Alise Miksta is a textbook introvert, in that she gleans her energy from the time she spends being alone. This, coupled with her self-confessed nomadic nature, led the Latvian Dubai resident to take on an epic adventure last month.
Miksta, 32, tricycled across Europe, covering 2,818 kilometres to get from Latvia to Turkey in 26 days, following her simple desire to “travel and be free”.
Using a cycling app to navigate her journey, Miksta travelled through Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. It’s a dream she had harboured for three years and a tester of sorts for the round-the-world ride she’s planning to embark upon next year.
Finding a ride
Even though her dad was willing to loan her his two-wheel motorbike, Miksta wanted to fulfil her fantasy of travelling on a recumbent bike. “First of all, I took my dad's old bike to a workshop where they build these trikes. As they were looking at it and deciding how they could improve the bike by adding various parts, the mechanic said he had a bike he’d built for his son. “
And he said: “My son is not too excited about it, so you can buy from me if you want. And that's how I got my machine,” says Miksta of her custom-built three-wheeler.
Her father, who is a bike enthusiast, became Miksta's top guy for all technical guidance during her adventure. Originally from Latvia, Miksta moved out of her home when she was 16 and lived in London for more than 10 years before heading to Dubai almost seven years ago.
Given her vagabond lifestyle, she works as a freelancer in the events industry as she values her freedom and doesn't want to feel tied down with a full-time job. She says for her, money is merely a gateway that opens roads to explore the world.
Facing her fears
An experienced athlete, Miksta has run ultra-marathons around the world, including participating in many extreme desert races in the Middle East. Before embarking on her latest adventure, she started sleeping in a tent in her sister's garden to prepare herself for the isolated nights ahead when she would not be able to make it to a hotel. She spend six of 26 nights on the road.
“I was at a camping site on two nights and for four nights, I was simply somewhere random – under the tree, by the fields or anywhere where I could build a tent. I knew there was no way I would make it to a hotel because the next town was 10 kilometres away. And even if I reached it, I had no idea if there was going to be anywhere to sleep. Those were the moments when I had to open my tent.”
Being alone and outdoors in a strange place at night can be intimidating, but Miksta said she was never scared enough to give up.
“Not once did I feel like I was in danger. But, yes, I had to be careful and aware. Even if I was uncomfortable, I had to overcome those feelings, so I started becoming more mindful when those emotions were creeping in. Then I would start analysing where the uneasy thoughts were coming from, and I realised they [usually] just come from movies we watch or stories we hear.”
Every morning, after spending a night alone in a field or by the side of road, she was rewarded as she awoke to the sights and sounds of nature and birdsong all around her.
Desolate nights aside, Miksta also had to cross mountains, rivers, forests and highways, many of which did not have a dedicated bike route. “There were some roads in Bulgaria where I was stopped by the police twice within an hour,” she recalls of riding along highways where it’s deemed dangerous to cycle.
“I informed them I'm in the middle of the road and there's no way for me to bike down to another road. To be honest, I'm not scared of death. Yes, it may be risky on highways with few lanes because some vehicles tend to speed, leaving little room for me, but I was biking safely and keeping a close watch on the rear-view mirror.”
Making ends meet
Miksta carried three bags on her trip: one with clothes, one for her tent and one with basic cooking equipment, including a fork, spoon and a box to mix salads. She’d make sure to stock up on fruits and vegetables whenever possible and often stopped at vegan cafes to eat simple plant-based food.
Servicing the bike on her own also became the norm, and Miksta was faced with a problem with the brakes, a puncture and an exploded tyre over the course of her journey. Sometimes she would cycle with a towel behind her back as protection from the scorching sun.
These challenges aside, she attributes the success and comfort of her cycling adventure to the fact that riding her trike “was like sitting on a sofa and just moving my legs”. She also feels that the food she ate had a role to play. “Because I was consuming a lot of fruit, my body was healing rapidly. I never felt like my legs were so tired that I couldn't cycle. Not once.”
Perhaps most importantly, Miksta says the journey was life-changing because she became comfortable with the realisation that she likes being on her own. “I’ve been back in Dubai for about a week. And, honestly, I have only been in my flat, alone, without people. I haven't seen any of my friends. I don't want too many people around me.”
Cycling through so many countries became a pathway to enjoy her own company. Towards the end of the trip, Miksta says she discovered she could find peace even in “this upside-down world”.
“I have this deep longing of going away and being away from crowds. Sometimes, I wonder why I am even on Instagram because I know the day will come when I will just disappear. I'll be somewhere in nature where no one will know my name or who I am.”