Mora
What do you say to people who say “I could never do that!”?
Jacky: Anytime you want to do a trip – any exploration – overseas, in the US, even in Iowa – it’s great! What we did was a trip we wanted to do, but it doesn’t make it any different from that six-month trip you took, or that two-week trip you’re planning. It’s all good. It’s all about getting out and experiencing something new.
Ward: Our trip was not a competition where there are people more fit and talented that could have accomplished the same thing. Our trip was a goal of experiencing the world on its terms. We had to adjust our terms as how we would engage all of the cultural nuances. It was hard for me to always be as the Argentineans and the Spaniards. Time moves pretty slow. The toilets of the world also are not for everyone. Not taking a shower for five days would be tough for a lot of people as well. Also the daily food of rice and pasta and pasta and rice would have a lot of people not join the adventure. But as Jacky also said everyone experiences things differently and it is your trip and your experience – we should all embrace that.
Aryn Henning Nichols loves hearing stories about world travels. In her lifetime, she hopes to visit many more countries than her current seven. Better get “planning”!