A Life on Wheels: Biking Alone from Newfoundland to Latin America.


264 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 978-1-897174-19-7
DDC 918.04'4




Reviewed by J.H. Galloway

J.H. Galloway is a geography professor at the University of Toronto.


The title is not quite accurate. It should be “through” not just “to” Latin America. The author rode all the way to Ushuaia in Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego. This is the chronicle of an extraordinary trip that took over four years with only one break when he went to visit his mother in Germany. He came to Canada from Germany at the age of 19 and travelled the country—not always on a bike—doing a great variety of jobs. He settled for a while in St. John’s, Newfoundland, but grew restless and decided to make this journey. He sold his house, invested the money, and decided he could live on the interest of $400 a month. He kept to his budget. He also had contracted with the St. John’s Telegram to write reports of his journey. These reports provide the basis of the book.


In 27 rather brief chapters the author describes the life he led on this journey and gives his reactions to the people he met and his impressions of the places he passed through. He had to live cheaply to keep within his budget: camping, staying in accommodation that often lacked basic facilities, and eating simple meals. Bottled water, his one extravagance, if that is the right word in this context, saved him from much discomfort. He decided his old bike—even though it carried him all the way through his journey—his unkempt appearance, and his rather bedraggled clothes saved him from being a victim of theft. He saw a lot of what the tourist sees in Latin America but he also saw much of what the tourist does not.


There is a simplicity about the book with its ordinary language, its one very basic map, some photos that he took himself, and even a naiveté in some of what he has to say. There is no harping on what he achieved. It is not a great travel book, but by the time I had finished reading, he had earned my respect.


Lobigs, Martin., “A Life on Wheels: Biking Alone from Newfoundland to Latin America.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 20, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/27601.