Travelling the world in a rickshaw

The story of how I met Luke

Two weeks ago I got a call from a friend who works in a bar. “This could be just your kind of story”, he insisted, “but you’ve gotta be quick. He’s only gonna be here for another day.” So this is how I met Luke, a 22-year-old engineering graduate from the North of England who travelled the world by bike.

So far his story might sound funny and exciting, but not too unusual. Knowing lots of travellers and hardcore cyclists, I was aware Luke wasn’t the first one to cycle around the world. What was unusual, however, was that he decided to do it in a bike rickshaw taking thousands of people along – for free of course. My friend was right: This was exactly my kind of story.

So I called Luke (who despite of having set up a website and a twitter account to promote his idea seemed a bit surprised) and we met up for a coffee the next morning. He arrived in his massive bike rickshaw, which had to be parked somewhere in a safe place first (Mind you, the area where I live is an absolute nightmare for everyone looking for a place to park). A passenger who turned out to be his friend was sitting on the back seat of the rickshaw.

After we had got some curious looks from the other café guests and a suspicious look from the café owner we started talking. And talking. And talking (For his version of our get together check out his blog post). Luke told me he had come up with this unusual idea because he had wanted to go on a big bike trip after graduating from uni. Not finding anyone to join him and still wanting to meet as many people as possible on his way made him think of a black cap driver he had met a couple of years ago. This guy had been travelling the world in his London taxi taking thousands of people along. Luke was fascinated by his way of travelling and he adapted the idea eventually. Being an enthusiastic cyclists and sportsman (Before going on his rickshaw trip he had paddled all the way from Birmingham to London in a bathtub, not kidding.) he came up with the plan of starting a World Rickshaw Taxi.

This rickshaw taxi wasn’t only supposed to help him get to know locals in a spontaneous way and bring cultures together, Luke also told me he had wanted to give something back to his old school in Yorkshire. He had a deal with his former geography teacher: The kids would follow his journey and by doing so learn about the world in quite a unique way. You wouldn’t be surprised to hear I was absolutely flabbergasted (Note from the editor: Loving this word, only using it because I can. Feel free to ignore and insert “thrilled” instead) by how easily Luke combined something so crazy and fun with a higher purpose. Not exactly being a very sports-crazy person the idea of cycling the world already made me shutter. But travelling at an average of 7.5 km per hour with a huge rickshaw (and potentially a passenger on the backseat)… I guess I wouldn’t have lasted a day, let alone months or longer.

Luke and me. Picture: courtesy of Michael Kofoet

Luke and me. Picture: courtesy of Michael Kofoet

After about two hours Luke drove me back home. I felt honoured to be his passenger and I paid in drunken plum jam (which on other occasions turned out to be a great means for bribing people, too.). Back home I immediately started writing down his story. I was so thrilled by it that I decided I had to share it with other people – many other people. So I decided to offer it to a big news website. They were interested in publishing it, so I started to get a couple more quotes, pictures and make a few corrections. About an hour after I had sent the article off I got a message from Luke: “Really disappointed to say I’m finishing”. So was I. The world never learned about his story.

But as I’m still a big fan of the World Rickshaw TAxi and on top of that learned an important lesson from it, I decided to share his story with you on my blog instead. Luke had an amazing idea and he wasn’t afraid to go for it, put a crazy plan into action and try something that seemed almost too hard to do from the very beginning. In the end he didn’t meet as many people as he wanted to and he just wasn’t happy. After days and days of thinking and worrying about it he decided to quit.

Although he might not have reached his ambitious goal, but he made people smile and think. And that’s all we can do in life.

I’m wishing you all the best for the rest of your way, Luke!

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