A winner of StudentUniverse’s Fly N’ Bike Contest reflects on her experiences while cycling in Taiwan.

Winning the Contest

I had just gotten to the gym when I got the email from StudentUniverse saying, “You’re going to Taiwan!” It was a complete shock. I turned to my mother and said I was setting off for a new adventure in less than six months. I won the Fly N’ Bike Taiwan contest and would be cycling in Taiwan.

Last year, I was bitten by the travel bug when beginning my senior year of college in Prague, Czech Republic. After traveling to so many places I knew that I had found my niche in life. I wanted to travel the world, learn from different cultures and find myself within the process. I had no idea that my travel adventures would’ve led me to cycling in Taiwan.

cycling-in-taiwan-alexis

Initially, I sent a video to StudentUniverse about myself which included my major, favorite travel places and my hobbies. Little did I know that this would bring me to very unfamiliar–yet exciting–new territory. I signed up for this contest without knowing much about cycling or Taiwan. I just wanted to take on a new challenge and learn while I journeyed. This definitely seemed like the trip for me. Having grown up playing a variety of sports, I saw this contest as an opportunity to delve into new athletic activities. I had never cycled before–I had bicycled around parks but never anything as competitive as cycling. I was anxious but excited!  Cycling in Taiwan for more than 500 miles in nine days meant getting back in touch with my competitive side and expanding my fitness level!

cycling-in-taiwan-bicycle

The Journey

The majority of the individuals I was with throughout these nine days were avid cyclists. Seeing some of my teammates zip up long stretches of hills like it was a breeze made me nervous. However, this was where I drew my strength from. During the span of nine days, I discovered my true potential. For instance, the first day of biking was intense; I tapped into my inner warrior and peddled as hard and as fast as I could. When I peddled and gave my all, I found myself keeping up with some of the more experienced riders. Later, I learned that by keeping up with them, I was surpassing the limits and goals that I had originally set for myself. As the days progressed, I began to become acclimated and found myself enjoying the rush of this new world that I was in. I began to develop new strategies in order to conquer the long and intense days which were ahead of me.

Now, as I said, I’m not a cyclist–but I had never felt closer to a recreational community. On the days when I lagged behind the more experienced riders, I found a little community. We call ourselves “Slow Riders”–and were were just as the title sounds. We kept a steady pace and motivated and inspired one another not to quit. No matter how hard the wind was blowing, how fast the rain was pouring down nor how steep the hills were, we kept going! This little group, made up of a fluctuating five members, kept me motivated through some of the most tiring and toughest of days. But the most important thing: we never quit.

cycling-in-taiwan-group-photo

The Experience

Not quitting during these days kept me motivated and looking forward to the next day. I felt like I was the strongest that I had ever been and I accomplished each goal that I set the night before. Cycling is just as mental of a challenge as it is physical. I had to push past both mental and physical barriers to continue pedaling everyday. Cycling in Taiwan allowed me to gain a new perspective on an exercise that I hadn’t known much about about before, and I learned that physical challenges aren’t always the hardest.

cycling-in-taiwan-temple

Being able to travel and learn in a beautiful country that was entirely new to me was a privilege. It allowed me to step out of my comfort zone in more ways that I could have ever imagined, all while conquering both physical and mental feats. The relationships I formed with my fellow cyclists and the personal triumphs I accomplished all made this trip into a truly once in a lifetime experience. 

If this is an experience you wish you could’ve had for yourself, be sure to check up on StudentUniverse for future contests.

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    About Alexis Gilbert