Alumna Tara Alan bikes across Europe, writes book

Many people have a dream of traveling the world after college with a close group of friends, meeting new people, trying exotic food and having unbelievable experiences.

Few people actually follow through on this dream, and one of those few is Guilford College’s own Tara Alan ‘06.

In 2008, Tara and her now-husband Tyler Kellen began a bicycle tour across Europe, Africa and Asia, and detailed their experiences with journal entries and photographs in their blog, goingslowly.com. Their journey also inspired Tara to write “Bike. Camp. Cook.” a camp cookbook coming out this December.

“Romania was a great country to visit,” said Alan. “It felt so wild and far away from home, like going back in time with gypsy people and wagons. It was like a fairytale.”

Alan also attended the annual French festival “Chalon dans la Rue,” which celebrates urban artists.

“Through crowded hippie markets we walked, past racks of colorful, patchouli-smelling genie pants and pot paraphernalia,” said Alan on her blog. “On every street corner and in every ‘place’ or square, there was some form of entertainment.”

Kellen came up with the idea to tour the world on bicycles, and after Alan agreed, their two-year journey began in Scotland.

“Tara has always liked other cultures and food from other cultures,” said Mark Alan, Tara’s father, in a telephone interview.

The idea of their daughter setting off on a bicycle journey across three continents  did not settle well with her mother initially.

“At first I was really surprised and nervous; it was really foreign to me,” said Tara’s mother, Lisa Alan, in a telephone interview. “They were really great though and showed us how others did it. Then I was excited about it.”

For Alan, however, traveling is not new.

Before she came to Guilford, she worked as a nanny in France and, in 2004, joined Guilford’s study abroad program in London.

“Guilford’s curriculum allowed Tara to explore a variety of courses, giving her the freedom to learn what was important to her,” said Professor of English Jim Hood, Alan’s advisor and mentor during her years at Guilford. “That seems to me a precious gift the institution gave to her.”

Alan agreed the environment at Guilford did make a difference for her.

“The college helps you become more open by encouraging group discussions and spreading goodwill,” said Alan in a telephone interview. “After graduating you’re able to carry a sense of community with you.”

It was in Italy where Alan decided to write a book based on their experiences; cooking seemed like a natural choice for her.

“She has always loved to cook, since she was a little girl, and I have always encouraged it,” said Lisa.

“She was writing the book at the same time she was writing for the blog and working on building a house,” said Mark.

Alan’s book “Bike. Camp. Cook.” is currently available for pre-order from their blog goingslowly.com and will be in print by Christmas 2013.