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A bikepacker who's been on the road for 8 years says he's turned his lifestyle into a business that covers his costs — here's how.

Shubhangi Goel   

A bikepacker who's been on the road for 8 years says he's turned his lifestyle into a business that covers his costs — here's how.
  • Tristan Ridley is a "bikepacker" who has been traveling the world for eight years.
  • In his first year on the road, he was living off less than $10 a day.

Tristan Ridley was days into his first long-distance trip when he met with a life-threatening incident.

He had just crossed a river by foot, and was pulling up his bicycle to the shore, when a group of men drinking asked him to stop. People he had talked to about Papua New Guinea had warned him not to stop in a situation like this.

“I got straight back on my bike and I cycled past them. I just kind of gave them a wave, and as soon as they saw me, they immediately got to their feet. They started running at me shouting — most of them had machetes,” Ridley told Business Insider in a video call.

He managed to get away and carried on with his trip with the goal of cycling from Papua New Guinea all the way back home to the UK.

Living on $6 a day

Ridley, now 33, is a full-time “bikepacker” who has been traveling the world for eight years. He started using bikes to travel in 2015 and has since ridden the lengths of Africa, Asia, Europe, and nearly all of Oceania.

His solo travels started with nights in hostels and traveling by buses and trains. From there, he moved into hitchhiking and camping. Wanting even more flexibility, he began considering cycling. After a few painful trips, it became his vehicle of choice.

“I wanted to do this big trip, which I figured would take about a year. I had saved just enough from part time work in Australia that I could manage it on a very tight budget,” he said, referring to his first long-distance trip which covered Southeast Asia, China, Central Asia, and Europe.

“You really don't need much money to travel very long distances on a bicycle. In my first year I was living on about five pounds, or $6.30, a day, slightly less even,” Ridley said. He budgeted 4,000 pounds, or $5,048, for the year-long trip.

Ridley has done most of his traveling solo. He said that depending on himself through road accidents and visa troubles has made him mentally tough.

“There's times when I'm very grateful to be alone,” Ridley said. “For personal growth, I think traveling solo has enormous value.”

He said traveling alone taught him how to improvise, be comfortable under pressure, and how to deal with people. In terms of security, he finds that personal skills and forming accurate judgments are his “first line of defense” and more useful than knives or pepper spray.

Making a business out of his passion

As Ridley spent more time on the road, more people started reaching out to him looking for advice.

“It was getting to the point where I just felt like I didn't really have the time anymore to reply to all of these messages,” he said.

He decided to start a coaching service and found that clients were willing to pay because they needed support to plan routes and buy the correct equipment.

Ridley’s YouTube channel, where he shares short smartphone videos of his rides, began growing around the pandemic. Today, the channel has 19,000 subscribers, and its most popular video — with a thumbnail titled “Pack for Bikepacking” — has 295,000 views.

Ridley did not disclose how much the businesses make each year, but said that he works only to cover costs.

Ridley is part of a wave of people who have turned their lifestyles into online businesses.

Sophie Darsy and her partner Ryan Ellison have been sailing around the world full time for eight years. They set off sailing in 2016, rented out their apartments in Stockholm, and now are able to take work calls from their boat thanks to a Starlink connection. Darsy turned her hobby of documenting their travels into a professional YouTube channel that has become her source of income.

Solo traveler-turned influencer Gaby Beckford amassed 500,000 followers on social media by posting about her adventures. She now leads group trips for others after realizing people want to “see a country through an influencer’s eyes,” she previously told BI.

Cycling has also attracted people looking to explore the world in a new way. In 2022, Valtteri Heinila and his college roommate cycled from Helsinki to Singapore in 245 days. The pair plan to turn videos from their trip into a documentary and Heinila also plans to write a book about his experiences, he told BI.

As he travels for longer, Ridley’s mindset towards travel has changed: “I'm not the same person I was when I started this trip eight years ago.”

And while Ridley has long had a goal of visiting 100 countries, he says that number does not mean much to him in practice. He now prefers slower travel, cycling tougher routes, and riding with companions.

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