From commuting to the continent: The benefits of cycling for wellbeing

Laura and Tom on a ferry trip from Denmark to Norway
Laura and Tom on a ferry trip from Denmark to Norway

A Hove couple praise the benefits of cycling for mental wellbeing after completing a six-month bike tour of Europe.

Laura Randall and her husband Tom Shephard, have recently returned from their cycling tour of Europe. After a last minute decision, the couple left their jobs and decided it was time to see the world.

Laura and Tom in North Holland

Laura and Tom in North Holland

Over six months, the novice cyclists travelled over 4,500 kilometres, and had only previously used bikes for commuting to work.

After Brexit, they felt compelled to travel through some European countries, and knew cycling would be a more environmentally friendly way to travel.

Laura, 33, said: “Both of us were upset by recent decisions made by our country to leave the EU, and we felt strongly about spending time exploring and connecting with our neighbouring countries.”

The journey began from Hove up to Harwich and across on the ferry to Holland. From there, they travelled through the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark and onto Norway. From Sweden they went across to Finland, through Estonia and Latvia, before Belgium and heading home from France.

Laura said: “We had so many beautiful experiences, such as camping in the midnight sun, wild swimming in the Nordic countries and rowing on a Finnish lake under a full moon.”

They also faced multiple challenges along the way, both physically and mentally.

Tom received an injury after leaving Oslo which slowed their progress, and Laura was involved in a bike accident just two days before returning home.

Laura is also on a journey of recovery from PTSD, and would have occasional struggles with symptoms such as anxiety along the way. The couple knew that undertaking such a vast trip would be a challenge, but found that taking the time out and being outdoors had a massively positive impact.

They are both passionate about helping to raise the awareness of the benefits of cycling and would love to get involved in future projects to promote this.

As well as travelling, the couple spent time volunteering. In Karjalohja, Finland, they spent a month working on an eco farm, where they were involved with gardening, foraging and fishing out on a beautiful nearby lake. They also volunteered for three weeks on a small Danish island.

Tom, 32, said: “The biggest highlight for us was actually meeting such interesting and hospitable people throughout our travels.”

The couple are part of a cycling hosting community called ‘Warm Showers’ which allows travellers to reach out to hosts for a nights sleep. They camped for the majority of the trip and used this valuable network of like-minded people for the remainder.

While they recover from their time in the saddle, the couple are heading across the world to New Zealand, Australia and South-East Asia. They plan to return in March, unless another opportunity presents itself while abroad.