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Heinz Stucke - The Man Who Wanted to See It All

Heinz Stucke, born on January 11, 1940, is a remarkable German cyclist whose extraordinary journey has taken him across the globe on a three-speed bicycle. Embarking on his epic adventure in August 1962 from his hometown, Hövelhof, Stucke has traversed an awe-inspiring 196 countries, covering a staggering distance of over 600,000 kilometers. This cycling odyssey has not only set records but also defined Stucke's life in a way that few can fathom.

In November 1962, at the age of 22, Stucke resigned from his position as a tool and die maker. He embarked on a journey, riding out of his hometown on a three-speed bicycle with a determined plan to see the world. Stucke asserts that his exceptional urge to travel was, in part, motivated by his strong reluctance to return to factory work.

In the early 1980s, after two decades on the road, Stucke decided to attempt to visit every country in the world. He believed he had accomplished his goal when he reached Seychelles in 1996, but to him, it felt anticlimactic. He had spent too little time in some countries, and there was still much to experience; so he continued on. Between 1962 and 2010, he cycled more than 609,000 kilometers (378,000 mi) and visited 195 countries and 78 territories. From 1995 through 1999, the Guinness Book of Records described him as having traveled more widely by bicycle than anyone in history.

At the age of 20, he went on his first small holiday tours from Hövelhof in Westphalia

A Life of Perils and Triumphs

Stucke's global sojourn wasn't without its challenges. He encountered adversities ranging from being hit by a truck in the Atacama Desert of Chile to being chased by an angry mob in Haiti. In Egypt, he faced a brutal beating by soldiers, and in Cameroon, he was detained by the military under accusations of slandering the state.

His journey through Alaska included a car accident that left him in a freezing river, while in Zambia, he endured a gunshot wound to the big toe by Nkomo's "Freedom Fighters." Bees attacked him in Mozambique in 1995, and in Siberia 1997, his bicycle was stolen for the fifth time. Notably, in England 2006, the same bicycle was stolen again, emphasizing the challenges faced by this intrepid traveler.

Heinz Stucke visited China in 1989

Documenting the Journey

Stucke's journey is not just about cycling; it's a visual documentation of the world. Since 1962, he has captured over 100,000 photographs, funding his expeditions through licensing revenue from his photo catalog, donations, and sales of travel writing, postcards, and booklets featuring his photographs and illustrations.

In 1995, Stucke self-published a memoir titled "Mit dem Fahrrad um die Welt" ("Cycling Around the World"). Dutch travel writer Eric van den Berg published a biography in 2015, commemorating Stucke's remarkable career. A documentary film, "The Man Who Wanted to See It All" by Spanish filmmaker Albert Albacete, explores Stucke's life, motivations, philosophy, and legacy.

In China in 1989 he experienced difficult weather conditions - it was minus 20 degrees

The End of the Journey and a New Beginning

By 2014, Stucke had traveled a staggering 648,000 kilometers. That year marked the end of his journey, as increasing hip pain led him to return to Hövelhof, where the community provided him with a small apartment. The planned museum to commemorate his travels is yet to be realized.

The documentary "The Man Who Wanted to See It All," released in 2021, captures the essence of Stucke's extraordinary life. His experiences, challenges, and triumphs contribute to a legacy that goes beyond the mere act of cycling.

A Conversation with Heinz Stucke

In a candid conversation, Heinz Stucke reflects on his life's journey. Settling back into his hometown in 2014, he embarked on archiving his experiences, delving into a treasure trove of memories spanning over four decades.

He speaks about the physical toll the journey took on his hips, leading to osteoarthritis. Lacking health insurance, he faced the financial hurdle of hip surgery. However, he remains content, focusing on the positive aspect of being able to dedicate time to his image archive.

The archiving process involves sorting over 100,000 photos according to the 240 countries and territories he visited. Stucke acknowledges the generosity of people worldwide, emphasizing the reciprocity he feels toward those who supported him on his journey.

On this world map, Stucke has marked all the trips he has taken around the world up to 2012

He reveals that he never experienced homesickness but, rather, a fear of returning home. Stucke's insatiable curiosity and a constant pursuit of new experiences kept him on the road for over five decades. Relationships, though rare, added another layer to his multifaceted journey.

In his reflections on fear during the journey, Stucke acknowledges moments of uncertainty, particularly when navigating challenging terrains. His ability to capture the beauty around him through the lens of his camera served as a source of solace and distraction during strenuous climbs.

Stucke's journey was often solitary, as he preferred to travel alone, allowing for more profound connections with people he encountered. His unique approach of distributing brochures about his travels not only served as a means of storytelling but also provided a modest income, sustaining his onward journey.

While Heinz Stucke may have retired from the saddle, his spirit of exploration remains undiminished. As he archives his vast collection of photographs, he leaves behind a legacy of resilience, curiosity, and an unyielding passion for embracing the world, one pedal stroke at a time.


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