ATHENS – Kleon Papadimitriou, a 20-year-old college student at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland decided that he would bike back home to Athens, Greece after all flights were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, CNN reported, adding that the 2,175-mile journey took 48 days.
Papadimitriou told CNN, “It’s just now dawning on me how big of an achievement this was. And I did learn a lot of things about myself, about my limits, about my strengths and my weaknesses. And I'd say I really hope that the trip inspired at least one more person to go out of their comfort zone and try something new, something big.”
After three of the flights he booked to get home to Greece were cancelled, he told CNN that “by the first of April I knew that I would spend at least the next month in quarantine in Aberdeen,” and decided to cycle his way home, researching what he would need, preparing for his trip by buying a bike and supplies including a tent, sleeping bag, bread, canned sardines, and peanut butter, and told his parents and friends about his plans. His father suggested an app that would allow his family to track him and soon he was on his way.
The journey began on May 10 as Papadimitriou cycled across Scotland and England, 35-75 miles a day, he told CNN. Then, he took a ferry to the Netherlands and continued through Germany, then Austria, and down the east coast of Italy where he boarded a ferry for Patras, and then continued to Athens. Along the way, he camped out in “fields and forests,” CNN reported, noting that Papadimitriou took time each day to write about his progress and update his family and also contacted friends and acquaintances living in the countries he passed through and who offered “a bed and a shower,” as an alternative to his camping out.
Papadimitriou told CNN, “As a relatively introverted person, I was forced to kind of get out of my comfort zone in the sense that if I did not do some things, I would not have a place to stay, I would not have water.It forced me to kind of have those interactions and reach out.”
“On June 27, nearly 50 days since he first got on the road, he arrived back home, where his family along with dozens of friends, as well as complete strangers who had been tracking his progress, were waiting to celebrate his arrival,” CNN reported.
“It was very emotional. Coming from a family from two parents that were very adventurous in their younger years, seeing me kind of follow in their footsteps, I think is very emotional to them and obviously gives me a lot of meaning. But I think if anything, they felt relief,” Papadimitriou told CNN.
Following his return home, Papadimitriou has now left Athens for a summer job and told CNN that he is “still reflecting on his seven-week bike ride.”
He told CNN, “I think I improved as a person, I'm more confident in myself, I'm more confident in my abilities. If I didn't know that I've done the trip and you asked me now if I could it, I would say no, how could I do all those things?”
After his successful cycling home, Papadimitriou told CNN that he is “now looking forward to the ‘next big thing.’”
His advice for those considering the “huge undertaking” of a 48-day journey by bicycle, “When you set the bar really high and you attempt to reach a really ambitious goal, whether you achieve it or you don't, you will have improved. You will learn things about yourself and you will surprise yourself,” Papadimitriou told CNN.