Oli Broom is the founder of The Slow Cyclist, a bespoke travel company taking people on amazing journeys.
Who are you?
I’m British, 36 and live in Warwickshire, England. In 2009 I quit my secure job and spent 14 months cycling to Australia. Since then I’ve done a few things but in 2015 I set up a bespoke travel company called The Slow Cyclist. I like to think we take people who wouldn’t normally join a group tour on amazing journeys through places we know like the back of our hand. At the moment those places are Transylvania, Rwanda and the Caucasus and in 2017 we will host over 300 guests on more than 30 journeys.
Where do you call ‘home’ and what do you like about it?
I lived in London on and off or 13 years, but in January we – me, my wife and baby son – moved to Warwickshire. Our house feels like home already. I never think of England as somewhere I can find space but our house is a three minute drive from the nearest building and all we can see out of our bedroom window are fields, forests, deer and the occasional fox. I love the peace and quiet.
Describe your favourite place to work and the view out the window.
In 2016 I spent six months living and working in a medieval village called Mesendorf in Transylvania, Romania. Our house had small windows, meaning not much light got in. On sunny days I would take my laptop into the orchard and sit under a walnut tree. No windows there, but I could see the tower of the 14th century fortified church and hear shepherds and their flocks in the meadows. We’re going back in April for a few months.
Where do you find inspiration and where do you ‘get lost’?
I walk for inspiration and cycle to get lost, perhaps because I can walk without focusing on the movement too much, whereas on a bike I need to stay aware, be vigilant. Most of the time when I’m riding I think of absolutely nothing. I just ride. I recently took up pottery and that’s another way I manage to forget about work for a little while.
What is your favourite way to get around and why?
The obvious answer is a bike, but I also love train journeys. Generally I find it hard to make time to read but on a train I feel no guilt; no sense that I should be doing something else. The experience of being on a train is in stark contrast to being on a bike. On two wheels you notice everything, smell and listen intensely. Your senses are heightened. On a train you can just switch off and watch a landscape unfold without having to feel anything. As much as I love cycling, I enjoy switching off too.
Describe a trend in your industry, or in society more generally, that fascinates you.
I’m fascinated by the effect of the tech revolution on human behaviour. I look at people on buses, trains, in restaurants and cafés, public spaces and so many just stare into their screens. They have no idea what’s going on around them; no sense that they’re sharing space with other people. They’re closed, as if they’re hanging out at home on their own. It’s very weird and I should admit, I do it too. Surely we’re becoming a less sociable species; less able to communicate. That can’t be good. Look at America: they now have a President who can’t communicate! Of course, I don’t have a clue what the answer is to all this.
Name your favourite spot to hang out when you’re off work.
It’s the hill above the orchard in Mesendorf, Transylvania. When I’m there I walk up the hill every day through the most dense wildflower meadow imaginable. I don’t allow myself to turn around until I reach the top of the grass-covered ridge, which takes no more than five minutes to get up. Then I turn, and see vast grazing pastures on rolling hills surrounded by immense, almost virgin forests. I can hear cow bells and shepherds, see buffaloes and smoke tumbling out of chimneys. It reminds me to savour the wild places because, I’m afraid, their number is diminishing.
Name and describe your favourite city.
Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. I lived there for two years, running a small charity, and it’s where I got to know my wife. So I’ve got great memories of the place. Rwanda is a tiny country and Kigali is right in the middle, meaning it’s a great base for exploring the volcanoes in the north, the jungle in the south and the lakes all over. It’s set on loads of hills so it’s really hard to navigate and it’s definitely not a cycling city, but it’s got Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Italian, French, Indian and even Lebanese restaurants, loads of places to swim, ride horses.. and it’s safe! Officially it’s the second safest city in Africa. We considered bringing up our son there but in the end of the draw of home was too strong.
Name one object you cannot live without and tell us why.
A notebook. I hate using my phone as a notebook. I use a good old-fashioned book I can write in. I jot down ideas for business, life, inspiration. I could not live without it. In the same vein I still buy books. I can’t stand kindles.
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve got coming up this week?
It’s my son’s christening this weekend. I have a son… I can’t believe I have a son! He’s 4 months old. He’s changed everything.
You have exactly one minute to share your vision with our readers about anything you want.
I believe in the power of travel to change lives. Although my focus at the moment is building The Slow Cyclist into a successful business, I’d like eventually to set up a not-for-profit arm and offer adventures to children who wouldn’t otherwise be able to travel easily. With the rise of Trump and various other right-wing European leaders – and the discourse around immigration – I think the idea is particularly pertinent. I believe long-term peace and stability can only be achieved by greater integration. The key to successful integration is understanding. I’d love to take groups of kids into Sudanese villages, Indian high-tech cities and the Mongolian desert to give them not only amazing adventures, but to show them that almost everyone on the planet has similar values. In doing so, I would hope to help promote, in my own small way, cross-cultural understanding.
Website: The Slow Cyclist