Until I was 44, I was a heavy smoker, I certainly smoked a package a day, at that time 25 cigarettes were in a package. I had absolutely no condition, what turned out after a round of running with friends. After 100 meters I was out of breath and I finished.
Slowly I became aware that I had to banish smoking from my life. I got the flu with a severe fever, the cigarettes tasted dirty. This heralded the beginning of a healthier life. I quit smoking and bought a second hand bike.
In my neighborhood is a wooded area. I loved to cycle over the quiet forest paths, in nature. I have been traveling for a long time, but then by car.
Since 1983 I went every year with my, temporarily converted to camper van, in the winter months to Morocco and for my work I flew to Taiwan annually.
in 1991 I went to the ex-DDR, to sell goods there at markets and there I met soldiers from Russia who were still stationed there. My interest in the unknown east was born. In 1992 I made a tour through Poland with my camping van and more and more I was on my bike and I made small day trips to places in the neighborhood.
I sometimes read something about people who made a long trip by bike and camped in the open countryside. I wanted that too and so I went to try it out. I bought a better bike and camping supplies and flew to Warsaw. From there my first little bike trip went from Warsaw to the city of Gomel in Belarus.
Fantastic, what a great experience: on the way in my tent to spend the night on fields and in forests, be aware that in a former Soviet republic it was very different from the country where I came from. It was difficult for me to eat, I really felt that I needed to “score” food. The shops were as good as empty, here and there some tomatoes or gherkins in glass. Sometimes I could buy milk or potatoes that old ladies offered along the roads I cycled on.
This belonged entirely to the adventure in which I found myself. On the way I fantasized about the possibility of making longer cycling trips in the future, and of course the road went beyond Gomel.
Once at home I took books from the library (internet was not available yet for the general public). I read about the Silk Route, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan were all beautiful names to dream away. A book was published about Dutch boys who traveled back home from Vladivostok on mud roads in Siberia by bicycle. Their adventures naturally appealed to me: I wanted something like that too. Because of the experience of Asia and traveling through Taiwan, I also became curious about China. I had made my decision. I would make a cycling trip from Warsaw to Hong Kong.
that is how I started in 1995 as Frans de Fietser.