My hobby is cycling, especially long distance trekking.
How to combine both passions? Easy: By cycling into the culture you want to understand better.
My favorite destinations are former Soviet countries. Why?
I like the energy of the people and their relationship-oriented culture.
Cycling into countries like Belarus, Russia and Ukraine is a great inspiration for me to get more familiar with local societies. It's different from an organized trip with a guide. You cycle through the country and stop at little villages talking to people about how their life is. You sleep in a tent near someone's home and socialize with the host family. They are curious about you and they like sharing their stories. All except politics – especially in Belarus.
A pretty common question you hear is: why do you cycle? Don't you have money for a train ticket? Many local people use a bicycle to reach local shops, not for leisure.
While cycling I have a chance to visit unique places and explore the local culture in a detailed way.
Distances of around 60 miles a day give you the possibility of crossing medium sized European countries within 10 days. Of course, Russia would be a much bigger challenge. Maybe someday in the future?
Next holiday, the plan is to cycle from Poland and Ukraine to Moldova and Southern Ukraine/ Odessa. I hope that the Ukrainians find a peaceful way to resolve their current crisis. I'm looking forward to visiting their country during my next cycling trip this summer!
-Radek Walentynowicz, cultural trainer and coach