Graduation is right around the corner, and for senior Valkyrie Savage, that means figuring out one thing: how to avoid entering the workforce.
Having spent her last semester of school in Switzerland, the computer science and mathematics major says the European lifestyle is growing on her.
“I’m really liking the European way of work because they mandate three weeks off on top of public holidays, and there are lots of public holidays, so no one here is really married to their work the same way that people in the states are,” Savage said.
Unlike the mass of soon-to-be graduates who have spent the last year sending out resumes and cover letters hoping to nab a rare job in a recessed economy, Savage and her boyfriend, Evan Stratford, have spent the last year mapping out routes and securing shelter for a 10,000 kilometer (more than 6,300 miles) bicycle ride around Europe. They will start in Copenhagen and travel along the continent’s western and southern coasts to Istanbul.
Though both are adventurous, the aim is to go beyond the adrenaline rush and work to spread a positive message.
“We decided it would be a good idea to use this as an opportunity to promote some environmental issues,” said Stratford, who is finishing his degree from Ontario’s University of Waterloo.
They have allocated six months to complete the journey, allowing for breaks along the way to become involved with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, which matches
volunteers with housing and food in exchange for helping with tasks on farmlands all across the world.
A tremendous network of relatives, friends, and friends of friends are supporting the trip by providing additional housing, financial support and perhaps even the bicycles for their journey.
The IU cycling community helped inspire the couple to go forward with their extensive ride.
Stratford visited during last year’s Little 500 race and saw firsthand how seriously Hoosiers take the sport.
“You have this sort of community opposite to what you normally see — people driving around in their cars and they are all very angry about it. It’s very refreshing,” he said.
The tech-savvy couple will use social media to share their experiences with those who cannot travel along. They have set up a Web site, a Twitter feed and a Facebook fan group for the expedition.
Ethan Bradley, a senior who will finish a degree in finance and Spanish next month and head straight to a job in Indianapolis, says he appreciates that he will be able to experience the adventure vicariously through Valkyrie, whom he has known since age four.
“I will definitely be following on Facebook and keeping in touch,” Bradley said. “It will be interesting just to see what she can do.”
Savage realizes she will serve as a virtual tour guide for those following her quest.
“I’ve out-traveled everyone I’m related to,” Savage said. “My family loves it — they follow me on Facebook. I feel closer to them when I can share things like this.”
Even in the planning stages, the two have found the journey has already begun, and working out the logistics may be the hardest part.
“You can’t plan everything,” Stratford said. “You’re expecting something to go wrong at some point because something will go wrong at some point.”
Naturally, finances are a big concern.
“The planning overhead is crazy,” Savage said. “The trip itself will boil down to food and plane tickets.”
“And gear,” they agreed.
Even as all the pieces fall into place, the question remains: Why?
“We were trying to think of something really awesome to do once we both finished school because neither one of us is quite ready for grad school or real life,” Savage said.
“There’s all these things out there that you can do,” said Stratford, who has accepted a job with Facebook once the bike ride is over, “and to say that all I did in life is sit in front of a computer and write some code, I feel like there would be something missing there.”
With graduation coming up, the timing, place and match have all lined up.
“I think he is probably the only person I’ve ever met who would be crazy enough to go 10,000 (kilometers) on a bicycle,” Savage said. “I guess it’s just the next big adventure.”
And the effort just makes the adventure more satisfying.
“I think it is a really awesome opportunity,” Bradley said. “She is a good example to everybody else of chasing after what you want to do with your life.”