The world on two wheels

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Life on the road has taught a cyclist about the gift of selfless giving


Ryohei Oguchi in Australia, the first country on his unbeatable journey to "invade" 100 countries by bicycle

Late at night outside a tiny Cambodian village, Ryohei Oguchi was trying to pitch a tent. When he saw the policeman approach, he knew he had done something wrong.

"You can't stay here," said the officer, menacing the Japanese cyclist. Oguchi struggled to explain that he did not have any cash to pay for a room.

The officer softened, and he handed Oguchi a crisp five dollar bill. Soon they were enjoying a meal in the cop's home. Oguchi spent the night and had breakfast before continuing his travels the next morning.

It's these lessons in generosity that the 30- year-old Nagano-native has learned over and over again on his 27-month journey through ten countries.

And the trip is far from over: Oguchi plans to hit 100 countries in seven years, on pedal power alone.

King of the road

When he visited the Thanh Nien Weekly office, the traveler was a bit disheveled up, but not at all road weary. Quiet, tan and slender from his years on the road, Oguchi's eyes seemed to light up when he saw candy on the newsroom's conference table.

It's the little treats in life that he's been without while roughing it on the highways and dirt paths of Asia.

He carries about 70kg of supplies on his bike and arrives in a new town each day after 150-235km rides. He cooks for himself with equipment he carries along. He spends most nights in his tent, but people frequently invite him to stay in their homes.

Whenever he reaches a destination, he first stops at a local gas station, where he says he's met all kinds of people who've offered him free water and food time and time again.

Following his stop in Ho Chi Minh City,

Oguchi is now riding through Vietnam. He plans to visit Quy Nhon, Hue, Quang Binh and Hanoi before continuing to Laos and China.

Exit the rat race

Before his trip, Oguchi spent four years as a economic advisor for Starts, a financial company in Tokyo. It was in his tiny cubicle that he began to dream and save money for what he calls "the journey of my life."

"Life is good in Tokyo," he says. "But everybody is very busy and it can sometimes be very boring. People are not so warm."

He says it was a thirst for life, adventure, and good people that sent him pedaling in search of new experiences.

"I wanted to talk with many, many people from different countries and cultures."

In his heart, he felt the best way would be to just get out and see as many countries as possible. He figured he had the wherewithal to do 100 countries in seven years.

"If I had kept on working and waited until I was 60 to travel with my bike, it would have been too late."

Happy trails

Oguchi started out on his bicycle in March, 2007. He traveled through Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Cambodia before arriving in Vietnam more than two years later.

On the road, Oguchi has suffered broken bones and teeth in accidents. He's spent days sick in the hospital. But he shows no sign of relenting.

Asked what he would do if he fell in love while on his mission continue on his way, or settle down for romance Oguchi is clear he'll not stop until his dream is completed.

Even if it takes 30 years?

"Yes," he says.

After hitting 100 countries by 2015, Oguchi says he wants to write about his adventures in children's' books and share his travelling lessons with young readers.

"I want to tell kids it's important for them to follow their dreams."

He says that cycling the world has changed him and that the biggest difference between life on the road and life at home is the friendliness he receives from people he meets along the way.

"In Japan people have to compete with each other so much as kids in high school, university," he says. "It's competition all the time. And people in Japan are not very open-minded; they keep their weaknesses inside themselves and are seldom open."

Oguchi says the greatest lesson life on the open road has taught him is how important it is to keep an open mind. He says he's more forthcoming and tolerant than ever.

"I've gradually come to trust more and more people and have become more friendly and open."

What more does a traveler need?

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