Lonely Planet Writer

Meet the woman who travels the world on her bike rescuing dogs

For the past four years, Ishbel Holmes from Stirling, Scotland has been cycling the world with one mission; to rescue as many dogs as possible. A former velodrome sprinter for the Iran national team, Ishbel is no stranger to the physical trials associated with cycling, but her emotional journey towards a life of helping animals began somewhat unexpectedly in Turkey.

Ishbel and Maria on the north coast of Scotland.
Ishbel and Maria on the north coast of Scotland. Image by Ishbel Holmes

Ishbel’s adventure began in 2014 when she left the world of professional sports behind in order to cycle around the world. Setting off with a cheap aluminium city bike, £250 in cash and a £10 sleeping bag, she travelled to Turkey, where a chance encounter with a street dog quickly changed her plans. Ishbel witnessed the weak animal being attacked by four other dogs and knew that she had to do something. “She didn’t try to run away or fight back. She just lay down and accepted what was happening. In that moment I was transported back to when I was 16 years old, surrounded by strangers in foster care, with not one person who loved me,” Ishbel told Lonely Planet Travel News. Throwing down her bike, she ran to the dog’s aid and scooped her up. She attached a vegetable crate to the front of her bike and cycled 400 miles away to a sanctuary that could help.

Ishbel in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile.
Ishbel in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile. Image by Ishbel Holmes

“I named her Lucy. Just like me, she had suffered in her life and had endured. My blogs about our journey quickly went viral, and I was propelled into the world of dog rescue with international charities contacting me. A dog trailer was donated and I ended up cycling over 1000 miles around Turkey with Lucy, encouraging people to care for their street dogs,” Ishbel said.

Lucy, the first dog that Ishbel rescued, in a dog trailer in Turkey. Image by Ishbel Holmes

So far, Ishbel has visited sixteen countries solo, camping along the way in each one. She has written a book about her adventures, entitled “Saving Lucy: A girl, a Bike and a Street Dog”. Ishbel has officially adopted one dog that she rescued while in Brazil last year. “I named her Maria. I fell in love with her, and she was the perfect fit for me and my life. She travels all over with me, she loves her dog trailer and we’ve just finished cycling from London to Glasgow on my book tour,” Ishbel said.

Murphy, a street dog from Brazil. Image by Ishbel Holmes

More information on Ishbel’s adventures is available on her official website.