An office job in a big city somewhere in the world is the default way of making a living in the 21st century. Many people feel suffocated and unsatisfied with a lifestyle like that after a certain amount of time but only few have the guts to take a big break and and follow their instincts to make a big life changing journey.
“Get out of the Office and Cycle to India” is a book that covers exactly that kind of bold decision and journey
After being herded into the corporate world by the education system, and spending years in the finance industry, the writer and main character, Jo, felt he needed a change, at least a breather for a while.
It was with this ‘midlife crisis’ mindset that he decided to quit his job as a vice-president at a private equity firm and he swaps his car for a bike, a tent and a camping stove. He packs his bags and cycles out the front door one morning, with no particular destination in mind. Offices monotony is swapped for a life on the road full of diverse encounters and new experiences. Soon he discovers that not all is smooth as silk – as it seemed when seated in his previous office job – he endures painful saddle sores, stolen bags, multiple crashes, assault, amoeba infection, sinusitis, infected wounds, fever, vomiting and sunburn. But that is all part of the adventure. Eventually his goal becomes to cycle from Ireland to India.
He is a guest of honour at a Kurdish wedding, and is later towed up a mountain by a passing motorcyclist. Ultimately he arrives at his spiritual home, in an ‘off-the-grid’ forest community in India, where he sleeps on a bed of bamboo and rope, and cooks vegan food over a wood-burning stove. He discovers that there is life beyond the office desk.
And he documents it in a kickass way in his book titled “Get out of the Office and Cycle to India
Jo versus John Wood
Jo turns his back away from the corporate world in similar fashion as John Wood, the director of marketing for Microsoft in the Asia-Pacific region, did. Crazy working hours, too many jet lags, an over demanding and always yelling Steve Balmer and no holidays made Wood run away from it all and start the revolutionary (and world’s fastest growing) charity “Room to Read”.
Like Jo, John Wood describes his move to follow his heart in his kickass book “Leaving Microsoft to change the world”.
Both Jo’s and Wood’s books are a great sources of inspiration for anyone torn in a corporate catch 22 or a more traditional ‘corporate midlife crisis’
Bicycle Touring as a Vegan
Jo’s bicycle touring trip got a special angle given the vegan lifestyle he was trying to live while on the road.
He explains how it was to do such highly intensive bicycle touring while being a vegan:
For cycling hours, I would buy a lot of oats, dried fruit, seeds, nuts and bananas. I sometimes sprouted lentils in a small container. I tried to avail of whatever was available locally, so in Iran I lived on dates, in Serbia on melons, in Turkey on dried apricots and pomegranate, in Germany on strawberries, in India on coconut, cashew and banana. All of these are fantastic energy foods as are raisins, almonds and pumpkin seeds.
My favourite meals were the dosas in India. The dosa is made from fermented rice flour and is served with coconut chutney, tomato chutney and sambar – which is something like a thick lentil and vegetable soup. When I cooked on my own stove, I liked to cook rice, lentils and vegetables in one big hotpot, adding whatever herbs and spices I could find.
I did bring a Vegan Passport but I hardly ever used it as I could generally manage to get the message across. I had to be very persistent because most countries do not have a direct translation for vegan – they sometimes tend to bracket vegetarians and vegans into one big odd bunch, especially in places like Serbia, Bulgaria, Iran and Turkey. I did not get so many absurd comments in these countries – mostly just baffled looks!
I also did have a special green powder with me containing spirulina, chlorella, mint, nettle, ginger, kale and lots of other superfoods. I used this as an energy booster and found it very refreshing when mixed into my water bottle. I was also forced into rest days along the way and learned to listen to, and respect my body.
Quite a stunning dedication to his nutritional lifestyle that made his trip definitely not easier. It should serve as a great dose of inspiration for other aspiring vegan bicycle tourers!
Best part of the Trip
Like many other touring cyclists Jo’s best memories come from Iran:
My best memories are from Iran, where I was taken aback by the welcome I received. I was a guest of honour at a Kurdish wedding and was regularly invited to stay with the locals. I received tows from motorcyclists and lifts from passing cars. People even stopped to give me food or just pat me on the back. A lot of kids asked me to sign autographs and everybody wanted to have a picture taken with the Westerner in shorts. The Iranian people are very hospitable and loving. I liked UAE the least because it was so sterile and materialistic. The people here were more interested in money than people – the complete opposite end of the spectrum to Iran.
Iran keeps on recurring over and over again as a top bicycle touring destination and Jos book account proves this ones more.
Kickass journey. Kickass travel account. Kickass book.