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15,000km on a bike

with a baby

Céline and Xavier Pasche continue their cycling journey from Switzerland to New Zealand with their baby daughter, Nayla.

50,000km by bike including 15,000km with a baby. Step by step, we brought our daughter into this nomadic life. Diving into the unknown when she was five months old, together we crossed high-altitude passes and deserts. From the Swiss Alps to the Southern Alps of New Zealand, we reached our destination five years later with our daughter, Nayla.

“You’re crazy!” exclaimed our Chinese neighbour in Penang. “How are you going to cycle with a five-month-old baby?” “We really don’t know,” we replied, feeling the tension in our stomachs.

For three years, we had been living a very simple life, a nomadic life by bike. This long journey took us to some of the most remote areas of the world, from Mongolia to Tajikistan and into the heart of the human movement of countries like Syria. From an adventure to discover diverse cultures, it became a way of living. That was when we decided we could start a family.

A month later, our daughter whispered her presence. Céline was pregnant.

Despite all doubts, we knew we wanted to live this lifestyle as a family, or at least try. But we had no idea how it would work out.

2.6kg of love
As we arrived in Malaysia, we were seven months pregnant and still touring pitted roads.

“How could you risk it? Isn’t it too much to lose?” asked a woman on the side of the road.

We had no fear about the pregnancy. We fully trusted the ability of Céline’s body to nurture our baby. Every time she cycled, the baby would be in a position where she hardly looked pregnant. But on our resting days, her belly doubled. The most difficult part wasn’t the cycling; it was the intensity of the countries we crossed. In Bangladesh, the population represents an unmatched human density. All day long, we were escorted, accosted, surrounded and stared at.

Looking for a place where we could have a natural and water birth, everything converged towards Penang in Malaysia. And that was where our daughter Nayla was born.

On the road again
“What have we done!” Nayla’s temperature was 40°C. It was 2am in the morning and we were sleeping in a tent in the middle of eastern Thailand. “Is it dengue fever? Malaria?”

That night, we didn’t sleep. We were too worried. In the morning, the fever went down to 38°C. Released from the fear, we cycled to a Buddhist temple, and discovered her first teeth. We had to learn to travel at a different pace with a baby, to find a balance between her naps, breastfeeding, her need to move, her desire to learn, and the necessity that the road imposes: the weather changes and the need to find a place for the night.

We learned one thing throughout this journey and that is to trust life. Step by step, we found a balance and learned to be in harmony. 15,000 kilometres and two years later we reached New Zealand, the ultimate destination of our journey.

“How will you keep her safe? Keep her safe The reality is that the only time we had to see a doctor was when she was two months old for a check-up. We went swimming in tropical waters in Thailand, admired the fabulous temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, met the hill tribes in Laos, followed the Ancient Tea Horse Road in China, cycled to the sacred Yushan Mountain in Taiwan, crossed the Nullarbor Plain in Australia and finally reached the Southern Alps in New Zealand.

Riding one day after the other, we cycled around 60km a day, about the same as before but with a lot of breaks. We usually rode for one to two hours. Most of the time, Nayla would be sleeping in her hammock or playing. The most important thing for us was to follow her rhythm.

A typhoon will hit Taiwan tonight
“You have to find a shelter!” shouted a local. We were just reaching the top of a pass, tired and sweaty. We had to hurry. Arriving in the first village, we were welcomed by the population who offered us a place to stay in the school. The hospitality of the people was always fantastic. We slept in Buddhist temples, schools and police stations.

Living outside also meant living under all weather conditions. When the sun disappeared behind the dark clouds and the first drops announced the coming rain, we needed to find alternatives. Nayla was a ray of sunshine in the icy mist. She played and laughed in the puddles. She lived the moment for what it was, master of an innocence that knows how to create games in each conditions.

Cycling in these countries was also the opportunity to meet people and their culture. In Thailand, children take a bath at the hottest time of the day. So we were invited to bathe Nayla in a bucket in the middle of the market.

“How do you deal with hygiene and nappies?” wondered our friends back home.

We washed with a homemade shower. We used organic coconut oil for our skin and chose washable nappies that dried on the back of the trailer as we rode.

Homeschooling on the road
Now we are back in Penang, Malaysia, for a few months. Nayla is two years old, sparkling with life and joy. As a small cocoon, our family bubble moved through the world, following our inspirations, in the wonder of discoveries and sharing, trusting the magic of life.

Now we are planning a new route. We want to continue to live this nomadic life on bikes, at least as long as it nurtures our soul. At the moment, we are thinking about homeschooling Nayla on the road. But we still have time to think about it and after all, our desire to cycle the world might change.

Now, we are happy we made this choice, although it’s certainly not for everyone. We breathe easily at the pace of life, having a powerful feeling of freedom. It also gives us the amazing opportunity to be together all the time and that is the most precious gift of all.

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