In May 2016, I set off a very long bicycle tour, following the routes of migration from the safe refuge of London to the bombed-out streets of Syria.
Although I got absolutely nowhere near Syria (it was only ever a destination of the mind), the 2,000km ride was my most ambitious story-telling adventure to date.
Along the way, I collected stories direct from the mouths of migrants, aid workers, government officials and local residents, using each interview to inform the course of the journey.
As you may know, I am a freelance writer with extensive cycle touring experience in Europe and North Africa. Although it feels long distant, I also have an MA in Near and Middle Eastern Studies (Arabic, modern history and music).
I’ve been writing and taking action on migration issues in Calais and beyond since summer 2014 and was one of the instigators of the 2015 Calais Critical Mass, which brought eighty-plus bicycle donations (and their riders) to Calais. After the Critical Mass, I contributed to many media organisations, including the Victoria Derbyshire programme on BBC 2 and Newsweek.
I was incredibly lucky to be able to take on a journey such as this by choice, and felt a deep obligation to share what I learned along the way with as many people as possible.
As well as the posts on this site, Open Democracy published a series of four articles covering each country we cycled through: France, Belgium, Germany and Austria.
- Pancakes for peace! The school bus project in Calais (7 June 2016)
- ‘They want me to fly like a bird’: travels in the Belgian asylum system (6 July 2016)
- From containers to computers: the challenges of refugee integration in Germany (27 July 2016)
- On the walls of Zollamtsstrasse refugee camp (10 August 2016)
In their November 2016 issue, Cycling World magazine published a four-page feature. You can read the piece online if you’re prepared to faff around with zooming!
Shuffle over to page two for maps, photos and stories from the road.