Zheng Sheng, a 23-year-old college graduate from Shanghai, has fulfilled his dream of cycling across Eurasia, traveling 14,000 kilometers all the way to London.
When Zheng tried to convince sponsors to finance his daring dream, they all thought he was crazy, but he wasn’t about to let something as meaningless as money stand before him and his goal. With the help of his sister and a few friends, he managed to raise 13,000 yuan ($2,000), which he used to buy all the necessary gear for a bike ride from his home city of Shanghai to London. Before setting out on March 5, he posted on his microblog: “A journey 14,000 kilometers is the goal – here I go!”. He went though all kinds of challenges throughout the 136 days he spent cycling across 11 countries, but believe it or not, this ambitious young man reached his destination on July 18.
The fresh graduate from Shanghai’s Science and Technology University has always had a passion for cycling. Since 2008 he had ridden his bike from Shanghai to Sichuan Province and from there to Tibet, but he had never been outside the borders of China. After studying various maps for four months, he quit his job at a Shanghai company he was working at for just two months, and set out on his epic journey the day after he received all the necessary visas.
Zheng felt very confident on the day he left Shanghai, but he was soon going to learn riding a bicycle across 14,000 kilometers wasn’t as easy as he imagined. The first problem he had to confront was his limited budget, which made everything a lot more complicated. In order to buy everything he needed, the young adventurer got some low quality supplies, like his 215-yuan tent, which was only waterproof on the top. Although he had a sleeping bag, the water that infiltrated his tent when it rained made it impossible for him to rest. Limited cash also forced him to rely mostly on bread as his food supply, because food in Europe was so expensive.
Zheng Sheng says he feels like he slept in every place possible throughout his journey, from the frozen mountains of Russia, where he was tormented by the cold and terrible leg cramps to the flooded plains of the Netherlands and even snuck into a boiler room to get warm. But the most terrifying experience on his cycling trip occurred on the second day after he crossed the Chinese border into Kazakhstan. The desert seemed to stretch out in every direction as far as the eye could see, when he stumbled over a wolf carcass. Suddenly he found himself chased by one of the wolf’s pack mates, who was probably even more hungry than he was. He had to pedal as fast as he could for miles, but managed to escape the bloodthirsty beast upon arriving at a small roadside inn. He managed to walk into the lobby where he just collapsed, out of his mind with relief.
He traveled about 100 kilometers every day, and apart from visiting various attractions in the 11 countrties he passed through (China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Britain) he updated his microblog at free WiFi hotspots like McDonalds, posting a photo of himself with the Chinese flag in every capital he visited. He met all sorts of kind people wherever he went, like a restaurant owner who offered him a meal for free when he saw him riding his bike, or the kind German who paid his restaurant bill and shared cycling experiences with him. At the end of his journey he had 10 pages of contacts in the journal he took with him.
Zheng never told his family about his trip because he didn’t want to worry them, and would always call his mother, taking into consideration the time difference, so she wouldn’t suspect he was out of the country. When he returned home, he told her about his trip in very few words: ”I told her that I traveled to Europe recently and sometimes rode a bike on my way,”.
Upon his return to Shanghai, Zheng Sheng said he feels a lot more optimistic and has a fresh outlook on the world. He claims he is now ready for the more mundane challenges of life, like finding a job, and getting a place to stay. “I always told the doubters that it’s just a matter of willpower,” he told the Global Times. “Here I am, all finished – proof that you really can do whatever you set your mind to.”