Globetrotting Aussie cyclist stops by Abu Dhabi on trip back home

An Australian cyclist is on a two-wheel trip of a lifetime that has taken him to 17 countries, including the UAE, over the past 10 weeks.

Australian cyclist Aaron Austin-Glen makes friends with a Pakistani expatriate during a stopover in Abu Dhabi, while he waits for his visa to India. Silvia Razgova / The National
Powered by automated translation

ABU DHABI // A 34-year-old Australian is cycling 16,000km from London to Brisbane to visit his family, who he has seen only three times in the past 12 years.

Aaron Austin Glen stopped by Abu Dhabi after cycling through 17 countries before flying out to Jaipur, India, on Saturday to continue his journey.

“I decided to do this because my parents are getting older and I haven’t seen my family back in Brisbane for quite a while,” Mr Glen said.

“I’ve only been back three times in 12 years, so I kind of owe them a bit more time.”

The last time he was with his parents was two years ago. “I just thought of going on an adventure,” he said. “I’m starting to get a bit older and I’m thinking of settling down in the next year or two at some point, so might as well do this now.”

But instead of flying between his two homes, he decided to connect the dots in between.

“The reason is not important anymore,” he said. “It’s just what I do now and I’ve been doing it for six months.”

So far, Mr Glen has cycled 7,000km in about two-and-a-half months, while meeting people and making new friends the rest of the time.

“Usually, I’ve got a tent to sleep in and a lot of the time I camp,” he said. “Early on in the trip, it was a little hard to find places to wild camp, especially in Germany because they don’t always allow it. So I would stay in camp sites for the first few weeks, but they’re as expensive as a cheap hotel. In the end I would ride fairly late in the evening so when the sun sets, you pop into the woods and camp there.”

One of his most memorable stops was atop a snowy mountain in Iran where it was -15°C.

“I would stay in a hostel if it was too cold,” he said. “I would either shower at friends’ or friends of friends’ houses and people you meet on the road. They get incrementally more welcoming as you come towards this region and would offer me a room.”

So far, Mr Glen has cycled through the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia, as well as in the mountains of Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran and the UAE.

He has only suffered two flat tires on his Dh11,000-bike along the way.

“I’ve decided not to go through Pakistan because it’s quite risky for cyclists,” he said.

“I’m flying to India and, from there, I take a two-month break when my sister will visit from Australia. I will backpack and travel on the bike down to the south of India to Sri Lanka.”

From there, he will fly to Thailand and continue down to Malaysia and Indonesia before flying to Perth. “Then I’ll cycle 5,000km across to the other side of Australia to Brisbane where I will stay for three months,” he said. “It’s a little daunting in itself, but I think I should be there by June. I saved up for a few years and I’ve made it here on what would be less than two months’ wages in London.”

The former music event manager is now thinking twice about returning permanently to the British capital.

“The original plan was to go back to London after a few months in Australia, but now I’m not so sure,” he said. “Maybe I’ll get a short-term, six-month contract. But there are so many other places that I’ve seen that I could go to, maybe Istanbul or Georgia.”