Around the World on Bike and Sailboat: From US and Back

PARIS ~ Charles Brigham was 28 when he straddled his bike to embark on an ecological tour of the world but could be 33 by the time he returns home to Madison, in Wisconsin.

“I love bikes and wanted to travel,” he said during a Paris stopover. “I don’t think it’s natural to fly in a plane or even travel by car. People weren’t meant to travel so quickly.”

So Brigham, who studied electrical and computer engineering but hates technology and wound up working in a bike shop, set off in September 2007 with a good bike, US$3,000, a pair of trousers and 30 kilos of camping, cooking and first aid gear.

“I packed a bunch of stuff, threw a party and rode out of town.”

After cycling to the Atlantic port of Norfolk in Virgina to cross the Atlantic, Brigham realized there were only freighter boats “that were not ecological.”

So he cycled to Miami instead to find “nothing but power yachts, huge gas-guzzling things that were even worse than a freighter. So I decided to become a sailor.”

He made contacts, took a course, and eventually found a ride on a sailboat to Antigua, another to the Azores and finally to Falmouth in Cornwall.

But his stay in the UK and Ireland turned problematic – he broke a foot and his bike, spent months convalescing, and finally had to compromise his ideals and take a ferry across to the European continent as winter had set in and no one was sailing.

“I have vowed since to completely boycott even ferry rides and I haven’t participated in the oil industry since.”

After Paris, the tall, lanky American plans to cycle to Madrid, sail from Gibraltar to Morocco, cycle across North Africa to Egypt and go on through Israel, Syria, Iran, Pakistan and India to Thailand, then island-hop on sailboats to Australia.

The penultimate chapter will be to sail to New Zealand, island-hop to South America and pedal back home north.

The point? “I want to promote bicycles. I’m working against addiction to speed. That’s what makes people burn oil,” he said. “I want people to realize there’s an alternative.”

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