“Mark, I decided to go on another trip, only this one will be a bit longer.”
“Where to this time?”
“The world, I want to bike and sketch my way around the globe.”
With those ambitious words, Sophie Binder begins her book The World, Two Wheels & A Sketchbook, a 283-page hardback travelogue recounting her 14,000-mile bicycle ride from St. Louis, around the world, and back again.
Born and raised in the southwestern of France before settling here more than 20 years ago, Binder self-published the book in both French and English. She said she was inspired to travel due in large part to her childhood love of books, mostly stories about world adventurers who set off to mysterious and exotic lands. She also has had an affinity for art since childhood, and her desires — travel and art — naturally came together as she got older.
Binder, a graphic designer and illustrator, quit her job, put her belongings in storage and set out on her epic cicumnavigation in 2001 after seven months of prepartion: “I traveled in my dreams; reading about the unknown lands I destined myself to explore, I forged a romantic tale of my own voyage to come. Some around me thought me foolish. A woman traveling solo? This is the obvious diagnosis for common insanity,” she wrote.
But accustomed to using her bike as her primary mode of transportation around her University City neighborhood, Binder wasn’t nervous about using a bike to trek around the globe.
She faced downpours, blistering desert heat and long periods of solitude — interchanged with great kindness from strangers along the way — as she pedaled across 15 countries in Southern Europe, the Middle East, the Sub-Continent, Southeast Asia, New Zealand and the U.S. over a span of 14 months.
Binder said the journey nurtured her heart, strengthened her body and educated her mind. She was surprised by Laos, a thickly forested landscape with rugged mountains; it was a country about which she knew little. But it was the generosity of the people in the Middle East that touched her the most, she said.
In her book, which combines watercolor, ink, photos and commentary from her ride, Binder recounts varying displays of humanity, sometimes humorous and sometimes unfortunate. While in Damascus, the capital of Syria, a young boy was able to convey to Binder that he wanted her to draw his portrait and that he would pay her for it. She drew the boy, free of charge, but was still gifted a new ink pen from him as a thank you. It was a small token of appreciation yet one that still resonates with her.
Today, Binder can be spotted riding her bike around town or out walking her dog. She spends most of her free time rock climbing, a hobby she picked up while on her trip around the world. She also enjoys giving presentations about her trip at organizations around St. Louis and elsewhere.
While she has no immediate plans to hit the road again, Binder said she has an idea of where she would like to go next: either China’s Silk Road or from Alaska to Patagonia. With her mind frequently in far-off places, adventure always awaits for this unique, and uniquely talented, woman.
Discover more about Binder, her trip, her book and her other projects at sbinderdesigns.com.
Author: Heather Ervin is a contributor to Terrain magazine