Published on 09 Jan 2021
Would you consider touring a foreign country for a few months, equipped with only a bicycle and a tent for the night?
That was exactly what 28-year-old Ms Angel Lim, physiotherapist from our Rehabilitation and Physiotherapy team, set out to do after her graduation in 2015. Beginning her trip in France, Paris, she spent the next three months cycling through Europe, ending her adventures in Spain, Barcelona.
Angel discovered the joys of cycling when she was studying in Taiwan. A Brazilian cyclist she met in Taiwan encouraged her to try cycling around the world. After a two-week cycling trip around Taiwan with friends, Angel was hooked.
“You really taste the freedom!” Angel shared. “While travelling on a bicycle, you can stop whenever you want to appreciate the scenery or chat with a local. On a train or bus, everything just zooms by so quickly!”
To tackle the Europe tour, Angel knew she had to prepare herself. Besides learning basic French, Angel picked up bicycle maintenance skills from a cycling shop. She also had to pack light, keeping only the bare necessities such as some clothing, toiletries, a toolkit and of course, her tent. As she had not started work at that time, Angel chose to rely on a non-profit hospitality exchange service known as “Warm Showers”, where hosts offer accommodation to cycling tourists.
When she found herself out in the wilderness, Angel would just pitch a tent and enjoy the night scenery. “Camping out with other cyclists is the best way to make friends!”
To challenge herself, Angel sometimes chose more difficult routes. After a while, she gave up on Google Maps and went with a physical map instead as it had more details. “The beauty of cycling alone is that you can be flexible and make a spontaneous decision to take a path less travelled. Sometimes you might find hidden gems in remote areas, such as a spot with breathtaking scenery or a hangout that only the locals know about. It may be a tough journey and I might question my decisions, but when I persevere and reach a beautiful destination, I know it’s worth it.”
Of course, there were also moments that were scary. While travelling with two cyclists from the UK, Angel found herself in a situation where the only accommodation was an old abandoned house which was heavily vandalised; with drug needles, and even a rope hanging from the ceiling! “I wasn’t afraid of ghosts; I was more afraid of humans!” laughed Angel.
Her new friends tried to assure her and being psychology majors, they spoke at length about how we usually fear things because we don’t understand them. “I became braver after this experience, and learned to always find understanding when I feel fear. We should always aim for the best, but prepare for the worst!”
Things however did turn south during another cycling trip. Hailing from Muar, Malaysia, Angel wanted to learn more about her own culture by doing a cycling trip around the whole peninsula. However, she faced a robbery a week into her trip. The attack left her with a fracture on her face, and she had to undergo surgery. Choosing to remain positive, Angel saw kindness in the stranger who came to help, and all who cared for her as she recovered.
“My only thought was, how can I continue biking without letting my family worry? I dare say that on my cycling trips, 99 percent of the experiences have been good. I have received a lot of warmth and kindness from the people I met.”
For all the good that she received from others, Angel also wanted to give back to the community. Signing up to be a host on “Warm Showers”, she opened her home to cycling tourists. At the same time, she also went about giving talks about her cycling experiences and encouraging others to cycle. This gave her family a better understanding of the cycling world and soothed their worries. Under Angel’s influence, her sister also began cycling while she was studying in Paris.
To further help her family appreciate her passion, Angel even took them on a trip to Iceland, where they lived and travelled in a motorhome. “The experience allowed my parents to see that there can be many other ways to explore other countries; we are not restricted to just tour buses and groups.”
Angel also brings the many things she learned from her cycling experiences into her professional life. Always pushing new boundaries and trying new ways of doing things, Angel went from being a physiotherapist with our Nursing Homes, to seeing clients at our Day Rehabilitation Centres, before offering Home Therapy services to Home Care clients. Now, she leads our Rolling and Balance programmes for Tango, amongst others.
Angel also shares with her clients stories of meeting cyclists who are well into their 70s and 80s but who still continue to remain active.
“Oftentimes it is the mindset of the society that limits the seniors. Because of their age we tell them to not push themselves and they in turn accept these limitations placed on them. By sharing stories of senior cyclists, I let them know that age is really just a number and they too can enjoy an adventurous lifestyle and stay physically fit!”
“Angel always has a smile on her face and stays positive even in difficult times.” shared Mr Alvin Lau, exercise trainer and Angel’s colleague from the Rehabilitation and Wellness team.
When asked how she always manages to stay positive and true to herself, Angel shared about an experience during her university days when she volunteered to travel to India and care for children who were rescued from child labour. “They were fearful and afraid of trusting anyone; some were even sold by their own parents. It was then I realised how fortunate I am, and that I really need to appreciate the simple things in life.”
On a Facebook page dedicated to her biking adventures, Angel writes, “Happiness is simple. Happiness is putting on a fresh set of clothes and starting your day.”
“Actually, we don’t need a lot of things in our lives to be happy. All we need is to be flexible and accept changes as they come, to be brave and face our fears. And most importantly, to not let the world change who we are!”
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