Take That Unlimited PTO: Biking Down The East Coast

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Regina Yan

Photo courtesy of Appian.

Regina Yan
Regina Yan
June 12, 2024 at 8:33PM UTC
This article was originally published on the Life at Appian blog and authored by Regina Yan, a User Experience Designer at Appian.
Regina Yan is an outdoorsy person who was craving a new adventure and physical challenge last fall. With the unlimited vacation benefit at Appian, she set out planning a month-long solo bike-packing trip.
Regina cycled 3,000 miles from Calais, Maine to Key West, Florida along the East Coast Greenway. She finished the route in 29 days and set a record speed for the route!

We know unlimited vacation is only a benefit if people actually take it. So we asked Regina to take us through her adventure, her planning process, and how she got support from her Engineering team.
Don’t be surprised if you finish this story feeling inspired for your next adventure! 

Meet Regina Yan.

Regina with her bike and gear on the streets of New York.

  • UX Designer, Engineering 
  • Joined Appian in August 2019 
  • Based in Arlington, Virginia 

Q: What sparked the idea for the bike-packing trip? 

A: I started biking during the pandemic. I didn’t have a car and didn’t feel comfortable taking transit, but needed a way to get around. Grocery runs turned into longer bike rides around DC and I could get a workout in by cycling the fifteen miles to the office. It was a freeing realization for me how far I could get to with my bike. 
I’m a very outdoorsy person, and love climbing trips and camping, but everything I’d done had been with groups of people. I’d never pushed myself to do a real challenge on my own. Those two things pushed me to do a solo bike trip.

I found this thing called the East Coast Greenway. The route went from the top of Maine along the East Coast all the way to Key West Florida. It was a system of trails connecting coastal cities. It went through towns I’ve always wanted to visit with home in DC, a stop in the middle. I didn’t know if I could finish it, but it was a big challenge I wanted to take on.
Here’s a video I made of the journey — the beautiful scenery, the flat tires, the tears, and the amazing people along the way, it’s all there!

Q: What did a typical day look like during the trip?

A: I got on my bike at 5 a.m. most days and rode for about 100 miles. I carried my own gear and stopped at grocery stores or gas stations for breaks and meals. Every night I was in a new city either camping solo, living with friends, or staying with Warm Showers hosts, an app for bike-packers. In Raleigh, North Carolina I even met up with a past Appian coworker! I’m an introvert so having all day alone left me recharged each night to see familiar faces or meet new people. 

A beautiful campsite setup in Brunswick, Georgia.

Q: How did your Engineering team coworkers support your trip? 

A: I talked to my manager about it six months beforehand and he was very excited for me! He immediately helped me find the best time to do it. I’m the only UX Designer on the team so together we found a time that would be the least disruptive. My whole team was so supportive during the planning process, helping re-allocate work and setting priorities so I could take the month off. 
My Engineering team includes a number of avid cyclists and runners so they trained with me on several bike rides around DC and shared tips for the journey (that are now the tips I give people today!). To name a few: 
  • Robert showed me how to track my distances through an offline app that wouldn’t drain my battery. 
  • Mat Jennings helped me figure out how to best take care of myself on the trip, especially recovering from a knee injury. 
  • Courtney, my AppianWomen mentor, told me about magnesium supplements (a must-have!) and helped plan out what to bring with me. 
When reflecting back, I realize how much help I got from Appian colleagues to make this trip possible.  

Q: How is taking time off encouraged at Appian? 

A: When I was planning this trip, the mantra was always how can we get you to do this. It was never a question of shortening the trip or delaying it — it was let’s make it happen. Appian has a culture that values work life balance and celebrates people taking time off and my team is a perfect example of that. 
Having unlimited vacation doesn’t mean you can take time off whenever. We all contribute meaningful work to our teams so planning ahead is key. Because of good leadership, we have systems in place that allow us to organize different work loads while people are out. On our Engineering team, our managers encourage people to take vacation and many of my peers have also taken two to three weeks off at a time. 

Q: What did it feel like reaching the finish line in Key West?

A: There were so many emotions! I was very happy and proud of myself for doing something I didn’t think I could do. I was relieved I didn’t get injured, although I did cry a lot! And at the same time, I was sad that this was the end of my journey. But it was a huge personal growth experience. I felt like I was my full self when taking this time off.
I came back from this trip with more energy and excitement for work after having the time to reflect and rejuvenate. My team even surprised me on my first day back with an East Coast Greenway sweatshirt! 

The finish line at the southernmost point of the US!

Q: Any plans for your next adventure? 

A: This inspired me to look into  more trips and challenge myself! There’s a Tour de France race for women that’s across eight days and I have my eyes on bike-packing this route in the future. It would be amazing to recruit some friends and do it with a group of strong women. 
My main takeaway from this trip is that we’re all stronger than we think we are. When we push ourselves, we grow. The things we are scared of turn out not to be so scary after all. 
You need an opportunity to push yourself. Appian helped give me the opportunity to do that.

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