Edmonton couple spends 10 years cycling the world

WATCH ABOVE: A decade after embarking upon a journey around the world, an Edmonton couple has returned home. Quinn Ohler has more on their amazing adventure.

EDMONTON – Seventy-seven countries on six continents, and two bikes. That’s how Peter and Shahla Nygaard spent their last 10 years discovering the world.

After three years of planning and pinching their pennies, the Edmonton couple set out on the big journey on September 16, 2004. Shahla, then 23, had recently graduated from university and Peter, then 27, quit his job as a plumber.

Both were longing for adventure.

“We were kind of caught between two worlds, I think,” said Peter. “And curiosity of what the world had to offer us was something that related to both of the worlds we were in.”

Their trek started in Europe, with the two initially set on walking. That lasted four months.

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“We realized that was just far too slow. The bicycle, it’s actually the perfect speed for us…if you’re going in a vehicle and you see something you like, it’s there and then it’s gone,” Shahla said.

She explains that travelling by bike let them easily stop and explore something if it interested them; but also allowed them to quickly escape bad weather.

Having no recollection of biking as a child, though, Shahla first had to learn how to ride a bike. After that was out of the way, there was no stopping them.

These tents are where the couple usually slept while on their decade-long quest.
The Karakoram Highway in Pakistan.
Uyghur yurt at Karakul Lake in China.
The Ali Sadr Cave in the Middle East, the world's largest water cave.

“At first we were full of energy and expending it in leaps and bounds,” Peter recalled. “Everything was new, everything was different…The people acted different, spoke different languages, dressed differently.”

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Gradually, the differences began to fade and the similarities are what the Nygaards began to see among all the cultures and people they encountered. It gave them a sense of perspective and newfound appreciation for things they used to take for granted.

“We used to sort of be the kind of people [who] couldn’t see the forest for the trees. But I think now, sometimes, we have trouble seeing the trees for the forest,” Shahla said.

“I think we’ve changed into completely different people,” her husband added.

The couple did, of course, encounter some road bumps along the way. A few of the more memorable ones: running out of money in New Zealand, hiding from bandits near Guinea and a run-in with violent rioters in Congo. But Peter says “99.9 per cent of the people [they] encountered were beautiful,” and embraced him and his wife with open arms.

They estimate the trip cost them a total of $100,000 over the 10 years. That breaks down to two people living on just roughly $10,000 a year.

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It’s an experience they wouldn’t trade for the world. Plus, thanks to all the biking, they’re in the best shape of their lives.

Their journey came full circle on Tuesday when, after exactly 10 years away, they arrived home in Edmonton.

“Such a feeling of accomplishment, it’s hard to describe. One long dream is now checked off and we can begin the next adventure now.”

After catching up with family and friends, the two plan on getting to work, writing a book about their travels. To find out more about their adventures, you can check out their ‘Culture Quest‘ blog.