World According to Charlie Walker

Bicycle adventurer Charlie Walker is in the middle of a four year cycle around the world. He tells us what he's learned so far

8 mins

Mountain/desert/jungle/ocean which are you?

Tough question but probably desert. The space and silence are great for clarity of thought.

First travel experience?

Backpacking in East Africa aged 18. I was incredibly naive and knew next to nothing about the continent when i arrived.

Favourite journey?

Crossing the Gobi desert on bicycle then driving an old car home from Mongolia.

Top 5 places worldwide?

Any part of the Himalayas

Lake Baikal, Siberia

Wiltshire, England

Luang Prabang, Laos

Swakopmund, Namibia

Special place to stay?

Cornish coast. Childhood family holidays...

Three items you always pack?

A 3x1m length of cloth (acts as towel/sarong/scarf/bag/bed-sheet/belt)


Tent (allows inestimably greater freedom)

Passport stamp you're proudest of?

Exit stamp from Mali without a corresponding entry stamp (West African desert border posts are quite loose at midnight).

Passport stamp most like to have?

Democratic Republic of Congo

Guilty travel pleasure?

Chortling when I see backpackers struggling under an absurdly heavy load of unnecessary gear.

Window or aisle?

Window; unless I have Delhi belly.

Who is your ideal travelling companion?

Anyone open-minded and adverse to arguments.

Best meal on the road? Worst?

Best: A yak steak after a month of eating only instant noodles in a tent in Tibetan winter.

Worst: Not entirely sure what it was but the Chinese man's gesticulations suggested pig's penis

Most surprising place? Most disappointing?

Iran. Insurpassable hospitality and an endlessly astonishing variety of landscapes.

New York – too busy!

Where do you NOT want to go?


Who/what inspired you to travel? Any travel heroes?

Curiosity. I have always loved spinning globes and daydreaming about the place where my finger lands me.

Heroes? David Livingstone, Ranulph Fiennes, Benedict Allen, Captain Scott and Colin Thubron

What do you listen to on the road? Any song take you back to a particular time or place?

Usually stand-up comedy and language lesson audiobooks but White Snake's 'Here I Go Again' reminds me of every time I have set off on an adventure.

What do you read ?

Classics and travelogues

Is there a person you met while travelling who reaffirmed your faith in humanity? Anyone who made you lose it?

Many. Usually those who invited me into their homes having just met me despite me looking and smelling awful after hard miles on the road.

Haven't lost it yet but a group of men with knives in Namibia made me come close.

What's the most impressive / useful phrase you know in a foreign language?

It's utterly useless but 'turkleştiremedigimizlerdensinizdir' is Turkish for "Maybe you are one of the ones whom we were not able to Turkify."

What is your worst habit as a traveller?

Growing a fluffy ginger beard.

Snowbound in a tent in Antarctica, how would you entertain your companions?

Atrocious attempts at accents from all over the world.

When and where in your travels have you been happiest?

Last year cycling through Arctic Scandinavia in midsummer.

What smell most says 'travel' to you?

The unpleasant ones you get in overcrowded cities in developing countries.

Given a choice, which era would you travel in?

Start of the 20th-century. I think travel was a lot easier without modern passport and visa systems.

If you could combine three cities to make your perfect metropolis, what would they be?

London for multiculturalism.

Cape Town for beauty and scenery.

Luang Prabang (Laos) for relaxed atmosphere.


Charlie in ChinaCharlie Walker is a bicycle adventurer who is in the middle of a four year, 40,000 mile cycle trip to the four corners of the Earth. You can follow his exploits on his website, CharlieWalkerExplore.


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