Ever dream about packing up and leaving it all behind? Ten years ago that’s exactly what Keiichi Iwasaki, then 28 years old, did. But he didn’t take a plane or a boat. For the past decade he’s been pedaling his way around the world on a bicycle. It all started in April 2001 when Iwasaki left his home in Maebashi, Japan with just 160 yen, around $2, in his pocket. He intended to bike through Japan, but enjoyed the trip so much that he caught a ferry to South Korea and hasn’t looked back since.

Two years ago we posted about Keiichi’s unusual adventures, which he funds by performing magic tricks on the street. When we last spoke to him, he was in Switzerland, preparing to climb Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak. Keiichi not only achieved this goal, but he managed to make it even more impressive than his climb to the summit of Mount Everest.

Summiting Mont Blanc (Photo Courtesy of Keiichi Iwasaki)

“When I climbed Mount Everest, I climbed with 17 members and many Sherpa (mountain guides), so they made the route, fixed the line for us, and made it easier to climb. But on Mount Blanc, I climbed completely alone,” Keiichi told me from his current location on the Adriatic coast of Italy. This meant that he had no one to tie his ropes for him, leaving him vulnerable to slip over the cliff. Keiichi also had no guides so he had to find the trail left by former climbers, which wasn’t always easy. Luckily, he made it to the summit; a moment that Keiichi said made him realize that nature is both beautiful and dangerous.

After this achievement, Keiichi biked to Liechtenstein, Austria, France, Monaco, Malta and Italy using the same bicycle he bought in Spain two years ago (his fifth bike, after two broke and two were stolen).

Keiichi, who has not been back to his native Japan since 2002, says he sometimes misses his family and friends back home, although Skype and email help to stay connected.His parents have visited him five times and a number of friends have met him during his travels. Despite occasional bouts of homesickness, Keiichi plans to keep traveling since he still has the “emotion and curiosity to see the world.”

Performing magic tricks in Italy (Photo courtesy of Keiichi Iwasaki)

 

Keiichi is in no hurry to leave Italy – he’s enjoying the historical architecture and, of course, the “pizza, wine and gelato” – but he hopes to go to Africa next. And in the next five years, he plans to bike his way through North and South America. After that? Perhaps a quick trip back to Japan to eat some “real Japanese food,” and then he hopes to sail around the world by boat.

In the meantime, he’s happy to bike around the world, still funding his trip entirely on magic tricks.

Former Traveler editorial assistant, Sarah Langdon, is a fifth-year visual communications major at the University of South Carolina and is spending her last semester studying in Buenos Aires, a city that truly never sleeps. Follow her on Twitter @sarahmlangdon.

Comments

  1. Remko van Ekelen
    zurich
    September 8, 2011, 3:39 pm

    In 2009 we met  Keiichi and his grirlfriend in Zurich together with my father in law Jack who made a similar trip as Keiichi approximately 50 years ago. This was a very memorable experience and amazing to see how these two travellers had so much in common and so much to tell each other. We wish Keiichi good luck with his further journey and know that Jack will follow him looking down on all of us from above.

  2. troy regala
    philippines
    September 8, 2011, 8:59 pm

    few men have the courage to do such thing, to see the world with Keiichi’s eyes as i can imagine is the most wonderful! I admire his resourcefulness.. very inspiring.. good luck on your journey Keiichi! visit the Philippines many of us will join you in your biking adventures here! Manila to Baguio would be great!

  3. w. ruth Kozak
    Vancouver Canada
    September 9, 2011, 12:03 am

    I suppose if he wasnt to cycle around North American (US, Canada and perhaps even Mexico of S.A.,) He’ll have to resort to a plane or boat at some point — unless he pedals across the ice floes. An amazing adventurer. very brave.

  4. WorldCycle Videos
    the world
    September 9, 2011, 1:54 pm

    I have another guy for you who cycled the world with only a handful of money. I simply love him
    http://www.vimeo.com/groups/wereldfietser/videos/1835844

    Wanna see more people cycling around the world?
    Go see WordCycle Videos there are 500 of them :> http://www.vimeo.com/groups/wereldfietser

  5. Marty Baird
    north ga.
    September 9, 2011, 3:55 pm

    I have faith around the world on bike is posible & wish him alll the best

  6. Tricia Kato
    Japan/Singapore
    September 10, 2011, 8:42 am

    Good luck, Keiichi san!….Keep cycling and don’t forget to tell us about all your adventures along the way.

  7. Sean
    London
    September 12, 2011, 8:10 am

    Great post, great story!

  8. john michael oraye
    Philippines
    September 14, 2011, 12:54 am

    He is astounding.Travelling the world in a bicycle is not easy.Wish to meet him someday.

  9. George
    Texas
    September 14, 2011, 12:58 am

    I just started my own bike tour in the U.S. For now, it’s only temporary, only two months, but at some point, I intend to extend my journeys to include more countries. This guy is only one of my many inspirations. Thanks for the update on his journey! Maybe I’ll run into him on the road at some point!

  10. vikram
    bangalore
    September 14, 2011, 12:59 am

    very brave of him to follow this route.
    hoping to see more of your tour stories.

