As the summer of 2012 ended, Aaron Gordon, a Teach & Travel China intern in 2010, finished a year of Volunteering at a Peace and Reconciliation centre in Northern Ireland. At this point, some would choose to work, some would choose to study something but not Aaron who simply stated ‘I think I’m going to fly to Istanbul and cycle home.’

Summarizing this whole adventure is somewhat difficult. During my time working on Teach & Travel China I had the privilege of meeting 100’s of people and keeping in touch with them has been in some cases easy and others quite difficult. In Aaron’s case, I am glad he kept in touch so I can help tell this wonderful story.

It starts quite badly as Aaron explains, ‘Two flat tyre’s before I left Belfast, a near miss with the boat, a forgotten tent, 50km of unexpected cycling in London, an uncollectable package from a friend, a bike box too small and consequently €30 of hold baggage fares and to top it all off, ”manflu” from a mixture of stress and cycling behind London buses.’

I quizzed Aaron on how useful his trip to China had been to him, a place where sometimes things are difficult and patience is an invaluable tool, ‘It is the ability to say yes to adventure that I gained in China, the realization that doing extraordinary things in extraordinary situations leads to stronger relationships and exciting prospects in life.’

So the journey began on the Via Egnatia, the road that runs all the way from Turkey to the Albanian Coast where he continued to end up in Thessaloniki, Greece. Here he had a day off to recover from the 730km ride to that point before continuing through Ohrid, Macedonia to Dubrovnik, Croatia.

I am tired already only writing this! Stories of interacting with people creep into Aaron’s epic tale throughout and riding as part of a team to Rome, spurred on by chants of ‘COLLESEO!’ were where adrenaline really kicked in. ‘Life is a succession of moments that; believe it or not, all lead in to one another’ Aaron explained ‘The experience I had with Teach & Travel China set the stage for all the consequent adventures I have been on.’

If China was the start of Aaron’s confidence building, it seems he no longer needs our help though, his next spurt unbelievably challenging, a road just over 100km long ascending straight out of old Florence in to vineyards for about 40km, then undulating for 20km between two passes, then descending for around 45/50km to Bologna. The route then continues by crossing the Alps from Italy by the Col du Montegenevre and then soaring over the Col du Lautauret in sub zero temperatures, over 2km above sea level.

This took Aaron to Vinay where a woman, surprised to see a cyclist in her little town, offered her garden as a camping site for the night. She owned a B&B but it was full, so allowed him to camp amongst the bamboo forest and relax on her hammocks in the winter sun. This sounds like a relaxing stopping point in this unexpected journey but just wait for part two of this epic story…

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