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Freedom to go anywhere

Cassie Pence
Matthew Cull / Special to the DailyLocal Matthew Cull will discuss his two-wheeled odyssey around Asia Thursday night at Donovan Pavilion in West Vail, as part of the Vail Symposium's Unlimited Adventure series.
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WEST VAIL – The idea of traveling can mean different things to different people. For some, it might mean flying first-class to the Bahamas to stay at an all-inclusive resort sipping the same rum drink for a week straight. Others might consider it hopping in their aunt’s Caddy for a late-night joy ride to the opposite coast where they’ll spend the weekend soaking in nightlife.Local adventurer Matthew Cull travels to fully immerse himself in a foreign land, its culture, terrain and people – and his primary tool to do this is his bicycle.Cull has spent the last 22 years globetrotting on his bicycle. He’s toured all six continents and traveled over 43,000 miles in 47 countries. Nine years ago, the Australian native made Vail his home. Cull will discuss the last leg of his six-continent journey at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Donovan Pavilion. “Full Immersion: A Bicycle Journey Through Asia” is part of the Vail Symposium’s Unlimited Adventure Series, which runs every Thursday through March 9.Cull’s two-wheeled odyssey began in North America 20 years ago. He had an empty space in his life and decided to fill it with a cross-country tour of the States, starting on the Oregon coast. He never imagined that this road bike ride would become a 20-year project.”The opportunity became available, so I took the opportunity and chose a new continent, upping the challenge each time,” Cull said. “It wasn’t until I had done four that I decided to cycle across all six continents by bicycle.”

After North America, he cycled Australia, bearing the arid heat and head winds of his home land. Europe challenged him next with different languages and currencies. Cull took a 10-year hiatus after touring Europe and then returned to the game to cycle Africa – his first third world experience on a bike. Africa tested him with its completely different language and culture, potential security problems and uncertain race relations. In South America, where Cull cycled the length of the Andes, it was topography that was demanding.”I took on challenges, overcame challenges and became more skillful and confident,” Cull said.Cull saved Asia for last because, psychologically, he thought it was going to be the toughest continent, cycling through China in particular.”Here I was by myself cycling through 1.3 billion people that spoke a completely different language with a completely different mind set,” Cull said. “It was easier than I thought it was going to be, but it’s always harder in your mind before you actually go.”In China, Cull said he would leave a “guidebook” town and not see another white person until the next guidebook town. Cull said he sincerely felt that it was a 100 percent Chinese experience. This complete immersion is exactly why Cull chooses to travel by bicycle.”The bicycle is the ultimate tool to experiencing what you’ve come to experience. You travel slowly, there’s no apparent affluence. In third worlds, it’s a means of transportation that everyone can relate to,” Cull said. “Things happen in the street much more than in the West. People sell things on the street, hang out and talk. You get to feel that on a bike, absorb things, feel the transition of the landscape and culture and climate.”

Cull travels mostly by himself. It’s hard to find another person that can take seven months off to travel, but Cull said it’s cheaper than staying in Vail for the offseason. He used to get lonely on the earlier trips but traveling alone has helped Cull discover himself.”I came to some sort of peace inside,” Cull said. “This is just what I’m doing and what I wanted to do.”Cull has plans to tour around the world this year with stops in Europe, Asia and Australia, but he’s thinking about leaving his bike at home this time.”I rode 70K and still have all my body parts,” Cull said. “I think I’m pretty lucky. I don’t want to push the relationship so much.”Unlimited Adventure series



Vail Symposium hosts Matthew Cull as he discusses “Full Immersion: ABicycle Journey Through Asia” at Donovan Pavilion in West Vail Thursday at5:30 p.m. Event is free.Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14640, or cpence@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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