Last year, Laura Bingham completed a five-month-long cycle across the whole of South America. A good enough achievement in itself, let alone without a single penny in her pocket.

In an effort to raise funds for Operation South America, a charity for vulnerable young women, Laura cycled from the Pacific Coast of Ecuador to Buenos Aires, a total of 6,000km, and she managed to get by simply by relying on the kindness of strangers. Will Renwick spoke to her to find out what she learnt during her testing expedition...

“It was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. From a physical sense to an emotional sense. I was constantly being rejected and that puts you on such a negative downward spiral. But while there were some awful times there were also many, many incredible times.”

“It’s crazy the difference a smile makes. Along the way I asked people if they could donate any food to help me with my cause. If I was rejected, but with a smile then I didn’t mind, whereas if someone donated, but donated reluctantly then that always put me down.”

“I won’t go on any expeditions alone anymore. I got attacked on a beach by a man and it’s since made me much more cautious. Traveling in the middle of nowhere as a lone female has a lot of risks and I’ve decided that all my expeditions in the future will be with a group of women rather than by myself. I still want to help to empower women but I’ve come to acknowledge the risks that come with doing it alone.”

Laura Bingham

“Paraguayan people are amazingly friendly. Once I got to Paraguay, the people there were responding to me really positively, giving me little beeps of encouragement and thumbs up out of their cars, and that was when the trip really turned around for me. It went from a negative experience, where I felt like a burden, to a really fun experience. It was just this hugely welcoming, smiley and happy country.”

“I had some incredible acts of generosity. My bike wheel broke while I was in a desert and I started panicking. Luckily a married couple stopped, picked me and my bike up and not only took me to a shop to get it fixed but offered to pay for it out of their own pockets. Then, it turned out the shop didn’t have the right tire and that the next shop with one was a seven-hour drive. They took me all the way there to get it and all the way back. They went above and beyond anything that I could have expected.”

“My goal isn’t to inspire other adventurers. It’s to inspire people to achieve their goals, whether it involves getting outside or staying indoors.”

Reader offer

Don’t miss Laura Bingham at the Adventure Travel Show 2017 (21-22 January 2017) where she will be speaking about her South American adventure and her next projects.

Get your tickets for only £6 (£4 off the door price) by quoting OUTDOORSRADAR when booking tickets online here or when calling 0871 230 7159 (calls cost 10p per minute plus network extras).