    Good luck for smooth ride…:)

  11. sam buac
    Digos CIty, Philippines
    September 14, 2011, 1:03 am

    let us know (KRC) if you happen to pass here in the Philippines :)

  12. louielah
    September 14, 2011, 1:18 am

    nice and inspiring story.i’ve been dreaming to travel and see the beautiful places of the world.but keichi made it happen,i truly admire his bravery.way to go,more adventures to share keichi.looking forward for it.God bless in your journey.

  13. Jiban
    Indonesia
    September 14, 2011, 1:39 am

    just really really curious, where did he got all the budget to traveling? By performing street magic? Or even he s only have $2 at first, myb he have billions in his account? Coz this story just too amazing like fairy tale

  14. mfalme wangozi
    KENYA
    September 14, 2011, 3:05 am

    hope when you come to Africa you pass through the 8th wonder of the world,good luck have a safe journey because you are a inspiration.Have been planning to visit Ethiopia for years but my lame excuse as always been money, it’s time to hit the road.

  15. Arman de Burbon
    Prague
    September 14, 2011, 3:13 am

    Hmmm… donno if it was him but i saw simular looking dude in bluish outfit with the bike in the center of Prague, on Old town square to be exact about 3-4 weeks ago. Small world ey

  16. Prasanna
    Bengaluru, India
    September 14, 2011, 3:34 am

    Good luck Keiichi. His experiences are very inspiring. especially his Mt. Everest and Mt. Blanc climb. Do join us in Bengaluru(Bangalore). A trip from Bangalore to Mysore and around Mysore would be good!!

    Keep Pedalling
    P

  17. Danica
    Legazpi City, Philippines
    September 14, 2011, 3:43 am

    I hope he can visit Philippines too. =)

    Good luck and enjoy everything that the world has to offer.

  18. ryota ito
    Japan/US
    September 14, 2011, 4:37 am

    Many Japanese wish to do this kind of thing but cannot. Why? Because they grew in the small, close island. Keiichi, however, ran away from Japan and enjoys his journey… keep going, keiichi.

  19. Christine Francis
    Cape Town, South Africa
    September 14, 2011, 4:41 am

    I wish I had it in me to do something like this… Good luck Keiichi, I’ve taken my hat off to you :)

  20. FRANSISCA
    ELMHURST NYC
    September 14, 2011, 4:42 am

    Keiichi san, very good spirit to travel around the world with bike, and only $2 in the pocket, SALUTE….GAMBATE KUDASAI, REAL BUSHIDO…NIHONJIN….

  21. Qasim
    UK
    September 14, 2011, 4:43 am

    Amazing achievements Keiichi, I guess this is your Destiny/Path …. To see the marvels of God’s Creation from Country to country must bring a sense of true humbleness…

    :)

  22. rami beiruty
    lebanon
    September 14, 2011, 4:44 am

    a true adventurer spirit keiichi has !! wish u all the best

  23. Foysal
    Dhaka, Bangladesh.
    September 14, 2011, 5:10 am

    What a journey! I am just speechless , It proves that if you have a dream and passion for it, It will come true. hats off to Keiichi Iwasaki.

  24. ravail singh
    India
    September 14, 2011, 5:25 am

    keiichi-urs is an inspiring story,i,from panjab,india also cycled as achild a lot,but congrats how u managed vith $2 only even with magic trics,i at 45 yrs vud lov to do so,welcome 2 india,an experience u wont forget easily.regards,keep it up.

  25. Martin
    Philippines Laguna,Paete
    September 14, 2011, 5:34 am

    He is so great imean can you bike around the world with only 2dollars on your pocket

  26. Justen
    September 14, 2011, 6:48 am

    How is it possible to travel with just $2 in your pocket? what about visas, food, accommodations, etc??? Someone must be sponsoring him. It’s just impossible.

  27. Bambi Stekens
    Philippines
    September 14, 2011, 7:33 am

    amazing adventure! great idea- but the question is how can he cross borders? does he have visas to all the places?

  28. Patricia Aballi
    Key Biscayne, Fla.
    September 14, 2011, 7:49 am

    We need more stories like this one…. Go for it Keiichi!!!!!

  29. bung
    imphal-manipur-india
    September 14, 2011, 8:02 am

    keiichi keep going mate u r living da dream n wish we all wanted 2 do but could never have da courage 2 do it

  30. Saqib
    Pakistan
    September 14, 2011, 8:28 am

    Great trip by brave Japanese.
    I know very well about the Japanese nation.

  31. Dina
    Kathamndu Nepal
    September 14, 2011, 8:43 am

    I am sure it was great , fun ,hard so happy with friend you are super man!!!

