It’s the 25th of August, I open the email and I see a new message from the WarmShowers hospitality club. A guy travelling by bicycle asks for help on the arrival at the island of São Miguel. He arrives by boat at midnight. It is not easy to pedal and find a place to set up the tent at this hour. We exchange some emails and agreed: meeting with Christian on September 10th, near the port.
We agreed for a night at my house. He stayed for two weeks! Including his birthday, September 13th.
Christian Erregger was born in a small town in Austria some 39 years ago. He graduated as a chef, but went on a military career that led him to do missions by the UN in several countries. Usually, in conflict.
At the age of 20 he did not settle for a stable and predictable life. He chose Thailand to live and work for five years. He went back to being a head chef and a dive instructor. He took the opportunity to travel throughout Southeast Asia.
The return to Austria was very slowly on a land journey that lasted for several years. This adventure took him through many countries and cultures, pointing up the several months in China and a very remarkable passage in Iran. However, what definitely marked him, changing him deeply, were the two years spent in India.
Christian returns to Austria after 10 years. He is not the same person anymore.
In his mega trip he ends up meeting several long-distance travelers who travel by bicycle. The bike makes it easy on him to decide how he will make the next trip. Thus begins the adventure towards Mauritania, exploring the northwest coast of Africa.
After comes another season in the country where he was born. He needs to work in order to get some money for the next trip. It soon came.
He never left the bike at home again. He set a course to the North, pedalling to Estonia. From there he flew to the United States, having crossed the country from north to south, continuing through Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. This journey ended up being much more than just pedaling. Christian told us that he shared his joy by cooking his meals every day on a small portable stove and camping in fantastic and hidden places that he found. What he appreciated the most was the pedalling experience and meeting extraordinary people. These were fundamental parts of his traveling routine.
In Guatemala he met people to whom he offered his services as head chef. He went aboard a sailboat, in exchange for a boat ride to Europe. On the way they stopped for a few days in Bermuda and next in Horta, where Christian fell in love with the Azores. This is how he decided to spend the next four months: exploring the nine islands and letting the sailboat depart …
He was now on the last island, São Miguel, and was about to leave our house. Those were beautiful days of conviviality and extraordinary intercultural meals.
And so we know a little about Christian’s story who went out to explore the island for a month and a half. During this period we met several times.
In spite of our daily routine, when a holiday or a weekend came, we would go and look for the Austrian adventurer for a nice afternoon talk, some pedalling or walking around. It was not always easy to find him because he did not have a cell phone. We just exchanged a few words for email during the week trying to predict where his next location would be. We never had a miss!
Empathy was growing, friendship came and we got to know Christian and his way of life. Our friend has several skills and competences and has developed them throughout his life. This fact has allowed him to get on very well in the way of life he has adopted, semi-nomadic. In addition to his undeniable gifts as a cook, he also developed the ability to carve wood. He offered GreenBiker a piece of wood designed, sculpted and painted by him. Fantastic! We were moved by his gesture. For days, he looked for a large piece of wood that looked fine. Then, with the help of a small tool that he carried, some pieces of sandpaper and a can of varnish, he made a piece worthy of a true professional.
The more we interacted with Christian, the more we felt that he inspired us with his way of life and thinking. Because of our connection to education and school environments, we quickly invited him to give talks to teenagers in schools in the area in order to introduce young people to different lifestyles and alternative ways of traveling. It was also a good opportunity to practice the English language. Christian promptly agreed and we did an activity that was largely cherished by our young people who absorbed his fantastic life story. Albert Einstein said that “the mind that opens itself to a new idea never goes back to its original size.” I could really feel this at the end of these presentations, while the young people applauded him vigorously.
Christian returned to Austria on the 4th November. It was the end of a three-year journey. Not to end his life trip, but to take a break, add a few changes and move on to a new adventure. In a few months, through another country, another continent, with other people. But always with the same simplicity that taught us so much.
Some images about the article.
A tea break in Pakistan
His first bike trip from Austria to Mauritania in 2010. In Morocoo.
Yellowstone National Park, USA, 2015
Lunch time at Yellowstone National Park, USA, 2015
The course of the second part of his last bike journey
On the way to the Azores. On his boat sail from Honduras to The Azores. Christian has just fished his lunch.
Finishing the piece of carved wood. His offer to the Greenbiker fellows.
Finished carved wood piece. A great offer to the Greenbiker.
During Christian’s conference about different lifestyles and different ways of travelling. In a school at São Miguel.
A class at the end of a conference.