ride: on the road

words patricia lidis  |  images dave gill

Dave Gill, 25, is in Zagreb, Croatia. He's living in an AirBnb rental and wants to focus on his writing. He’s originally from England and doesn’t speak more than a few words of Croatian at this point. “I just typed in ‘Europe’ and clicked somewhere with internet and I brought the scale down to a pretty cheap price and there was about 20 places and Croatia was one of them. So I looked at Kayak and found the cheapest flight. And basically all the puzzle pieces to Croatia sort of lined up. And I thought, well I’ve never been there before so I’ll try living in Croatia for a bit.”

On November 13th, 2013, Dave completed a 368-day biking trip starting in Ithaca, NY looping south, up and through Canada into Alaska, across Canada and arriving back in New York, NY.  When Dave first set out his mom was terrified. “For the first three months she thought I was going to die and get hit by a car every day. She struggled to sleep for a while. But her worrying kept me on my feet. I was more safety conscious because of that going on. And then on the other hand having that total understanding of my dad was a good balance.” His mother is from London, and too urban for such treks while his father has instilled with a love for the outdoors.

Dave makes video commercials and writes on the side. His website, Vague Direction, is one that focuses on his travels and the people he’s met. “When you’re reading something constantly, it’s being driven into you. Time is this finite resource. Time is the most valuable resource we’ve got. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. You can’t get that back. I was bored at work. I wasn’t going in. I was 23, and I didn’t want that stress. I’d be reading this aspirational stuff and it would say ‘do the things you want to do.’ There was a moment over one weekend, I remember it well, where I thought I’m not going in on Monday. I’m telling them that I quit because from now on, I want to be proud of the stuff I am focusing on”.


“Before I started, I had five or six people in mind who I wanted to meet. I thought I would craft out these interviews, do five or six interviews with people who I really wanted to meet. I set out with this small goal of five people. Then when I was in a town, I’d get talking to somebody and they’d say I’d have to meet someone they knew. The times that would happen spontaneously were the coolest ones. Like Brad, a man who spent ten years in jail and is now a cross-country walker. I could have never found him online. He doesn’t use email, or have a web presence. He’s such a fascinating guy who’s been through so much terrible stuff but has such a positive outlook on life when it would be easy for him to be so bitter against people after what happened. These natural encounters were the coolest meetings of my life.”

why bike

“When I was at work, I was kind of burnt out, just thinking that this is not for me. I tried to actively think of the happiest time in my life. The times that I could think of where I wasn’t stressed or worrying about anything where when I rode my bike as a teenager. I can’t ever remember a bad moment. So a part of choosing a bike was choosing a means of transport that I knew I would be psyched and happy about.”

“It was tough. There were moments of utter joy, I’m thinking that this is perfect, this is beautiful, I’m meeting cool people, I’m getting exercise every day so I feel really good. And then the other side of that coin is where am I going to sleep? There’s thunder and lightning. Haven’t spoken to anyone in days because I’m in the middle of Alaska. So there’s a battle of sometimes it’s cool, sometimes it’s a real bitch. I was really close to going home about three times. I thought originally that I would do it for six months, and it ended up being a year. Then immediately you have half the money, because you need twice as much. So I was broke the whole time. I was having the same boring food, I wasn’t going out socializing a lot because I couldn't afford to. So I was really close to coming home, so sick of being poor all the time, having to sleep in a tent instead of sleeping in a hotel. I’m so glad I did it.  In retrospect, the fondest memories are the ones where you’re having the toughest time. I’ve been to New York, to beach holidays. I don’t look back at going to New York as being a highlight of my life- Because it’s easy. The times you really look back on as being the best ones are the ones where you’re really questioning yourself, you’re really doubting what you’re doing. It’s really horrible and hard! But because you complete what you set out to do, there’s no better feeling in the world.”

 why now

“There are different phases of your life. I’m not sure that focusing on business when you’re quite young is actually that sensible. I think you have this time, this phase of maybe 20 years when you’re in good health, you’re independent, you can get by, and you really have to make most of that time. And I’m not sure if business endeavors are the best use of that time. When you’re 70 and you look back at yourself from 18-30, I’m not convinced that you’ll be that psyched about the business when there’s so much other stuff you could have done in that time.”

Right now, Dave is splitting his time between traveling and working back in England. He sets up a block of work for a month. When he’s completed the month of work and gotten his pay, he travels once more.

“If you don’t go and do the shit you want to do, what’s the point of anything, really?

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