At a time when most young men are being told to get on their bike and get a job, one city boy has done just that... but for an adventure.
Matt Amery has just returned from a cycling trip which took him across the world, from China to Turkey. And this month, he’s off again.
Amazingly, the sturdy bike which he rode survived some of the most unforgiving terrain in the world – only to be stolen in Milton Keynes.
In 2006, the Staffordshire University graduate decided he wasn’t ready to pursue a conventional teaching career, so went travelling and began to teach English in South Korea.
Here, he caught the travelling bug and ventured on to China.
“I wanted to experience living in a big city,” said the 30-year-old, “So I lived in Shanghai for a year”.
Inner city living wasn’t for Matt though, so after a year of teaching, he set his sights on seeing some more of the world.
Deciding to travel back to the UK over land, he met a Swiss couple who were on a cycling trip and was instantly “sold on it”.
The very next day, the spontaneous traveller bought a bike, and this was where his cross-country adventure began.
Over the next ten months, Matt cycled from western China into Kyrgyzstan, through Tajikistan, along the Afghan border, across Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran before travelling south to the Persian Gulf.
Northern Iraq was his next stop, cycling until he entered Eastern Turkey, travelling along the Syrian border and into Istanbul. It was in Istanbul where, after almost two years away from home, Matt decided to take a more conventional method of transport home: an aeroplane.
The small, sturdy bike which took the MK adventurer across desert, land and sea survived months of torturous terrain, across thousands of miles. That is, until Matt returned home and lent his bike to a friend.
“He must have forgotten to lock it, because when he went outside, it had been stolen. It’s quite funny, really...” said Matt, with a laugh.
The ambitious wannabe PE teacher travelled alone for most of his journey: “I didn’t have an iPod or phone, but I’d travelled a lot before this trip, so I didn’t feel unsafe.”
Not surprising, then, that the daredevil youngster was uninsured for his trip.
“I know it was a bit stupid, but it was a completely random decision – I didn’t plan any of it.”
Carrying a tent on his back, along with several litres of water, Matt crossed many challenging terrains.
But it was the people, he says, who made it worthwhile: “I felt I was travelling for the people... How welcoming they were stood out most.”
The keen photographer stayed with several Nomadic families during his trip, some of whom took him in while he was ill.
“I only got sick a couple of times,” he said.
“It was my own fault, though... I ate a lot of ice cream in Kurgistan and they’re notorious for having power cuts.”
In the current economic climate, you may ask how a young man can afford to travel the world without a job.
“It cost very little,” said Matt.
“In Iran and central Asia, I sometimes only spent one or two USD per day. I didn’t have a daily budget in mind; but I obviously knew what my bank balance was and wanted to get home for as little as possible.”
It was Visas, said Matt, which were the main expense.
Such a remarkable feat of physical and mental endurance is something most people would only consider if it were for a cause, such as charity. Had he considered it? “As this trip was unplanned, I never really thought about charity, but it’s something I’d definitely like to do in the future.”
This month, Matt will fly to Lithuania, travel through Latvia and Estonia and then take a boat to Finland and Russia before reaching Japan.
“If money holds out, I’ll go to Myanmar, then try to get over to India – I want to spend more time there.”
What’s next, then, for the seasoned traveller? “Something I really want to do for charity, in a couple of years, is to travel from Alaska, through North America and down to the very tip of Argentina. It’ll take at least one to two years to cycle it, so I’ll set my sights on that.”
His first stop, however, will be a bicycle shop in Eastern Europe... a safer option, it seems, than MK.