Meet the Nomads – Emma and Justin of Rolling Tales

Rolling Tales is a blog of a couple originally from New Zealand who lived in London for awhile and packed their bags after a couple of years to travel back to their home country… on their bikes!

Though their two year cycling trip has already ended last February 2012, the information that they were able to document are very useful and very inspiring especially for those who are planning to do long term cycling.

Emma and Justin are the authors and blog owners of Rolling Tales and reading each post in their blog will take you with them in their adventure.

Get to know more about Emma and Justin and learn from their travel and cycling experience, visit their blog at Rolling Tales. But before you click away, check out my short interview with them:

Cycling through small village

How did you discover your passion for travelling?

“Growing up in New Zealand, I had an inkling that there was a whole lot of the rest of the world to be discovered. I was offered a job where I was flown to San Francisco for a few days work when I was 19 years old and stretched that trip out to two weeks. As soon as I was back on home ground I was working towards the next escape.”

“When I was eighteen I travelled through Europe with a backpack and a train pass. At the end of this trip returning to New Zealand I was filled with a passion to not only travel more widely but to experience foreign cultures in more depth. Relocating to the United Kingdom gave me a chance to explore Europe and further afield while my more recent long term travel has really let me absorb places and people as we cycled slowly through a diverse range of countries.”

What’s the most horrible experience that you’ve had on the road?

“Walking back to a guest house in the Altai region in Russia, I was attacked by a hornet which stung me on my check. While I was still recovering from the shock, I discovered that three sisters who ran the accommodation were retired doctors, so at least I was in good hands, and thanks to something they dabbed onto it my face soon returned to normal!”

“One night camping in Turkey we had a scary rather than horrible woke up to find our tent surrounded by five large wild dogs with big spiked collars. They seemed a bit confused about what exactly our tent was and weren’t behaving to aggressively so we went back to sleep. The next morning they were still waiting outside the tent and even me emerging waving my arms and shouting only drove them back a few metres. As we quickly packed the tent up they circled us warily as I pretended to hurl stones at them. With our bikes packed we cycled off down the road and one dog gave chase, luckily the road was downhill as otherwise he would have been munching on my panniers in a few strides.”

What’s the best travel experience that you’ve ever had?

“Its too hard to rank them, but one that stands out as a totally unique experience is coming across a town in full festival swing in remote Mongolia. We’d been cycling in the desert for a few days at this point, and suddenly our path is crossed by men on horseback dressed in traditional clothes and motorcycles piled high with family members. We soon confirmed that the nearby town was holding the traditional Naadam festival and that a horse race would take place near a hill behind the town. We climbed the hill with our fully-laden bicycles and I was soon sitting on the ground surrounded by a crowd of woman who communicated to me with a mixture of hand gestures, our phrasebook and huge grins. Never mind that we waited three hours for the horse race to begin and all of the action took place out of sight of the hill!”

“Picking just one experience is really hard as we have had so many. Situations where we are shown spontaneous hospitality by a local person always stand out and on numerous occasions we have been invited into peoples houses to spend the night or share food. One evening searching for a campsite on the border of Bosnia and Serbia we were invited to stay the night with an elderly couple in their small farm house. They spoke no English at all and we communicated only with gestures and facial expressions. That evening we laughed at shared jokes, traded photos of loved ones and studied regional maps together. The next day we left with a heartfelt farewell despite sharing no language and learning only each others names. Its encounters like this that leave a special enduring memory of the warmth and hospitality of people the world over.”

Justin + Emma at sunrise Emma and Justin

What’s the biggest realization that you’ve got out of travelling?

“Travel makes you more aware about a lot – possibly the most important personal realisation is how lucky I am to have been born in a country where water is safe to drink from the tap.”

“No matter which country we travel in people are friendly, curious, warm and hospitable. We often get asked things like “But isn’t country XYZ terribly dangerous?” but I have realised while travelling that view of a country and its people as portrayed by various media is often worlds away from the reality.”

