The Biking the Balkans team is made up of 4 Americans seeking thrills, memories, and adventures on a cycling journey through Eastern Europe while raising awareness for impoverished children in North Korea. Formerly English teachers in South Korea, they developed a love of outdoor adventures and activities cycling the Korean countryside on weekends whenever they had a chance. Inspired by the efforts of their teammate Katie and friends in Korea who completed a 6 month journey from Beijing to London, the four began making a plan to cycle for charity in September of 2011.
By the time the plan was fully formed, they were looking at a far greater task than what was first expected. What started as a short week long trip from Istanbul to Izmir turned into a 3 month, 5,000km trek through the Balkans. From Istanbul, Turkey through 13 countries in Eastern Europe, they hope to battle the elements and mountains as they cross into areas they never dreamed of visiting.
In November of 2012 Ski and Suzie launched their first website, TheNomaddicts.com to promote world travel and show their various adventures around Korea and the rest of the world. Cataloging their adventures through short travel videos initially began as a way to share their stories with friends in family, but soon turned into a catalyst to move on to bigger and better things.
What the hell am I thinking? When I first began traveling the world in 2009, I thought I would be doing it the old fashioned way… you know… on a plane, sleeping in hostels, taking trains across the countryside while comfortably resting. At no time during my early 20′s did I even think of picturing myself biking over mountains or wild camping in some desolate field in Eastern Europe, yet here I am.
I am from a small town called Barrington, New Hampshire. I absolutely lived for mountain biking as a kid; exploring new worlds in the woods behind my house or barreling down dangerous sand dunes outside of town. However, as most people do, I stopped when I got to High School. For me, cycling hit me real hard once I returned to Korea to teach in the Spring of 2011 when my friend Jared told me to get a bike so that we could cycle a bit. I pictured a scene that resembled a quite ride around canals in Holland rather than the whole “Lance Armstrong taking on mountains with sheer pain on his face” kind of thing. It’s amazing how wrong we can be sometimes. I hit the ground running and (along with Suzie) Jared, Katie, and Katie had me whipped into shape in no time. I’ll never forget my first 600 meter climb during a downpour and thinking to myself “Andrew old boy, you’re a fool…an outright fool.” Yet the rewards far exceeded the costs for me, and after just one trip, I was hooked. Ever since that trip through Danyang, Korea, I’ve been learning more about cycling, planning my own trips, and anxiously awaiting the next big thing. Well… here it is!
I guess I could say the first time I became a biker was when I had just graduated from UCSB as an eager environmental science major ready to put my authenticated green-ness to good use. Newly hired as a journalist for a small publication and convinced I could save the planet on two wheels, I biked the long hour to work on a $300, 8-speed bike . Though my editor was never entirely pleased that I clocked in drenched with sweat and looking unfit for the cubicle world, I stuck to the routine pleased with my good deed and my rock hard thys.
After a two-year hiatus, I moved to Korea and this love for cycling reformed with the help of a few friends. A simple suggestion, “you should buy a bike” quickly turned into a physical and mental fixation. As long as the weather was clear nearly every weekend was devoted to exploring the mountains of Korea. As for this particular biking trip…biking for three months over some pretty steep climbs seems brutal. Yet somehow, the brutality is a tantalizing double-doggy dare. And really, who turns down a double-doggy dare?
I am originally from The Dalles, Oregon, a small town on the edge of the Cascade mountains and on the banks of the Columbia river. My town is known as the end of the Oregon Trail and is quite famous for the cherries it grows.
I have been riding bikes my whole life but really got into it during college. My friends convinced me to join the University of Oregon cycling team and I fell in love with the intensity of racing and the pain in my legs after a big mountain.
Never having done a long bike tour, this will be a new experience for me and hopefully a challenging one.
My parents think I’m crazy for going on this trip, but I think it is the perfect blend of vacation and generosity. I know that we will meet some amazing people and see some unforgettable sights, but what really matters is the money we raise for charity.