If you are a young person who often daydreams of traveling and someday being your own boss, here’s a dose of inspiration. Meet Alifiya and Azubuike, who hopped onto their bicycles and went on ‘Distant Relatives Bike Tour’ earlier this summer. They kicked off their 1,200 km long journey in Germany and traveled through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania in 15 days.
Alifiya Mutaher, 25, comes from Sri Lanka with roots from India. With a mechanical engineering degree under her belt and a passion for creativity, she founded Colombo Design Market to connect creative minds from all disciplines to connect with the wider public in Sri Lanka.
Azubuike Akunne, who is also 25, is a first generation Nigerian American. After studying nutrition, he combined his love for biking and good food to create Neu Bite, a Chicago-based social enterprise, which makes healthy food accessible using bicycles.
Q: Give us 6 reasons why young people must travel.
A: Alifiya & Azubuike:
If we sum up the top reasons, they would look like this:
- Open up to different cultures, perspectives and ways of living;
- Push your personal boundaries, discover new strengths and build confidence in yourself;
- Break from your day-to-day routines to clear your mind, focus on what’s important and look at the world from a fresh perspective;
- Meet new people and overcome barriers that the world tries to place
ahead of you!
- Exchange knowledge with the people you meet along the way;
- Gain experiences to come to a better understanding of the world
and society we are living within.
Q: Young people often do not have a lot of money yet, they dream of traveling the world. Any advice on how they can make it happen?
A: Alifiya: In today’s world, there’s a lot of ways on how to make this happen, and plenty of people to support you. Finding a bigger reason for your travels can always make it more meaningful and give people more reason to support you. We’re thankful to everyone who supported our crowdfunding campaign and helped us out with equipment. It definitely wouldn’t have been possible without the help we got. Working on the road, blogging, couchsurfing, woofing, etc. are just some of the ways that are making travel easier and more affordable. Programs like ‘The Do School’ are also another great opportunity that give you the chance to study and experience whole new countries at the same time. There are so many opportunities now, that you only need to get creative, use your skills, and don’t let money hold you back.
A: Azubuike: Honestly, you don’t need a lot of money to make a trip like this happen. All you need is a bicycle and a sleeping bag. I’ve made trips like this before with only $50 for 2 weeks of travel. Yes, it was rough, but that’s the fun part about it all. People have to stop making money a reason why they don’t travel. Just get up and go figure it out on the road – it will make you stronger that way!
Q: How did the idea of “Distant Relatives” pop up in your heads?
A: Alifiya: We spent 10 weeks at ‘The Do School’, a non-formal training institute for social entrepreneurship in Berlin, Germany. We worked with 16 other fellows from around the world. Despite our diverse backgrounds, we were able to connect with each other at many levels. This made us understand what it really means to be distant relatives. After the program, we wanted to travel across Europe in a meaningful way, where we could meet people on a deeper level. Biking all over Berlin during our stay there was a great way to learn about the city. Also, Azubuike had bike-packed before. That’s how we decided to film a documentary of people’s stories, while bike-packing across Eastern Europe.
A: Azubuike: The honest answer is that Alifiya wanted to do a boring trip to Western Europe. I told her it would be way cooler to ride her bicycle instead. We jumped up and down with excitement at the prospect of riding to Portugal, only to find out it was way too far away. So we decided to ride onto to Eastern Europe instead. I never had the idea of going to Eastern Europe, so I said why not. We came up with the name after realizing we both knew Nas & Damien Marley’s joint album – Distant Relatives. After the trip I’m not convinced that Alifiya has actually listened to the album!
Q: You biked across 5 countries for 15 days. What were the moments that made you go ‘WOW’?
A: Alifiya: Way too many! Complete strangers trusted us with the keys to their apartment, inviting us to stay during the night while they headed out in Vienna, Austria! The sense of security we found on the road for 15 days – at no point did we feel threatened or unsafe, which show how far stretched the idea of safety could go. The view of the Danube with the Austrian Alps in the backdrop, for miles was incredible. It was surprising how big multinational brands acted as markers for almost every city we went through! They are present everywhere.
A: Azubuike: I agree with Alifiya. The big brands were the biggest put-off for me. It honestly made me sick that these establishments were in every community around the world pumping out their garbage. A popular restaurant did come in handy when it came to looking for Wi-fi, but other than that, it was just weird watching people come into these establishments and usher their kids into the gallows of obesity and bad health, something which made me angry. I don’t think we, as people, fully understand what these companies are really doing to humans. They are trying to give us a ‘standard’ look by appropriating different cultures.
If you want to find out more about the nature of the trip, please visit:
Facebook – Distant Relatives Bike Tour
(This interview has been edited and restructured for clarity).
Author: Vandana K
Editor: Dimitar Chatleski