What keeps you going? What keeps you motivated?

“Today its the thought of a hundred children yelling hello as we cycle past, tomorrow it might be the chance of meeting some of Cambodia’s wildlife, the next day it will be something different again. I’m fired by the opportunity to see the world in a different light.”

“On this particular trip my motivation like Emma’s changes all the time. At times the desire to prove to myself I can cycle a difficult stretch of Mongolia or climb a high pass in China drives me. Other times its the knowledge that we will meet interesting people or bring a smile to a child’s face by returning their shout of hello.”

This is a silly and hypothetical one. If you would be given a chance to travel with a popular person or a celebrity, who would it be and why?

“I suspect British celebrity chef Rick Stein would have a few good travel tales, plus travelling as one of his companions I’d get to enjoy his cooking. All travel comes down to food eventually.”

“If Emma is ever able to travel with a celebrity chef perhaps I can tag along?”

Celebrating first 4000m+ pass Celebrating their first 4000m+ Pass

Where’s your favourite place in this planet and why?

“Its not the place so much as the people – I’d love to gather up all of the amazing people we’ve met on our travels, and install them in a pub for a night so I can sit back and watch the conversation flow.”

“This is a tad cheesy but my favourite place is probably sitting in the saddle of my bike preferably coasting down a long gentle downhill. Cycling through countries you see things slowly and constantly meet people face to face. You travel at your own pace and have the freedom to visit places far from the normal tourist travel.”

What’s your best tip for newbie traveller?

“Pack light. Its amazingly freeing to carry all of your necessities in one small carry-on bag.”

“Take time to try and chat with local people even if you dont speak the same language. Learning about a country from the people who live there can enrich your experiences a lot.”

What’s the funniest and silliest thing you’ve ever done while travelling?

“In China people would lean out of the windows of their car to say hello as they drove past us on the road. I’d always reply “Hello. How are you?” often to their confusion. The funniest was when we were cycling with a couple of other tourists in central Chengdu – the girl beside me thought I’d actually bumped into someone that I knew!”

“We take a photo for each 1000km we cycle of ourselves holding up a finger count to match the kilometres. Recently as we passed the 20,000km we needed more fingers than we had so began to ask local people to lend their fingers to our photos. This always requires a lot of confusing explanation and results in some great and funny photos.”

What do you think about yourself?

‘I’m an introvert hiding out as an extrovert and a homebody hiding out as a traveller. Its very zen!”

“I’m terrible at convincing myself I can handle difficult situations but thrive on the satisfaction of exceeding what I thought were my personal limits. The positive me is always up for a challenge but you can bet the negative me won’t stop thinking I will fail until the minute I have succeeded.”

Rolling Tales

“On we’ve documented our travels by bicycle from London to New Zealand. We hope to open other people’s eyes to the possibilities of travel, by bicycle or any other means.” – Emma and Justin

Editor’s Note: All pics are provided by Justin and Emma

Next: Lindsay Hogg of The Traveller World Guide. Previously: Billie Frank of Santa Fe Travelers. For more interviews with travel bloggers, check out the archives of Meet the Nomads.


  1. I admire Emma for traveling on a bike. I could never do so!

  2. Emma@RollingTales says:

    Give it a go! Cycle touring is easier than you’d think (and added bonus of loads of exercise – skinniest and healthiest I’d been in my life!). Flip – glad we’re tempting you….!

  3. Wow – London to New Zealand is quite the trek! I bet you get to see & experience some amazing things you never would’ve traveling any other way. And you get fit in the process. Even better!


  1. […] Emma and Justin of Rolling Tales. Previously: Michael Hodson of Go See Write. For more interviews with travel bloggers, check out […]

  2. […] Neil Barnes of Backpacks and Bunkbeds. Previously: Emma and Justin of Rolling Tales. For more interviews with travel bloggers, check out the archives of Meet the […]

Speak Your Mind


Follow my Adventures in Facebook