May 15, 2024 | By: Matthew Freeman

Northwoods Experience: South Dakota Couple Talks About Traveling the World by Bike

Every year, a couple from South Dakota visits Bemidji Middle School to give a presentation on their visits to different countries named “Images of the World.”

Many years ago, Tass Thacker and Bruce Junek were planning a trip to Nepal to see the country and check out Mount Everest. But they decided that traveling the entire world would be much better, and instead of driving or going by boat, they would ride their bikes to each destination.

“Bruce and I had been planning to go to Nepal, but we thought we’d originally go just by traditional means, buses, planes, trains, that kind of thing,” explained Thacker, photographer for their book on their two-year journey named “The Road of Dreams.” “After probably just a couple of months after a great ride we had, I just looked at him and I said, ‘You know, this trip we’re going to take to Nepal, we should just go on bikes.’ And Bruce said, ‘That’s the best idea I’ve ever heard.'”

Soon after they started their trip, though, they realized Nepal wasn’t going to be the only place they would be going.

“While we were in Thailand, we were sitting in our bed, we were looking at a map and we went, ‘You know what? If we get to Nepal and we keep going, we’ll have gone all the way around the world,” added Thacker. “[We] though, ‘Oh, we’ve got to keep going. This is just meant to be.”

The one-stop vacation all of a sudden became a ride around the world. When asked to name a favorite place from the trip, they found was too hard to provide just one answer.

“The islands of Indonesia were really wonderful, great food. It’s an easy language to learn,” said Junek, author of “The Road of Dreams.” “Thailand was another real favorite place for us. Going to Nepal, that was really the focus of our trip from the very beginning, planning stages. But then after I say that, I think, well, New Zealand and Australia and all of those places, I mean, really, they’re all wonderful to visit.”

But the trip wasn’t exactly an easy one to take.

“I don’t think we probably ate as well as we could have some of the time,” Thacker said. “We weren’t maybe getting proteins. We lost a lot of weight and we did get sick quite a bit. Water filters had just been invented and they were wickedly expensive, so we used iodine instead. So we ended up getting dysentery and all the regular illnesses. So that was hard, and then to keep going, especially when the temperatures were really hot.”

But the couple believes that challenges are what make life worth living.

“That’s been a philosophy of both Bruce and I,” stated Thacker. “We seem to have a great ability to have physical adversity and be able to keep our sense of humor and just realize that that does make life really interesting. When things are really easy and cruising along, I mean, that’s okay. But when you’ve had to meet a challenge and surmount it, the feeling that you end up after that, it gives you a lot of confidence in yourself and knowing, ‘Yeah, I can do this.'”

Junek and Thacker now spend their time traveling across the Midwest sharing their story to kids from different schools, where they teach them about their journey, the different cultures they encountered, and that life will always have challenges, but they are worth conquering. More information about their trips can be found at their website.

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