Planning a Trip Around the World on a Rickshaw Is Exactly as Hard as It Sounds

What do you do, for instance, when you can't get a visa to pedal through Pakistan?

Image
Reuters/Desmond Boylan

Why go fast when you can go slow?

Last year, Luke Parry biked 1,300 miles from London to Morocco over the course of two weeks, at one point covering 126 miles in a single day. But according to Parry, who has also cycled to Istanbul and through Scandinavia, speeding through country after country stopped him from fully interacting with each new surrounding. That’s why the vehicle of choice for his upcoming journey around the world is a pedicab, or cycled rickshaw, or what he calls the World Rickshaw Taxi. Parry plans to depart this September from his home in the U.K., beginning a 16,000-mile, one-and-a-half-year ride and picking up as many passengers as possible along the way.

Luke Parry and the jersey design he will sport on the trip.
 
Since the beginning of this year, Parry has been focused on devising the route. A rough itinerary goes from the United Kingdom to China, then onwards to Japan and the United States.
 

Parry has had to alter the route several times so far due to political and climate conditions. “I could have easily gone through Russia earlier in the summer, but because I’m leaving in September, it’s just not possible,” Parry says.

To avoid Pakistan, Parry will be shipping the rickshaw from Oman to India. 
 
Last month, he found out that he won’t be able to obtain a visa from Pakistan, a country still rife with sectarian violence. After researching other options, including a trek through Western China and Tibet, Parry decided on shipping the rickshaw as sea freight from Muscat, Oman, to Mumbai, India. Shipping the rickshaw might seem like cheating, but this change eliminates the costs and stress of acquiring a number of difficult-to-obtain visas, and it also frees up a bit of time for a potential tour of Southeast Asia, specifically Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
 
A Chinese man actually completed a two-year rickshaw journey from China to London last summer in an effort to help spread the Olympic spirit. Parry is aware of this precedent and reiterates that his purpose is not to break records, but to learn from the thousands of experiences to be gained from meeting others. That’s why he’s also taking passenger requests online and giving interested riders some power in shaping his route.
 
The idea is that the more passengers who request trips in advance, the more he can prepare to fit his route around them. In this exchange, he’s offering a rickshaw ride for food, drink, shelter, music, or even a language lesson. How many have signed up so far? “There’s been a couple but I’m not being flooded yet,” he says with a laugh. 
 
The route map online marks where Parry is expecting passengers. Zooming in and out groups passengers by relative location.
 
 

Parry is also testing out a tracking system to record each ride and give passengers something to remember.  

Two weeks ago, the project almost seemed like a no-go. The sponsor that was going to provide the most critical component-- the rickshaw -- backed out. Absorbing the cost with personal funds, Parry traveled 30 miles each way last week to check out a second-hand rickshaw. He came back with good news: this five-year-old “Cycles Maximus Pedicab Rickshaw” will become the World Rickshaw Taxi:

For the young adventurer, all that’s left to do before the September departure is paint the rickshaw black and yellow, endure a few more vaccinations, and figure out ways to maximize his trip. Ideas so far? Publicizing any data collected along the way and documenting the entire process on video. 

About the Author