Taking the long way home….an epic adventure returning to NZ from Europe by bike!

Most people when they want to return to NZ from Europe would book a plane ticket. They would then lament at the prospect of being in one place for the next thirty hours. They would be served, they would soak up a movie marathon and perhaps catch up on some sleep.


Rebecca Wardell (Becs), Emma Twigg (Twiggie) and Sarah Van Ballekom (SVB) are not most people. They’re heading home from finishing their jobs at the International Olympic Committee in Switzerland not by plane, but by bike. That’s right there’re biking home from Europe!!! It’s the Long Way Home.


The three kiwi girls are in for the adventure of a lifetime. Their planned route takes them across Europe, through the ‘Stans’, the width of China, down through the East Asia and onto the final leg in NZ. Once they arrive in Aoteroa will be to cycle the length of New Zealand. Not your average bike ride.

Bec, SVB and Twiggie on a mission              (Photo credit: TLWH Instagram)


You have to be crazy to bike over 18,000km to get home

Yes, there’re crazy. I mean that as a compliment. They’re crazy to 1) even dream up an adventure like this and 2) actually do it.


In the same breath am in awe of the LWH Ladies tackling what most would see as impossible. In a world where a lot of people are living in an ‘if only’ mentality, the ladies are living courageously. Courageously tackling the physical challenge of biking across the width of two continents. Courageously embarking on the mental challenge of winding the pedals day in day out for a year. And courageously drawing breath from the daily grind of the 9-5 and an income to act on one’s dreams.


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

The Long Way Home planned route

When you’re in, you’re all in

Obviously, they’re prepared as they can be. All three are physical specimens. Twiggie, is a three-time Olympian competing in the single sculls in 2008, 2012 (4th) and 2016 (4th). The rower is using the bike as an opportunity to kick start her return to the boat ahead of Tokyo 2020 Olympics.


Becs, is a beast of an athlete representing NZ at the 2008 Olympics in the heptathlon. The current 400mHurdles record holder Becs is made of the good stuff and will never give up on a goal. As one of my best friends I’m not surprised in the slightest that Becs is on another adventure. When you have a mentality like Becs nothing is impossible, life is for living and when you start something you give it everything and you finish it off.


SVB, is no slacker herself having representing NZ at rowing as a member of the national university team. She has recently completed a half ironman and knocked off Kilimajaro (no mean feat!)


All three are highly capable women who quit their great jobs for the bike.  There’s been a lot of planning and spreadsheet action in preparation to ensure they’re as organised and prepped as possible. They’ve undergone bike mechanic course, first aid training and figured out what are the basics they need to survive. Undoubtedly, there will be evitable challenges thrown at them but they’re got resilience in spades to be able to cope.

Bec paying close attention at the bike mechanic course


Paying it forward

Coinciding with the journey home is an opportunity for them to help raise funds for young sportswomen. They all recognise that the opportunities they have been given through sport would not have been possible without the help of others. Through their chosen charity, The Forward Foundation, the LWH Ladies aim to raise $1 for every 1km cycled. My bet is they will totally exceed this goal. Please check out this linkif you’re interested in donating to this worthy cause.


Ready, set, bike

The trio are on their way home, farewelled from the IOC Headquarters on April 30th. It is expected to take a year to cover the 18,000+km. They’re not going to cruising either aiming to cover 100km a day, six days a week. Day one they biked 160kmJI received a text message from Bec with the mileage and signed off with #sorebum.

SVB, Bec, Twigie and the President of the IOC, Thomas Bach

Follow the crazies and dream big yourself

So, watch this space and follow themas they cycle half way around the world showing us that’s it’s possible to sail away from the safe harbor. Good luck Becs, Twiggie and SVB! I’m totally inspired by your bravery and so excited to see this dream come to fruition. I’m sure your courage to be crazy will inspire others to set their own sails (whatever they may be) as well X



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