In an era of canceled flights and increasingly complex travel restrictions, one college student went to extreme lengths to make it back home. Twenty-year-old Kleon Papadimitriou was studying at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down everything and all flights to his home in Athens were canceled. Instead of waiting it out, he decided to bike the 2,175 miles that separated him from his family.
In late March, when the pandemic was hitting its peak in Europe and the UK, Papadimitriou had three flights canceled before he ultimately decided on a cycling adventure. Although he had competed in a bike race the previous year, and was comfortable on a bike, he had never done anything remotely like this cross-continent adventure.
“It’s just now dawning on me how big of an achievement this was,” he told CNN. “And I did learn a lot of things about myself, about my limits, about my strengths and my weaknesses. And I’d say I really hope that the trip inspired at least one more person to go out of their comfort zone and try something new, something big.”
When he embarked on the trip on May 10, he had only a sleeping bag, canned sardines, peanut butter, bread, a tent, and bike equipment. Each day he traveled between 35 and 75 miles, crossing through England and then into the Netherlands. He biked along the Rhine River in Germany before passing into Austria and cycling along the east coast of Italy, and then took a boat to Patras in Greece.
From there, he biked to Athens. Occasionally he stayed with friends, family, and acquaintances who happened to reside along the route, but mostly he camped in fields and forests.
Of his homecoming, he said, “It was very emotional. Coming from a family from two parents that were very adventurous in their younger years, seeing me kind of follow in their footsteps, I think is very emotional to them and obviously gives me a lot of meaning. But I think if anything, they felt relief.”