Meet The Cyclist Who’s Riding Through Every Country In The Americas

People travel in all different types of ways. Some enjoy all-inclusive resorts where the piña coladas flow, while others enjoy living off a set of essentials in a precisely packed backpack. Radu Paltineanu, however, prefers to endure the elements on his bicycle. The Romanian has spent years pedaling and hitchhiking — two forms of transportation people tend to avoid for safety reasons and the high level of inconvenience.

I had the chance to speak with Paltineanu about his most recent expedition — cycling from Alaska to the tip of Argentina. He was able to have a leisurely conversation with me while touring the diverse beauty of Brazil. I was left jealous for so many reasons:

I was reading that your big expeditions like this started a few years ago. Can you tell me about your first journey?

I’ve been traveling for awhile now. I was on and off traveling. I was a student at McGill University in Canada, so whenever I’d be free from school I would go on different expeditions. In 2013, I did another bike trip from Copenhagen to Romania. In 2014, I went hitchhiking from Paris all the way to Tehran in Iran.

Last year, on the 5th of August, I started this one in the north part of Alaska, attempting to cycle both Americas, basically from each extreme. From the North part of Alaska all the way to the South part, that’s Argentina.

How long have you been on the road now?

I’ve been traveling for the past year and five months, almost. When I started the trip, I thought it would be over in nine months. I was really like, “Oh, I’m going to do it fast, I’ll cycle this amount of kilometers a day so I can get from there to the other side in this amount of time.” It didn’t happen and I decided to slow down and get to enjoy the places a little bit more. I also decided to cycle through all the continental countries, at least, of the Americas. When I got to Columbia, instead of keeping going down to Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, I went eastwards into Venezuela and now I’m in Brazil. I’m zig-zagging through South America, basically, to see all the countries, as well.

Do you have a new predicted time when you’ll be finished, or are you just trying to go with the flow?

I was thinking of finishing exactly two years from the moment I started, which would be August next year, like 2017. It’s a bit hard to estimate because things do happen on the way and you’ve got to be flexible on that journey, basically.

What has been the biggest struggle of your expedition so far?

The biggest struggle, maybe physical and weather-wise was cycling the US in the wintertime last year.

If I were to take the coast, it would’ve been a better choice but I’m always looking for a shortest route to get from Canada to Mexico. It was also one of the most scenic routes that you can take through the US, because a lot of people like to do the coast. They go through Washington and then down to California. Weather-wise, that was definitely the hardest part.

I don’t know, other than that… I was robbed twice.

[laughs] You just add that in there at the last minute… Where were you robbed?

Yeah, I was robbed, the first time … The first time I was robbed was just my phone. I had this cycling t-shirt with two pockets on the back. I always keep my phone there and listen to music while cycling. A guy just grabbed it from me on his motorcycle and off he went. The second time was in a really poor neighborhood in Panama City. He wanted to steal everything from me, but I turned my bike and off I went and all that he could grab was one of the bags in the back where I kept my clothes, so that was the second robbery.

What are your comments about the unpredictability of the road? Were you bummed out you weren’t meeting your original goal or are you now more, are you happier now that you have more of this time to actually settle in these countries?

I’m definitely happier with the choice of staying a little bit more on the road. I’m not doing it for any world record or anything.You could basically do it in three months if you really want to. If you want to do it for the record, but otherwise-

Everything’s just a blur.

I think the more time you get to spend, and the more time you’re forced to spend on the road, it’s better because you get to better understand the culture you go through.

I learned Spanish on the way and I’m learning Portuguese.

How long have you been in Brazil now?

Just 10 days, something like that, because I’m a Romanian speaker and I also speak French. I was living in Canada, so I have the French part, and Spanish now. With these three ones, Portuguese is just a matter of time because it’s almost the same. They’re all romance languages.

I was reading that you originally said that your favorite country had been Mexico, so far? Has that changed since you’ve moved through the trip more?

No, it’s still … I would say it’s a matter of three countries. It’s Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil now, which I knew I was going to love Brazil because I was always in love with Brazil anyway. Mexico was fantastic. I had met a lot of really cool and laid back people. It is just an amazing culture. I love Mexico, especially the people. To be honest, landscape-wise, it wasn’t the best place, but culinary, food-wise and people-wise, Mexico is fantastic.

Brazil has the most diversity in all of the Americas. You can see people from all walks of life, from all colors, from all origins. Brazil receives huge amounts of immigrants throughout its history, so it’s probably the most diverse country in the Americas. I’m always interested in more diverse countries.

How long do you think you’re going to stay in Brazil? Are you thinking you’re going to try to see a lot of that diversity?

Parts of it, yeah. As I was saying, my goal is to cycle all countries of the Americas so for doing that I’m now in a North corner of Brazil. I’m here just for the switch basically between Venezuela and Guiana, so I’m going Guianas but then back to Brazil. And I’m going to spend a lot of time not cycling, but taking photos from the Amazon because the only way to see all the countries is to do the zig-zag, is going through the Amazon. There’s no routes that I could cycle so I’m taking boats all the way from the Atlantic Ocean in Macapa to Ecuador.

Have you found yourself wanting to settle in some of the places that you’ve traveled through?

I kind of settled in Colombia in Medellin, for one month. I didn’t do anything. I was just … it was a year after I started and I needed a bit of time to relax and kind of get to feel the place a little bit more. But, settling? I don’t know, I don’t finish if I settle! [laughs]

I’m sure you’re missing your home and the familiarity of your family and your country. Have you come across any fellow Romanians?

Oh, yes I did. I was actually hosted in Mexico City by a really nice Romanian family. The father of the guy hosting me was the coach of the volleyball national team of Mexico. He’s the coach of both Romanian national volley team and of Mexico and it’s a really, really, really, really, nice family.

I was also hosted by a Romanian family owning a house in Salvador.

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Magdalena River at dusk. #SamsungRomania

A post shared by Radu Păltineanu (@radu.paltineanu) on