Kleon Papadimitriou biked approximately 2,175 miles from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland to his home in Athens, Greece

By Joelle Goldstein
July 15, 2020 12:02 PM
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Kleon Papadimitriou
| Credit: Courtesy of Kleon Papadimitriou

A college student who was stranded in Scotland amid the coronavirus pandemic has his bicycle — and a whole lot of determination — to thank for getting him home safely to his family in Greece.

Kleon Papadimitriou embarked on a biking journey across Europe on May 10 after all of his flights home were canceled due to the outbreak of COVID-19, CNN reported.

By June 27 — close to 2,175 miles and 48 days later— the 20-year-old finally arrived at his destination in Athens, amazed at his ability to accomplish such a daunting task solo.

"I think I improved as a person, I'm more confident in myself, I'm more confident in my abilities," he told the outlet. "If I didn't know that I've done the trip and you asked me now if I could do it, I would say no, how could I do all those things?"

A student at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, Papadimitriou told CNN it was late March when he started looking at flights home due to the rapidly-spreading coronavirus.

At that point, many of his friends had already left campus but Papadimitriou didn't want to miss class so he stayed back. Instead, he opted to book three flights home — all of which were eventually canceled, according to CNN.

"By the first of April I knew that I would spend at least the next month in quarantine in Aberdeen," he told the outlet.

Kleon Papadimitriou
| Credit: Courtesy of Kleon Papadimitriou

With no other options, Papadimitriou started thinking outside of the box and remembered how he once competed in a biking race in 2019.

Though he had only trained for a few weeks this year, the student wondered if he could make the journey home via bicycle and began researching whether that "pipe dream" idea was even feasible, CNN reported.

He ultimately determined that he was capable and instantly began preparing for his trip, buying a bicycle, canned sardines, peanut butter, bread, a sleeping bag, a tent, and other necessary equipment.

His family, however, was a bit skeptical.

"They thought it was just an idea that I would eventually let go of," Papadimitriou told CNN, noting that his dad only agreed to the plan if he could track his son on the trip through an app.

Kleon Papadimitriou
| Credit: Courtesy of Kleon Papadimitriou

Finally, Papadimitriou hit the road. Over the course of the next seven weeks, the college student biked 35 to 75 miles per day and set up camp in fields and forests, according to CNN.

He biked through England, the Netherlands, Austria, the east coast of Italy, and along the Rhine River in Germany. Along the way, he also reached out to friends and family, who sometimes offered him a place to stay for the night.

"As a relatively introverted person, I was forced to kind of get out of my comfort zone in the sense that if I did not do some things, I would not have a place to stay, I would not have water," he admitted to the outlet. "It forced me to kind of have those interactions and reach out."

On the final leg of his trip, Papadimitriou took a boat to the Greek port of Patras and finished by biking to his hometown of Athens.

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When he finally arrived home, Papadimitriou said he was greeted by family, friends, and even strangers who had been tracking his progress for the last 48 days.

"It was very emotional," he told CNN of his homecoming celebration, noting how his parents were excited but also "felt relief" for his return.

"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," he added.

Now, with this major accomplishment behind him, Papadimitriou can't help but look forward to his next adventure as he reflects on how much he's learned.

"When you set the bar really high and you attempt to reach a really ambitious goal, whether you achieve it or you don't, you will have improved," he told CNN. "You will learn things about yourself and you will surprise yourself."

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