Cycling Alaska … and the rest of the world

32-year-old Dr. Steve Fabes from London is in the midst of a six-continent bicycle ride. While cycling the length of North America, Fabes made a stop in Juneau.

Dr. Steve Fabes’ bicycle journey started January 2010 when he left his job as an internist in a London hospital.

“I waved goodbye to my friends and my friends from there and I took off through Europe, through a very, very cold Europe. It was the coldest in 30 years,” Fabes said.

But the seed for the trip was planted long before. When Fabes was 19, he cycled through Chile with his younger brother. That trip got him thinking of a bigger bike ride – one around the world.

After completing medical school and starting his career as a doctor, the desire for more adventure nagged at him.

“Eventually it came to a head and I thought I need to make a decision and I decided I have to go for it. I don’t want to get old with any regrets. This has to happen,” he said.

After crossing Europe, Fabes traveled into the Middle East, and then cycled down the east coast of Africa.

The goal of Fabes’ journey is to cycle through six continents – so far he’s completed four – but the trip has another purpose as well.

“On the way I stop and visit remote medical clinics to gain a bit of understanding about how the neglected tropical diseases are targeted on the front line,” Fabes said.

In the realm of tropical diseases, people often think about HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. In his travels, Fabes is highlighting the 17 tropical diseases that are neglected.

“They’re medically diverse. They’re mainly parasitic infections and they’re a huge burden. One billion people worldwide affected so that’s one-sixth of the earth’s population,” Fabes explained.

When Fabes is not visiting mobile medical clinics, he’s stopping around the world to give talks on what he’s learned and to shed light on the issue.

Fabes is also living a simpler, less complicated life on a bike.

“You have to narrow things down and you have to take exactly what you need because every gram counts and when you’re cycling up a mountain your mind is going to be thinking about all those things you don’t necessarily need.”

Aside from items to camp and cook with, a few pieces of clothing, Fabes also carries a few luxury items – a laptop, which he bought once he crossed the border into the United States, some books, and an iPod.

Fabes has spent most nights either camping or in cheap hostels, among other places.

“I’ve slept in schools, police stations, churches, mosques, monasteries, army barracks. I’ve slept in a shed with a water buffalo. I’ve slept in all kinds of places,” he listed.

As for showering, Fabes isn’t doing it as much as he should, “My record is eleven days without a shower,” he said laughing. “When I’ve been cycling through Alaska, I can just jump in rivers and stuff and it’s really cold but if that’s my only option than that’s just what you have to do.”

On his journey so far, Fabes says he’s grown to trust people.

“99.9 percent of people have been very kind, hospitable, generous, and that’s been the recurring theme of my trip really, the defining feature is just the generosity of people I’ve met along the way.”

Fabes still has another two continents, more than two years, and about 30 countries left in his bike ride. Next month he flies to Australia, where he’ll cycle up the east coast of the country, onto Indonesia, then the rest of Asia, and back across Europe to home.

Dr. Steve Fabes’ talk with the Juneau World Affairs Council will air on 360 North on October 18th.

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