GLOBAL. ‘Janapar: Love, on a bike’ follows the incredible story of Tom Allen, a British web-designer who, at the age of 23, decided to leave his ordinary life behind to travel the world by bicycle. With only a compass, a video camera and his bike, Tom set out on a voyage that would challenge him, change him and ultimately give him some of the most memorable experiences of his life. This feature-length film documents the start of Tom’s ongoing mission to cycle around the world and tells the endearing story of how he met his wife, Teni.

Leaving home with his two friends Andy and Mark, Tom began his journey full of excitement and optimism. Unfortunately Mark went home to a long-term relationship after ten weeks, leaving Tom and Andy to carry on alone. In the first 20 minutes of the film we witness the challenge of living and travelling with a life-long friend and how the relationship can change when it is put to the test. As winter chased the two cyclists into Georgia, the friendship became increasingly strained and they often spent days in silence. We see how being utterly reliant on someone when you are out of your comfort zone can cause tension in even the slightest circumstance, and holding that friendship together during exhausting hardships is an almost insurmountable task.

After Andy decided to leave, Tom set out to continue his journey alone. Crossing through countries including Georgia, Iran, Sudan, Ethiopia and Yemen, he shows us vast empty landscapes, rolling deserts and his never ending climb through dense mountain ranges. Without even a map Tom’s journey seems almost unbelievable – along with the fluctuating climates and intense heat he also had to accept his constant uncertain safety and unknown location. However, this isolation from normality and comfort also opened his eyes to incredible experiences. He was frequently welcomed into communities with different cultures and traditions and treated as part of the family. With no need for money or complications, these people live simply and peacefully. Seeing the true intimacy and welcoming nature of such communities makes us realize how uncommon it is to find people so willing to help and befriend complete strangers in much of the western world.

Tom first met Teni in Armenia. Within three days of meeting her, he was utterly spell-bound and after departing her home in Yerevan to continue his expedition, he turned back and cycled ten hours to be with her. Six months later his itch to travel returned and he was torn between his passion and the woman he loved. Refusing to give up on either, Tom and Teni embarked upon one of the most emotionally challenging parts of his journey. Their plan was to cycle to Tehran, the home town of Teni’s parents, in order to ask for their blessing to travel together. As Teni was an unexperienced cyclist – in fact Tom had to teach her to ride a bike – the journey was long and exhausting, both physically and mentally. They then had to face her parents’ anger and refusal.

Leaving Teni then was a hard but clear choice. ‘Dreams can only have one true owner’, he admitted. At this point in his life, and indeed in his journey, we see his still youthful yearning to find more, to see more and to travel. Yet as months passed his thoughts never strayed from her, and how much better his experiences would be if she were with him. From the south coast of Yemen, he accepted that his life would not be complete without her and began his journey back to Armenia to marry the woman he loved. He felt finally willing to compromise his personal freedom for someone else and his desire to build his life around this woman was greater than his desire to live his previous nomadic existence. The closing clip of the film shows Teni saying goodbye to him, she turns to the camera and says, with endearing warmth, ‘He left… but only for a month and a half!’

The non-chronological structure of the film can be confusing at times but presents the progression of his different states of mind and emotions. We see the raw personal frustration at not being able to make up his mind and his anger at having to choose. We see his pain at being away from Teni and missing her, as well as his passion for adventure. The frequent flashbacks to their first few days together and the memories that they shared is touching and emphasizes the strength of his love for her. The adventure in the risk and uncertainty is what drove Tom to do all that he has done today and finding beauty in the harshest of environments is something that can only truly be experienced through travel. ‘Love, on a bike’ is an inspiring film which encourages the audience to challenge themselves and chase their dreams.