alibi online
Free Will AstrologyAlibi's Personals
 
 V.19 No.22 | June 3 - 9, 2010 

Author Interview

On a Bicycle Built for Cuba

An Aussie lady bikes around an island

Lynette Chiang shows off her trusty, tiny road companion.
galfromdownunder.com
Lynette Chiang shows off her trusty, tiny road companion.

From late 1999 to early 2000, Lynette Chiang traveled by folding bicycle through Cuba. An Australian, Chiang wasn’t subject to the restrictions on visiting Cuba that Americans are, giving readers a detailed look at the forbidden land. Her memoir, The Handsomest Man in Cuba, published in 2007, details her solo travels around the island in a quirky first-person account, taken from Chiang’s diary. The Alibi caught up with Chiang in advance of her rolling through Albuquerque for a slide show presentation and talk.

Chiang will also show her short film Route 66 by Bicycle: Pedaling the Mother Road on Saturday, June 5, as part of the New Mexico Bicycle Rally. Get more details at nmbikerally.com.

What do you find so appealing about bicycle travel?

You actually feel connected to your environment. In a car you feel like you’re in a tin can moving along. When you're traveling on a bike, the whole surface of your body is basically open to the air and the environment. If you think about that, it's like jumping in a pool. When you jump into the water you get that incredible sense of immersion, that shock. I think it's like that on a bike. Suddenly, you're whishing through air and feeling the sun or the rain or whatever is going on in every pore of your body, and that makes you feel aliveand free.

Do you think people treat you differently when you travel by bike than they would if you took a more traditional form of travel?

Of course. I think the folding bike has been a factor. I don't think I would have gotten quite the same amount of attention if I'd been on a regular bike. The folding bike is a little unusual, people talk to you. If you've got a strange little contraption, like my folding bike was, it sends a signal out to people that this is someone they should talk to or try to help or something.

“I'm a champion and a cheerleader for the solo woman traveler. Especially the older woman traveler.”

Lynette Chiang

You're a woman traveling alone. What advice do you have for women riding solo?

Some people say to me things like, Oh, I could never be able to do what you did. I don't think it's got anything to do with not being able to, it's all about desire. Whatever you desire to do, there's a very good chance that you'll do it. As far as being a woman goes, you probably get treated a little differently. ... I'm a champion and a cheerleader for the solo woman traveler. Especially the older woman traveler. To step out of a comfortable existence or whatever you had before and just go out on your own. I know what that's like; it's scary, but you just have to go out and do it.

I think people imagine you're in more danger as a woman, but it seemed like the reverse was true in your book; that you had more people looking out for you.

You can pull the helpless maiden card whenever you want. I think whatever works, whatever card you want to pull that helps you survive, you pull that card. Yes, I have absolutely had people help me and invite me to their home and so forth and look after me. What guys might have in strength and the ability to look a little more imposing, women get chivalry. People want to help them.

Your Cuba trip was more than 10 years ago. Where have you gone since then?

I’ve ridden through the Yucatán in Mexico, made a documentary in Peru. I've made a couple of full-length adventure movies just using a digital camera. Route 66. I've biked in the Baja, in Japan, last year Singapore. Quite a few places, actually.

Why did you choose to write about Cuba and not your other travels?

I’ve written about other travels online. With Cuba, the country is sufficiently intriguing that I felt compelled to write about it. I just made bullet points every day. I actually published an article that's the chapter “La Casa de Lolita” in the Tico Times. I didn’t think much of it, but I got an e-mail from the editor, who’d gotten an e-mail from someone in New York. He read my story and asked if he could be put in touch with me. He made the journey all the way from New York to Costa Rica and loaned me this little laptopthe lucky Toshibaand said, “Finish the story.” I was flattered because I hadn’t thought much of it, so I just sat down and started to write it down.

It doesn’t read like you set out to write a book.

It’s like a blog, but it’s been printed. I’ve never been that into travel books because I’m always looking for some different kind of thing. I like the way the mind just meanders. Cuba was like thatevery turn or corner was very different ... it’s got a different time-feel to it. There’s no real beginning or end, you’re just kind of moseying and meandering. That’s what travel is kind of about.

Lynette Chiang, The Handsomest Man in Cuba

Sunday, June 6, 3 p.m.
Bookworks
4022 Rio Grande NW
bkwrks.com/event/chiang
 

Today's Events

ABurlyQ! A Burlesque & Sideshow Spectaculár! at African American Performing Arts Center

Gilded Cage Burlesk & Varieté and Trend Groups present a festival to honor burlesque, vaudeville, sideshow, belly dance and more.

Movies in the Park at Los Vecinos Community Center

James Cady's Hamlet at Musical Theatre Southwest

More Recommented Events ››
Join our mailing list for exclusive info, the week's events and free stuff!
 

  • Select sidebar boxes to add below. You can also click and drag to rearrange the boxes; close using the little X icons on each box. To re-add a box you closed, return to this menu.
  • Because you are not logged in, any changes you make to these boxes will vanish as soon as you click to another page. If you log in, the boxes will stick.
  • alibi.com
  • Latest Posts
  • Web Exclusives
  • Recent Rocksquawk Discussions
  • Recent Classifieds
  • Latest User Posts
  • Most Active Users
  • Most Active Stories
  • Calendar Comments
  • Upcoming Alibi Picks
  • Albuquerque
  • Duke City Fix
  • Albuquerque Beer Scene
  • What's Wrong With This Picture?
  • Reddit Albuquerque
  • ABQ Journal Metro
  • ABQrising
  • ABQ Journal Latest News
  • Del.icio.us Albuquerque
  • NM and the West
  • New Mexico FBIHOP
  • Democracy for New Mexico
  • Only in New Mexico
  • Mario Burgos
  • Democracy for New Mexico
  • High Country News
  • El Grito
  • NM Politics with Joe Monahan
  • Stephen W. Terrell's Web Log
  • The Net Is Vast and Infinite
  • Slashdot
  • Freedom to Tinker
  • Is there a feed that should be on this list? Tell us about it.
    LABOR DAY FESTIVAL
    LABOR DAY FESTIVAL9.1.2014