Arlington woman turns bicycle world tour into cook book

BENNINGTON -- At some point during their two-year bicycle tour from Scotland to Thailand, Tara Alan, of Arlington, noticed something that set her and her husband apart from the other bicycle tourists they encountered along the way.

They were eating much better than the others, a fact which led Alan to sum up the entire experience, at least for now, with a cook book aimed at bicyclists and campers. Called "Bike. Camp. Cook." it contains basic knowledge of how to prepare and store ingredients, as well as recipes that can be cooked on a one-burner camping stove.

Alan said she raised the money to self-publish the book via Kickstarter, an online service that lets people donate to a wide variety of projects and endeavors. It can be bought at or Alan said she also hopes to have it on sale at the Bennington Bookshop and the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester.

Originally from Illinois, Alan said she was living with her husband, Tyler Kellen, in Minnesota, when he floated the idea of taking a world bicycle tour. "He sent me a text message saying, 'Do you want to sell everything you own and go bike around the world with me?' And I said, 'Sure.'"

Kellen, who has been known to save his money to go on month-long motorcycle trips, got the idea for the tour by watching "The Long Way Around," a documentary series featuring actor Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman who took a 20,000-mile motorcycle trip through 12 countries in 115 days.

The idea to travel via bicycle came from a scene in the series where the pair met a bicyclist in Mongolia, said Alan.

Pedal bikes are cheaper and easier to fix, she said, adding that she was not a bicyclist or camper before this, but is one now.

They meticulously planned their trip ahead of time, using Kellen's motorcycle experience and her knowledge of traveling and studying abroad. Despite their preparations, the one-year trip ended up taking two years.

Alan said they rented out their home, sold many of their possessions, and lived with relatives to save up for the trip. Kellen, an independent software designer, was also able to work from the road.

They left in 2009 for Scotland and took their bicycles through Europe. They planned to take the Trans-Siberian Railroad to Asia, but shuffling their bicycles around on the train to see the sights along the way proved to be a bad option, so on the advice of a friend they bought a car and crossed Russia that way. They finished their tour in Thailand and returned to the United States in 2011. They have been living in Arlington for the past year, said Alan.

She said typical fare for a bicyclist on tour is instant meals and perhaps some pasta. Her book contains recipes one might think more at home in a kitchen with four walls, such as Garlic-Chili-Herb Fried Eggs for breakfast and Hearty Meat & Potatoes For A Cold Winter's Night for a dinner option. For dessert, try Carmelized Bananas or Honey, Almond, and Coconut Rice Pudding.

"Most people who travel like this, and there are a lot of people who travel like this, they don't cook," Alan said. "They'll boil noodles and that will be it, or they'll use a packet of something."

The couple made daily journal entries and took many photographs as they went, especially of the food. This left them with plenty of fodder for a non-cook book, which Alan said she hopes to write once she can decide on the format.

"I was sort of writing a book about our trip, but it kind of morphed into this cook book, actually. It was going to be a very general book about our trip, but the trip felt too close and too immediate, it was just too much to try to write about, so I focused on the food, because I love food," she said. "I've cooked all the way around the world."

The book is plentiful in the way of rich, colorful photos. Alan and Kellen were not photographers when they began, but the practice seems to have paid off. She said their blogging about their adventure has also been well-received by people who want to go on their own trip but are not sure how to plan for it.

Alan said anyone living on the road -- and even those who are not -- can benefit from the book.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.


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