He’s from Argentina; she’s from France; together they’ve biked the globe, relying on the kindness of strangers to help sustain them.
Andres Fluxa’s bicycle journey began at the bottom of the world and would eventually stretch across multiple continents. Before it was finished, he would be engaged. He’d continue the rest of his journey with his wife-to-be, Clemence Egnell. But he didn’t know any of this when he set out from Ushuaia, Argentina in 2012.
“The first week was the most difficult,” he said. He was totally unprepared, having budgeted just $3 a day. He was ready to abandon the journey. Then he met some fellow cyclists from Medellin, Colombia who urged him to keep going. If he could make it to Medellin, they said, he would have a place to stay. “They were like the guys who saved me,” said Andres.
Over a year later, Andres, now 35, reached their place in Medellin. “I was like another person,” he said.
It was while in Colombia in 2014 that he had another fateful encounter, with a teacher from Paris named Clemence Egnell. They fell in love, and few months later, Andres flew to Paris. Now a couple, he and Clemence began biking eastward through Europe and Asia.
“We were always going East,” said Clemence. “East, East, East!” They took trains in Kazakhstan and in China, since their month-long visas wouldn’t allow them enough time to bike through the entire country.
Throughout their travels, “We avoided big cities,” said Clemence. “People are super nice in rural areas. Life is slower,” she said. Their pace of biking was slow, too. “It’s not our objective to be so fast,” said Clemence.
Across the globe, they have relied on generosity from people they’ve met to help them keep going. Overnight, they camped in churchyards and backyards, and stayed in people’s homes. They gave out postcards of photos Andres took during their travels in exchange for donations. They chronicled their adventures and interactions in a set of blogs — Clemence’s wordpress blog and Andres’ photo blog.
Though they occasionally fought — Andres prefers a dark tent in the morning, Clemence likes it bright — both say the time together has helped them to create a foundation of respect in their relationship.
“The journey taught me… I will not always understand his reasons,” Clemence said of Andres. “But I have to respect them.”
“We were 24 hours a day together for two years,” said Andres. “It was amazing.”
In Seoul, Clemence suggested they marry. Andres agreed.
In February 2017, they flew from Japan to California, biking eastward again — East, East, East! — across the United States, staying in the homes and yards of American strangers. Andres’ photos from the US reveal the wood-paneled interiors of rural houses, goliath ice cream sundaes and the leathered faces of motorcyclists and preachers they met along the way.
“You have a lot of characters in the US,” said Celemence. “People can be who they are.”
They ended their American journey in Washington, D.C. stopping in Maryland to visit Clemence’s American cousin, Mary Erikson. They hadn’t seen one another since their last family reunion in France.
“I think people support you because they wish they could do it too,” Mary told them, sitting in her living room after the family had finished eating dinner. “I wish I could do it.”
Currently, the couple is biking through the British Isles. After that, they plan to settle in the French Alps.
“You never know what will happen next,” Clemence said. “We like not knowing what will happen.”