RIYADH: The journals of Mateusz Głuch and Mateusz Andrulewicz are full of adventures after the childhood friends set out on an adventure ten months ago to cycle across the world.
Beginning their journey in their home country of Poland, a place where they had never cycled before, they have used their combined four wheels as a home base.
The backs of their two bikes hold their bedroom, kitchen, garage and wardrobe; two sets of civilian and cycling clothes each, camping gear, pillows, a tent, a single burner, pots and pans, some basic repair tools, and 20 years of friendship.
With curiosity and a fuller life as motivations, the two quit their day jobs, collected their savings, dedicated a month to prepare, and took off.
“I think you’d have to be a master storyteller to be able to transfer the whole journey that’s happening inside you to the outside, to people having normal, stable routines . . . They don’t disapprove, but they don’t get it,” Andrulewicz told Arab News.
What makes the two men stand out is that cycling was never a hobby; the former mechanical engineer and marketing manager had never cycled the streets of their city on a bike. They dedicated a mere 30 days to finding routes, practicing cycling, buying appropriate clothing and figuring out logistics prior to their adventure.
As wintertime in Europe was approaching in October 2021, they aimed to leave as soon as they could.
“I was never some sort of crazy, impulsive guy. If you ask me, I hate horror movies, rollercoasters, and all this stuff. I’m not about some adrenalin . . . I wouldn’t say it’s a matter of some courage. It’s a matter of this attitude of just doing, that’s for sure,” Andrulewicz said.
Before they left, they did a trial ride on their bikes with all their belongings to get a sense of what the journey ahead held.
“After that ride, we knew that we had to do it. We quit everything. I think this also helped, the fact that it was such a big change, there’s no way back,” Andrulewicz said.
Inspired by the Netflix film “Kapp to Cape,” their final destination is the tip of the African continent: Cape Town. Their journey began in Poland, crossing many European countries before heading to Turkey, Iraq, Kurdistan, Iran, UAE, and now to Saudi, each having its particular chapter for the cyclists.
“I think it’s a mental and personal journey. We will start to understand ourselves better,” Głuch told Arab News.
Accommodation depends on their location. At times they are invited to stay with local families, as was the case with a Bedouin tribe in the Empty Quarter. At other times they resort to their tent, couch surfing or hostels, and an occasional stay at a hotel.
On the road, they don’t spend much other than on food and visas. The majority of their meals are cooked on the single burner using seasonal produce and cheap local groceries.
The duo did not set out with a particular goal in mind other than seeking new experiences, but they discovered the value of family, simplicity and cultural exchange along the way.
“In Europe, what the media says about people or countries in the Middle East or Africa is so different from what we’ve learned being here . . . You mention you go through Iraq, and people say you’re crazy and you’re gonna get killed,” Głuch said.
“If you mention you’ll go to Saudi, they’ll have no idea what is Saudi . . . It’s a matter of distance,” Andrulewicz said.
He highlighted that the cultural differences between the two continents are difficult to grasp unless you experience it.
“A bigger understanding of each other’s backgrounds could allow greater sympathy for issues around the globe,” he said.
As they interact with various characters throughout the region, making sure they remember them all, they have encountered an equal number of challenges. Aside from missing their families and friends, it has been difficult to endure such a lengthy journey.
“Even if the experience is very nice, sometimes you’re just exhausted from being on the road every day, not having a shower for three days again, not having good food again. This exhausts you slowly,” Głuch said.
At times, they would reach a destination and spend the next few days feeling exhausted. Their energy had worn out: “We learned how to listen to our bodies,” Głuch said. “When you have time, you are not numb to those signals,” Andrulewicz said.
“If you give yourself time and space and be patient with yourself, maybe suddenly you will get interested in unexpected things that will lead you to some interesting places,” Andrulewicz said.
Their biggest takeaway from the trip is that there is more to life than a dead-end corporate job and lifestyle. Time is a privilege that they were never allowed, and now, with an abundance of it, they can consider the choices they have made and how to move forward from them.
“We encourage this because we see many weird things happen out of it. If you take out the blueprint and you have a blank page, then you discover yourself, and it’s interesting,” Andrulewicz said.
As they set out for the Red Sea coast and the African continent, bringing them closer to their final destination, they look back on the rich life lessons that they have learned and the friends they have made along the way.
“Sometimes things that happened two months ago, we still ponder about them and talk and discuss them, so there’s always some conclusion. Whatever happened before, even if it was not nice, it was part of the journey, so I don’t regret anything,” Andrulewicz said.