Around the world by bicycle — with twins in tow

May 13, 2014 by

web-lead-DSC_2247

The 50-year-old father is road weary. His twin sons are… well… 7-year-old boys: A bit timid at first around strangers, then hungry, then increasingly rambunctious edging toward rowdy at the sight of green grass and a chance to run off pent-up energy.

Manna House of Prayer in Concordia Tuesday evening was the latest stop in a backpacking and bicycle trip that has taken the family trio across five continents — and they’re not done yet. This morning they were headed north again, eventually to the Canadian border, then west to Vancouver, British Columbia, where they plan to board a ship bound for Shanghai, China. There they will be reunited with the rest of their family, whom they have not seen in three years, eight months (so far). Mom and the boys’ now-9-year-old sister did not join in this worldwide adventure.

But back to the beginning.

 • • • • • • •

Kim, a native of South Korea who asked to be identified by just his family name, was a world traveler before he met and married his wife, a Czech native who was studying in Germany. They settled in Prague, in the Czech Republic, but knew that when they had children their travels would continue.

“For children, the ages 3 to 7 are crucial for learning,” Kim explains after supper at Manna House. “We believe that age is the foundation of values, concepts, culture, the appreciation of nature.”

So in September 2010, Kim and his 3-year-old sons — Muni and Miri, who were born in Prague — set out from South Korea.

The first year the trio backpacked, with Dad as the sole source of foot power. From South Korea, they went to southern China, then Angkor Wat, Cambodia, and then Bangkok, Thailand, where they took a ferry to Calcutta, India. From there, it was on through northern India, Nepal, and eventually Istanbul, Turkey, and into Eastern Europe and then Germany.

The transportation switched to bicycle and traveling trailer in November 2011 when Kim and the boys left Innsbruck, Austria, and headed south to France, then Monaco, northern Italy, and then a ferry to North Africa. The next leg — to Dakar, Senegal, included about 250 miles across the Sahara without even the slightest shade, Kim notes. “And it was very hot,” he adds as the master of understatement.

Kim speaks numerous languages, including Korean, Czech, Japanese, English and Spanish, and he and the boys have picked up smatterings of the language in many of the countries they’ve visited. But Dad speaks to Muni and Miri in Korean, so they will “taste a native language,” he explains.

A cargo ship transported the trio and their 450-pound bike/trailer rig across the Atlantic to Santos, on the southern coast of Brazil, where they were robbed at gunpoint. In addition to money and credit cards, the thieves took their most valuable possessions — their passports.

It took more than a month of bureaucratic wrangling, Kim says, to get their documents replaced — Czech passports for the twins and South Korean papers for him.

“I thought it was God saying, ‘Go home,’” Kim says of the time in Brazil, “but the boys said, no, they wanted to keep traveling.” And so they headed north — through Paraguay, Bolivia, Columbia, to Panama, Central America, then Mexico and finally into Texas.

“In Mexico, we chose a flat area for our route,” Kim says with a laugh. “Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas — this is kind of a picnic for us.”

Kim and the boys had made it to Salina by last Sunday, and happened to meet Mineko Gillespie, the Japanese-born wife of Professor Gerald Gillespie, a longtime friend of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

The Gillespies invited them to stay at their home, and then connected them with the sisters at Manna House so they’d have a place to stay Tuesday night.

That’s the way it has worked through most of their travels, Kim said. They have been offered hospitality at numerous monasteries and churches, as well as in the homes of individuals they have met along the way.

Kim and his sons are Buddhists, but he said the trip has allowed them to get to know people of all faiths, and to see what they all have in common.

“There are many types of traveling,” Kim explains, “but bicycling is one of the best for getting in touch with local communities, local people, nature, the climate… It can be a kind of meditation.”

And he and the boys have another 2,100 miles or so for more meditation. They expect to be in Vancouver in mid- to late August, so they can be in Shanghai in time for the boys to start school in mid-September. The family plans to live there for two years before returning to Prague.

“I’m tired; I want to go home,” a weary Kim concedes with a chuckle Tuesday evening. “With children, this is not actually traveling; it’s life on the road.”

Comments

6 Responses to “Around the world by bicycle — with twins in tow”

  1. Mike Rogowski on June 9th, 2014 4:29 pm

    Where are they now? My friend said she saw them and spoke with them in Estevan on Friday, June 6th.

  2. Gerald Gillespie on May 17th, 2014 4:46 pm

    Just a wonderful article and summary of their journey so far, Sarah! We had an absolutely wonderful time with them in Salina, and Mineko and I are so happy that they were able to connect with our family of Sisters in Concordia! We are presently sharing our encounter with Kim and his two boys with our son, Kenya, in Houston and will now share this to ever keep the circle of connections expanding.
    Many blessings and peace to all of you, dear friends!

  3. Jean Befort on May 16th, 2014 3:36 pm

    What an amazing real life story! I hope they come to N2N too!

  4. Marge on May 14th, 2014 2:26 pm

    Great to read your fine writing again Sarah. I know you write often, but your special touch also shines when you write about special people. Good job. M

  5. Jo Foy on May 14th, 2014 12:29 pm

    Wow! again
    This is so cool … offering hospitality to Mr. Kim and his sons as they pedal north and west back “home”!

  6. Christina Brodie on May 14th, 2014 9:38 am

    Wow!
    Just absolutely amazing and what wonderful souls to have touched our Manna House family!!!!!
    God bless them on this amazing journey and learning experience of life….

Feel free to leave a comment...