A girl. A bike. And a 1,042 day trip around the globe.
Fredrika Ek doesn’t do things by halves.
At the tender age of 23 she got on her bike and began an around-the-world journey which would take in 45 countries and more than 1,000 days on the road before she finally got back to her family home in northern Sweden (and a welcoming hug from her dear old mum, of course).
Along the way she endured sandstorms crossing the Sahara Desert, electrical storms in the Andes, getting hit by a car in Australia and a whole heap of other minor mishaps.
But she also experienced the kindness and curiosity of local people everywhere, from Malaysia to Mauritania – as well as having a child named after her by a seriously impressed new mother in Guinea, Africa.
Fredrika, named European Adventurer of the Year 2017, embarked on her mammoth journey to raise money for ActionAid, which works for a world free from poverty and injustice.
Find out more here.
What made you embark on such an ambitious adventure in the first place?
My first experience of long-distance cycling was in 2013 with a friend. I borrowed my mum’s bike and my friend borrowed his sister’s. We watched a YouTube video on how to fix a flat tyre and decided to go to Budapest.
It was a disaster in so many respects – we really didn’t have a clue what we were doing. But we just had the best time of our lives. The freedom of it!
It was at the end of that trip, that my mind started wandering to what became the first trip two years later.
Did you have any particularly ‘hairy’ moments on the road?
In any way you can imagine, yes!
But I tried to remind myself that the one thing to be afraid of and to have respect for is traffic. If you are on roads and coming into cities, you are putting yourself at risk.
Particularly dangerous is any place with a lot of people. Vietnam could be one example. It’s a highly densely populated country – especially along the coast – so traffic is coming from all directions at any point. You just have to keep your focus.
Cycling is such an accessible way to travel. Did that affect your decision to go by bike?
That’s the most amazing thing. If you can ride your bicycle to work or to the supermarket, you could really ride it around the world. If you have the determination or time or curiosity.
A lot of the time I’m seen as this crazy adventurer but really I just have a lot of curiosity.
You deviated from your original route, why was that?
The reason for the change of route is that I had spent my first year travelling through Asia and got to see all of these new things, have all of these new experiences.
Somehow the next step – crossing the US – did not feel it was going to be the right one, considering where I’d spent the previous two years of my life.
So instead I went to Africa.
That decision was the one I was happiest about. It’s the next level in so many aspects. I’m so, so grateful for having gone through it.
Where’s next on your travels?
I’m finally getting to go to Romania, heading to the Carpathian Mountains and Transylvania.
I’m going to travel for the rest of my life. That’s just who I am now!