What do an Alaskan wooden church, a Mexican prison cell, a Bolivian volcano top, an Ecuadorian fire station, a Venezuelan military compound and a Peruvian police station all have in common? They are just some of the unusual places where Radu Paltineannu, a Romanian-Canadian adventurer, found shelter during a 34,000 km cycling tour across the Americas.
His ongoing voyage from the frozen lands of Alaska down to Argentina’s Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, have created logistical as well as physical challenges for Paltineanu.
One of many such tests was finding places to sleep. Determined to save on accommodation expenses and experience local hospitality, Paltineanu visited a wide range of public and private venues. On his blog he refers to a prison cell as the “safest place I slept in Mexico.”
The pan-American exploit is not Paltineanu’s first feat of endurance. In previous years he cycled almost all of Eastern Europe and Scandinavia before hitchhiking across Europe and Central Asia.
After studying software engineering in Montreal, Paltineanu decided to become a full-time adventurer. “I wanted to see the world, I couldn’t see myself at that time working in an office and coding for 8-9 hours a day. I wanted a life of adventure. And that is how the ‘Cycle the Americas’ project was born,” he told Euronews.
Crossing 22 countries and cycling almost 34,000 kilometres has given rise to a long repertoire of anecdotes.
“There’s so much to tell. In the US I managed to escape a snowstorm on the eve of Thanksgiving Day owing to an elderly couple welcoming me into their home. In Guyana, a family hosted me for over a week, while in Peru I met the so-called ‘Desert Angel’, a man offers meals to travellers crossing his arid region. And there are countless other such experiences”, Paltineanu recounts.
Entering South America required sharing a boat with drugs traffickers over the Darien Gap, one of the world’s most dangerous jungles, while Venezuela led to Radu Paltineanu “experiencing first-hand both the beauty of that country and its economic hardship.” In Uruguay, time spent with “the world's humblest head of state”, ex-president Jose Mujica renowned for his austere lifestyle, taught the cyclist a thing or two about happiness: “Happiness means giving yourself time to do what you really want,” Paltineanu observes.
Paltineanu is financing this expedition via donations on his website. “This project wouldn’t have been possible without the help of those who read my blog and donate on www.radupaltineanu.com or offer me accommodation along the way.”
“People’s hospitality changed the way I see the world. I don’t look at it as a dangerous place. People are far friendlier than we might think.”
The cyclist plans to further extend his travels: “I want to cycle all the continents, without excluding areas that might be considered unsafe. That’s how you can truly understand the world,” Paltineanu notes.