“Mike, do you want to bike around the world?”
That is one of the first lines in Winnipeg-born author Katrina Rosen’s new book, and was the catalyst for the adventure it was based upon.
With You By Bike: One Couple’s Life-Changing Journey Around the World was published Sept. 3 by Rocky Mountain Books. It chronicles the true story of how Rosen and her husband Mike biked around the world over 13 months and across 13,000 kilometres.
The sudden decision was motivated by years of marital turmoil. Almost reading like a sitcom, the book describes the source of tension between the pair, calling Rosen “an adventure athlete who craves the wild” and her husband a person who typically “watches sports with his buddies.”
“We were married and we had been together for 11 years and we had grown apart, we weren’t close anymore,” said Rosen.
“We were just really struggling in our relationship, we never fought, but we weren’t connecting and we certainly weren’t in love with each other.”
Instead of a divorce, the pair opted for an international biking trip.
Rosen admitted that the trip was just as much about physically distancing herself from her feelings for another person as it was about healing.
“I didn’t think I could run away from those feelings without actually using my body,” she said.
“Just at a loss of doing anything else, we just left from our front door in Wolseley.”
The trip followed no plan, and when the temperature began to drop the pair decided to turn south and bike across the U.S.
A turning point on the unexpected journey was in Zion National Park in Utah.
“We didn’t know about it before we arrived there, but it was a place that really clutched us,” said Rosen.
“We kept meaning to leave but we never left.
“It was in that place, about six weeks into the trip, that I really started realising ‘OK, we do have something worth fighting for and moving forward in our relationship.’”
With You By Bike follows Mike and Katrina through the U.S., across the ocean in New Zealand, throughout Southeast Asia and eventually to Nepal as they face robberies, flat tires and navigating foreign countries.
Rosen began writing the story of her journey with her husband without intending to publish it. She had always written in journals, but had never set out to write a book.
“It was very therapeutic for me to write, even if it was just going to be for myself and Mike.
“It was in Zion National Park actually where I really started documenting the trip as if I wanted to do something with it in the future.”
With You By Bike can be read for its adventure and perseverance in exceptional circumstances, but also as a meditation on relationships, loneliness and forgiveness.
“It took actually a number of years to be brave enough to put the story out there,” said Rosen.
“But ultimately I think it’s really important to share some stories because we’re not the only ones that go through hardships and I know when you’re in it, it can feel very lonely.
“In the end it has become an outlet for a lot of others who are struggling in their own relationships.”
Through a writing group, an editor, journals, videos and sifting through the memories of her trip, the book took shape. Rosen said the first draft ran 180,000 words.
“Nobody would want to publish that, so yeah, a lot of stuff was taken out,” she said.
Rosen felt she was able to recall her memories with more detail and process the trip better through writing.
“I think I only gained from it […] being able to fall in love with my husband again every time I read the book, and then also with myself because throughout the story I worked through all the emotions of forgiveness and learning how to love myself.”
Rosen encourages others to travel whenever the opportunity arises.
“Just do it,” she said.
“Oh my gosh, it’s so easy to go on a trip without a plan, and if you have the luxury of time to make a plan, then that’s great.
“But if you don’t and you want to go on a trip, it costs, I think, way less money than people anticipate, especially if you’re willing to camp.”
Rosen’s next book will likely follow Katrina and Mike, now joined by their son Zion, through a recent cycling trip across Europe.
Rosen will be in Winnipeg to host book launches at McNally Robinson on Oct. 11 and at Chapters Polo Festival on Oct. 12.
With You By Bike: One Couple’s Life-Changing Journey Around the World is available online through various retailers. Follow Katrina Rosen’s adventures on her website katrinatheexplorer.com and on social media.