One hundred and forty three. That’s the number of countries Patrick Martin Schroeder has visited since he hit the road in 2007. More than two thirds of the way through his goal of visiting each of the 193 members of the United Nations, Schroeder has covered long stretches by pedaling, as well as hitchhiking, driving, boating, and backpacking. For the 29-year-old professional traveler, the last 10 years have been the experience of a lifetime.
Born and raised in Germany, Schroeder spent nine months after high school fulfilling his country’s obligatory military service. The conditioning and training would serve him well. Like many of his European peers, he opted to take a gap year, delaying university entrance by 12 months so that he could travel. Far from being a plush vacation, his year of travel included backpacking and hitchhiking through Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. He also covered sections of New Zealand, Central America, South East Asia, the U.S., and Australia.
When the year was up, he realized he didn’t want the adventure to end. “It was a typical case of the travel bug that bit me … after my round-the-world trip I was more than eager to see more. It wasn’t a question of motivation at all, more about the financing, the mode of travel, the next destination.”
At every turn, Schroeder has been able to work through difficulties and overcome obstacles to continue his journey. He’s dealt with broken bike parts, illnesses, delayed visas, running completely out of money, and stolen gear. The scariest situation was being robbed at gunpoint in Lebanon last year. He calls it, “a rather unpleasant thing to experience first hand.” Traffic comes in at a close second on the hazards list, “big buses or trucks that pass me with unfortunately barely any space.”
Still, he says, when it’s going well, bike travel allows for an unrivaled level of simplicity. “You have a bike, your equipment on it, you ride. Occasionally you have to put it on a plane, which costs a few bucks more. That’s about it.”
Biking gives Schroeder the chance to interact with people on a more intimate level. “You are more exposed, more vulnerable, but also about the least threatening thing any local would ever see. A crazy guy on a bicycle in the middle of nowhere.” He has been continuously impressed by the hospitality of strangers, and aside from a few isolated incidents, his interactions have been overwhelmingly positive. He implores everyone to, “Please travel more! The world is not nearly as scary as the news portray it.”
The decision to spend his twenties exploring the world has profoundly shaped his life. “I’ve forsaken a higher education, financial stability, a stable social circle, all for the sake of freedom, adventure, and personal growth.” As he comes closer to attaining his goal, his attention is slowly shifting toward crafting a career from everything he’s learned on the road. He notes that his skills, knowledge, and experiences are quite different from those of his peers. But, he wouldn’t change it. After all, how many people can list “Summited Mount Blanc” and “Biked across the Sahara” on their resume?