Visitor is biking around the world
It was a dark and stormy night. Actually it wasn’t completely dark yet, and it wasn’t quite night. More like a dusky late afternoon, on the cusp of early evening. Just barely 6 p.m. And though it wasn’t exactly stormy, it was certainly as cold and breezy as one would expect in late Autumn in Vermont. Those were the conditions when Mount Abraham Union High School junior Garth Wilson heard a knock on the door of his Bristol home. He opened it to find a congenial looking stranger standing on the porch. “Hello,” DaHao Guo said, introducing himself. “I’m from China. I’m biking around the world, and I’m looking for a place to spend the night.”Those were not his exact words. His English is a bit on the broken side, and it took a few moments to get his message across. But that was the gist of his introduction. Thus began an unusual two days at the Wilson house. And thus continued an unusual 12 years for DaHao Guo.Garth was reasonably hesitant to allow a stranger into his home. But when his parents, Randy and Polly, returned home, they graciously offered their hospitality to this surprise guest, who was in the midst of a very interesting and unusual way to experience the outdoors. The Wilson hospitality continued through the next day, as they helped DaHao take care of some business and communication, and shared their Internet service with him. (He rides with a very large pack containing not only all his personal items, but a small laptop computer and a large digital SLR camera to document his trip.) The next evening, I too sat at the Wilson table listening to DaHao recount his tale.DaHao began his trek in 1999 with the goal of biking to 100 countries, covering every continent but Antarctica. It was a dream he’d had since childhood. After completing his education, he worked as an electrical engineer in Hong Kong for a few years to save money for the trip. Then, with the help of his parents, he set off.After training in the Himalayas, he left China and started west across Asia, then down toward Pakistan, Iran and Iraq. I could barely keep up as he rattled off the list of places he’d visited. Now in the 12th year of this adventure, he has covered 91 countries and burned through eight passports. (He showed me some of these, as well as a large folder of newspaper clippings from 35 of those countries.)During this time, he has been home to China only three times, for a total of eight months, to see his parents and get his bike repaired. When traveling, he usually sleeps in his tent, but he has also stayed in youth hostels, and on occasion has simply stopped at a house and asked for a place to stay. I asked about the cold. He said it wasn’t a problem. But he did complain about mosquitoes during the summer. Other than that, he didn’t have a lot of complaints. Yes, he admitted he’d been robbed a few times. The most memorable loss was when he asked somebody to take a picture of him, and the potential photographer simply took off into the woods with his camera.DaHao was too gracious to say in what countries he had those problems. “Every country has some warm and welcoming people,” he said. “Also some bad people.” And so, he explained, it wouldn’t be fair to mention the countries where he was robbed. In any case, he said, the biggest danger is always cars, and not robbers. He was hit by a car in Greece, and tore his Achilles tendon. He spent two weeks in a hospital after being stitched up, and he said the tendon wasn’t back to normal for two years. He had a difficult time even walking for several weeks. But he kept biking.Norway, Sweden and Canada were his favorite countries for scenic beauty, though he also raved about Cape Town in South Africa. He has enjoyed the United States, and has found the people of this nation among the more hospitable — though in Phoenix he was stopped six times by police and warned for trespassing because he was biking on a highway. Now, however, his time here is almost done. He was on his way from Vermont to Boston to catch a flight to Australia. From there he will head to New Zealand. It will be among a very small number of times he has had to fly. He has only nine countries left to visit, and he hopes to be done in 11 months. As for what’s next in the life of DaHao Guo after these last nine countries, I don’t think he really knows. See the world? He’s already done it.