An East Preston man and his partner decided to take a career break to go travelling – but not in a conventional fashion.
Oli Cooper, 29, and Marlene Thanhäuser, 25, decided to hitchhike as far east as possible, while on a limited budget.
The couple were inspired to reduce their carbon footprint while living in Germany, but knew they still wanted to travel, leading to them finding alternative modes of travelling.
Oli said: “Inspiration from others was what motivated us to cycle home, and if our style of travelling can encourage even the smallest change in the mindset or behaviour of others, then it makes all of the tough times on the road worth it.
“Big change needs to come from the top but there is so much we can do as individuals.”
The duo began their journey just over a year ago and it took them ten days to hitchhike from Oli’s family home in East Preston to Moscow, where they continued by train to Mongolia.
While in Mongolia, Oli and Marlene stayed with farming families to learn new skills.
Most of the stays were set up through organisations but in one case the couple went door knocking to find a host after travelling to the wrong village.
They then moved on to travel through China, where they camped out under highways in Xinjiang.
After travelling through China and Vietnam, Oli and Marlene looked for plane-free routes to either Australia or Japan but alternatives turned out to be too complex or expensive.
With little budget left, yet still committed to their greener way of travelling, the pair took inspiration from two bloggers who had been making their way around the world without a motor and bought bicycles .
The last six months of the journey started in Bangkok and saw Oli and Marlene cycle nearly 6,000 miles through Thailand, Laos, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.
Oli said: “We realised how entirely unprepared we were to cycle across the deserts of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, where roads sometimes just disappear and you’re forced to ride for 12 hours in the 40-degree heat just to find water.”
The couple are now back in England after what was the ‘most rewarding year of their lives’.
Reflecting on the journey, Oli said: “We learned many things along the way.
“We continued to work with local farmers, and now return home with a new determination to think about how we travel, where our food comes from, and what steps we can take to become more ecologically responsible.”