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.
“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.”
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.