George Balarezo: the intrepid global citizen and author of “UNHiNGED in ETHiOPiA: Two Thousand Kilometers of Hell and Heaven on a Bicycle” (Part 1)

Before anything else, who is the author of this book, George Balarezo?

Born in the USA, George Balarezo, known as the intrepid global citizen, is an expat who has been living in South Korea for the last 15 years.  It must be a fraternity spirit that linked us since the first day we met, about two years ago, near his apartment as it just so happened that we both live in the same neighborhood in Seoul city.

He has this friendly face and innocent smile that has been nurtured through all of his “self transformation and worldly experiences”. The simple talk about his bike and our enjoyment of cycling around Korean landscapes…it turns out that he actually had accomplished some of the toughest solo bicycle touring in Ethiopia, Kenya, Pakistan, China, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Oman, Bangladesh, Turkey, Russia and Siberia since 2014.

On his website, George says, “Committed to lifelong learning, self-development and challenging my comfort zones, I have been feeding my new addiction of tour cycling in Asia, The Middle East, and Africa while residing in Seoul, South Korea.”

As an Ethiopian, I was so curious to know what had been his personal experiences and what were the challenges of bicycle touring in the Northern part of Africa’s most mountainous country.

Last year in October 2022, George’s first book entitled “UNHiNGED in ETHiOPiA: Two Thousand Kilometers of Hell and Heaven on a Bicycle” was published.

On his social media page, George said that he never expected to write a book until he returned home from Ethiopia and typed a 200 pages MS Word file detailing the hardships, lessons learned, and friendships made.

Recently, about two weeks ago, we met again in my office for an interview about the contents of his book. After the long, pleasant conversations we had, I got a copy of the book signed by him at the end.

I just want to save sharing the interview with you in Part 2. Simply because George, a global intrepid global citizen, and vagabond striving to become an even better global citizen, has a lot to talk about and to share with the world. Aside from that, he is an engineer, university lecturer, and the host of the Intrepid Global Citizen Podcast, which aims to spread peace by sharing travel stories and providing the listener with an adventure-based education.

Inspired by travel writing from the likes of Paul Theroux, Bill Bryson, and Pico Ayer, he spends his downtime documenting his journeys and sharing them with others. The website is where he shares his bittersweet moments with others to shatter the unfair stereotypes that plague the world today. George truly hopes that through understanding and awareness, we can make the world a more peaceful place.

George, as an adventurer, writes on his personal blog honest and straightforward opinions based on his own experiences, which challenge us about how we perceive some of the places in the world. For example, about Pakistan, he writes, “If there is one word that sums up my experience in Pakistan, it would have to be “hospitality.” Free meals and cups of tea on the street, offers of overnight stays in local homes, risking of lives for an adrenaline-seeking tourist, and genuine concern for the well-being of a fellow global citizen.” In China, his experience was, “It never ceases to amaze me that regardless of environment, I was able to sleep just about anywhere”.

In his new book, UNHiNGED in ETHiOPiA, George says “Every journey was a master course in global knowledge and self-discovery. Self-conquest became my joy and onerous tasks a privilege, a recreation.”

So, what exactly inspired him to write a book after bicycling in Ethiopia in 2019? The bizarre answer can be found in the book “I needed Ethiopia to awaken me, to slap me with confrontations and setbacks”. was that so?

The interview will be coming up next!

Photo credits:

Bereket Alemayehu