Interview 007: Ben Leo Hollis | Environmentalist, Humanist and Feminist at 18 Years Old + Tips For Young Bike Tourers

I came across the NatGeoLeo Instagram when he started posting pictures while touring through Cambodia a couple months back. His pictures caught my eye as they really seemed to capture the lives of the people he met while cycling from Leicester, U.K. to Australia. I reached out to Ben to see if he’d be interested in coming on the podcast, to share his experiences on his bike tour and talk about the various charities he is fundraising for. It was a real eye-opener for me to have such a young guy on the show and to see how different young people are today from how they were when I was 18. They are very active on important issues such as equality and the environment and seem to be the first generation to finally demand change. 

After graduating from high school, Ben decided to turn down an offer from Oxford University so as to go to University College London and follow his passion for biology and to work in the rain forests later in life. Somewhere along the way, Ben decided to request a deferment for a year so that he could cycle from the U.K. to Australia, while at the same time embarking on an adventure of self-discovery and to strengthen his views on humanity and the need to stop racism, protect the rainforests, and empower girls through education.

 People say, “you are so young doing it, how come you are doing it so young.” I think it’s the perfect time to do it really, because you haven’t go the responsibility of jobs and this kind of thing.

Through the bike tour, Ben decided that it would be important to him to raise funds for NGOs that are focussed on these issues he holds dear to his heart, and although he had already decided which NGOs he would raise money for prior to starting the bike tour, his convictions are even stronger after having seen first hand the rise in islamophobia throughout the UK and large parts of Europe. The prevalence of gender inequality in India was so striking that in an entire month cycling through the North, Ben only interacted with one woman when she said hello to him. The damage and destruction of delicate ecosystems for palm and rubber plantations throughout Malaysia and Indonesia has a particularly strong affect on Ben, and he hopes to one day work in rainforest conservation.

In the whole time there, one month cycling across the plains of Uttar Pradesh, I spoke to one woman. Just a wife of a guy who welcomed me in, who served me a cup of tea and she actually said hello back. You see women, you don’t see them in the streets. They’re kind of inside homes, behind windows, or far away in the field…

Luckily for Ben, when he first broached the subject of doing a bike tour with his parents, he had already planned the trip, including important information such as route, distances, time frame, etc, as well as made a promise to be back within a year so as to start university. Having parents that toured through Africa in the 90s helped, and now he keeps his parents and friends up to date with his adventures through his instagram and facebook.

For me, the bike is the way to go. In a year, the amount of space I’ve been able to cover is just awesome. I love the bike. It’s like an extension of my body now.

Ben was fortunate his father had done some prior bike touring and for his 18th birthday he gave Ben his Thorn Raven touring bike which comes with a Rohloff hub, which is a 14-speed internal gear system designed in Germany, and is the creme-de-la-creme piece of equipment for bike tourers, and costs somewhere between 800-1000 pounds to buy. For anyone planning a world tour, the gift of a touring bike is just about the best thing someone could get. 

Follow Ben Hollis at: 
To read more about Ben’s charity fundraiser, click “shopping cart” to be directed to his GoFundMe page.

Show Notes

~ 30 sec      Episode introduction

~ 1m 30s    Ben’s timeline for the trip, where he is at the moment, and why it’s the perfect time to do a tour

~ 4 min       Ben’s budget, why he turned down Oxford University, and why the first few weeks of the tour were the hardest

~ 8 min        What bike Ben is riding and why the Rohloff is amazing

~ 11m 30s   Ben’s trip so far and how amazing the Balkans are

~ 15m 30s   Information about cycling in Malaysia, and where the good beaches are

~ 19m 30s    What charities Ben is fundraising for

~ 25m 30s    Most memorable moment (spoiler –> It’s in India)

~ 28 min       Best advice he’s received

~ 31 min       Advice for other young bike tourers

~ 33 min       Introduction to next week’s episode, Marielle Jauring


About the Author
Traveller. Cyclist. Expat. Over 15 years experience living abroad in six different countries. I've travelled to over 40+ countries and met countless travellers, cyclists, and other expats. As a passionate cyclist I've had opportunities to bike tour in some truly amazing places. While definitely not an expert at bike touring, I'm passionate about sharing bike touring stories and helping others learn hacks, tricks, and techniques to improve their touring experience. I look forward to you joining me on this journey of learning about and becoming a better bike tourist.

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