  32. James
    Australia
    September 14, 2011, 8:54 am

    Are you all foolish enough to Believe this!? Did national Geographic check out the story?? or just copy anything this guy said from his personal blog??. Funded on Magic tricks?? haha Do you know how much it costs to climb Mount Everest?? It costs between $26,000 – $65,000 to climb Everest… How many magic tricks is that? Not to mention Visa’s for every country which can be from $100-300 each, add on ….Food, bikes, repairs, equipment….ALL funded on $2 and a couple of magic tricks?? hahahaha dream on

  33. larissa
    Montreal, QC
    September 14, 2011, 11:34 am

    Oh my goodness! This is what I want to do after I finish university. Probably not the whole world, but wow! That would be absolutely amazing!! I’m gonna start planning today instead of studying. :)

  34. wadi
    northern malaysia
    September 14, 2011, 11:46 am

    amazing,keiichi tells the money not for everything .go go go

  35. wadi
    northern malaysia
    September 14, 2011, 11:49 am

    amazing,

  36. Shahir
    Goa
    September 14, 2011, 11:56 am

    HATS OFF to u man.. Keep the spirit….Cheers.

  37. guadalupe
    santa maria california
    September 14, 2011, 12:37 pm

    thas so cool I wish you the best,,,,keeit-up

  38. amir
    malaysia
    September 14, 2011, 12:50 pm

    dude.. $2? come 2 malaysia, id giv u lodging n food for free as long as u sign my dad’s bike. seriously!

  39. Carol
    US
    September 14, 2011, 1:20 pm

    It is a fun story but the entire story could NOT be true — but, as I say, fun story. It would be hard enough to travel around US on bike for 10 years staring out with jusr $2.00. I can’t believe you can do this all in 10 years and never see a doctor, dentist, etc. — just to mention a few things.

  40. Kayman Wilham
    Jakarta INDONESIA
    September 14, 2011, 3:40 pm

    Perjalan yang luar biasa, Petualang Sejati! Kapan anda ke kota kami Jakarta Indonesia kami tunggu….!?

  41. Shaun
    Wellington, New Zealand
    September 14, 2011, 4:42 pm

    ^ Always gotta be a naysayer. I don’t doubt his travels. It says he makes money street performing. A truly inspirational human being

  42. Anis
    September 14, 2011, 5:15 pm

    nice person, good luck to him

  43. Chris P
    philippines
    September 14, 2011, 8:05 pm

    I will break his record leaving my country with nothing! puff! enjoy the ride keiichi! take care!

  44. Mohamed
    cairo
    September 15, 2011, 12:13 am

    Please when you come to egypt tell us because i want to meet you and ask you some questions about your trip because i want to do what you are doing but in a different way

    Thanks

  45. Manosh Sen
    Calcutta
    September 15, 2011, 12:26 am

    It is inspirational to see a man going around the world on a cycle starting with only $2 in his pocket. A wonderful journey worth chronicling. The man must be having great negotiation skills otherwise it is difficult nay impossible to traverse the world on a cycle (unless otherwise he produces money by magic).

  46. Masood
    Karachi, Pakistan
    September 15, 2011, 1:00 am

    Well down, Keiichi san!….Keep cycling and don’t forget to come Karachi, Pakistan and also should tell us about all your adventures along the way.

  47. ramram lubang
    manila
    September 15, 2011, 4:16 am

    no guts no glory, i like ur guts the glory is yours,anyway ur not getting cancer for the callos, i salute u.

  48. wajid buledi
    jacobabad, pakistan
    September 15, 2011, 4:41 am

    if u make a trip to pakistan then plz dont come to my city from april to september because temprature rise 52c. my city is the hottest city in whole asia.

  49. amina shrestha
    nepal
    September 15, 2011, 11:36 am

    Keep up the spirit and inspire all who stay unhappy doing nothing but to blame faith ! !
    incredible !!

  50. slumdog
    Somewhere in the third world
    September 15, 2011, 11:52 am

    The $2 in the pocket bit is a bit misleading. An important pre-requisite for such a trip is citizenship of an OECD country.

    There are plenty of people in the developing world with bicycles, $2 in their pockets, and the spirit of travel and adventure in them. Just imagine them biking up to a European border, trying to explain to the immigration person how they plan to support themselves doing magic tricks. Good luck trying to get anywhere without the right passport.

    Cheers to this man nevertheless.

  51. Bibek Shrestha
    kathmandu
    September 15, 2011, 12:19 pm

    Big big inspiration. it takes real guts for people to leave behind everything and travel around the world.
    Good luck

  52. alan macdonald
    Canada
    September 15, 2011, 1:21 pm

    There’s no way he climbed Mt Everest!

  53. Asna
    Malaysia
    September 15, 2011, 10:21 pm

    very interesting !!! congratulations

  54. Shahzad Khan
    Pakistan (Islamabad & Peshawar cities)
    September 16, 2011, 3:57 am

    Nice to know about your trip Mr. Iwasaki. Please let me know when visiting Pakistan. I will love to accompany you on my bike.

    Shahzad

  55. [...] article by the National Geographic this [...]

  56. Ng Choong Huah
    Malaysia
    September 16, 2011, 6:35 am

    Awesome.What an extraordinary life this guy must have!

  57. FRIDAY FAST-FORWARD |
    September 16, 2011, 1:18 pm

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  58. thinngo
    vietnam
    September 19, 2011, 6:06 am

    WOA, that’s amazing and wonderful. Good luck to you Keiichi. Hopes to see you in Vietnam soon. I admire your adventure.

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