Category Archives: Ethiopia
(Dancing in India: Verdara, Rajasthan)
Lesson #1- You are the Only You: Be Yourself
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, Writer
—-> Of all the messages I learned around the world, I believe this is the most important one of all. Just be yourself. Out in the wild reaches of our Earth I was forced to come to terms with who I was. On those long days, the bicycle allowed me to come face-to-face with my own shortcomings, failures and things I would like to improve. It taught me about who I was as a person and who I would like to be in the future.
When things went wrong during my trip, I had no one to blame but myself. If I didn’t pack enough food or water, took a horrible road or forgot to buy extra bike parts. In those moments, I got to experience myself just as I was. Things went wrong quite often. In the beginning, I would get stressed out about the little things. Soon I came to realize that it was all part of the puzzle that was this adventure. A new personality began to take shape. When I was alone, if something went terribly wrong there was no one to complain to. I usually said nothing and got on with fixing the problem or finding a solution. There was no one there to keep me motivated. I had to figure things out myself.
I believe that knowing ourselves is the most important thing we can have in life. However, in the modern age with all of the distractions and busy lives it is hard to cut through the noise. Past the advertisements, Facebook pages and familial influences, there is a person that is just you. Getting past all of the outside influences can be tough, but there is a great deal we can learn from ourselves.
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” ~ Dr. Seuss, Writer
For two years I was stuck with myself. On that type of trip, you have to know who you are before setting out. I had already done a great deal of group and solo travel beforehand. I always found that I do better on my own. Sometimes it is hard to like yourself all of the time. But, if you always need other people around, you never get down to the true spirit of your personal being.
Remember you are an individual. You are your own person. You have the power to control your future and be whomever you would like to be. Don’t forget to be you.
My 10 Lessons From Cycling the World:
Lesson #10 ~ Everything Will Never Be Perfect: So Start Today
Lesson #9 ~ You Don’t Need All That Stuff: Cherish What You Have
Lesson #8 ~ The World is NOT Scary: Travel
Lesson #7 ~ Exercise is the Best Medicine: Get Outside & Explore
Lesson #6 ~ Times Will Change: So Will You
Lesson #5 ~ The World is Full of Delicious Food: Have a Taste
Lesson #4 ~ We Can Make a Difference: Give Back
Lesson #3 ~ Never Give Up: It’s Not That Bad
Lesson #2 ~ People Are Friendly: Say Hello
Lesson #1 ~ You are the Only You: Be Yourself
Thank you for reading all the way to the end. I believe all ten of these lessons do not just pertain to a bicycle ride, but are part of a much larger picture of how we can live. Take care of yourself, explore and be the best person you can be.
*Two days ago we reached the final goal for the fifth school in El Trapiche and the ultimate goal of $50,000. I am overwhelmed with the support over the course of the last two years. Additions are always welcome and will be put towards work in developing the community of El Trapiche. Updates on all of five of our schools to come soon! CLICK DONATE.
** Stay tuned for future posts and thank you for continuing to read!
Can We Auto-Correct Humanity?
(Extreme Roads: Bolivia)
Lesson #3- Never Give Up: It is Not That Bad
“Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.” ~ Sir Winston Churchill, English Prime Minister
—-> Life is not that complicated. However, we do a good job of making it just that. Sometimes the present seems impossible. We think we’re up against a terrible resistance and the end is nowhere in sight. Maybe something happens that impacts our life, seemingly irreversibly. Though some horrible things may come our way throughout life, it is important to keep focused on what is still important to us. It is important to focus on who you are. There is a bigger picture. Like in cycling, every up eventually has a down.
If you want something enough there shouldn’t be anything that stands in your way. Obstacles will come, changes will be needed and hard decisions are likely to ensue. Do not be a victim of circumstance. The world, your family and friends need you to be the best you. There are others out there that depend on you and you in turn will depend on them when things get tough. We need each other on the good days and the bad.
No matter how awful you think things may be in the present moment, years, months and weeks down the line, you will wonder why you felt so upset over those little things. We get bogged down by our present situation and forget what really matters. The tiny details that stress you out are but minor inconveniences in the grand scheme of our lives. Why stress about all the little details when they impact your overall persona but really do not matter?
I am sorry to say, but we’re all not that special. We share the world with over seven billion other people. Thinking the world revolves around you and your personal desires is not only detrimental to your present state, but impacts everyone else around you. Being selfish and ignorant of your surrounds, will get you nowhere. Being aware and in the moment is the most important aspect to enjoying life as it is and as it comes at you. Looking forward to certain dates is something we all do. However, don’t let it get in the way of living in the moment.
Whether it is getting over something traumatic or setting your sights on impossible looking goals the most important thing to remember is that you can never give up. Each day is a new one with struggles and annoyances, but eventually you will get there. One day at a time.
On my journey, sometimes I would get wrapped up in distances and deadlines. I would forget to stop and take it all in. During those moments, I sometimes lost sight of why I set out in the first place. I set out to experience the world, see the beauty of nature, make a difference and talk to the people that share our world. Sometimes I had to catch myself and slow down. Rolling through everyone else’s normal for two years, it sometimes came to be my normal. At times I was spoiled by the beauty I was rolling through. Sometimes I took myself for granted as well, pushing too hard and too long on the bike. I had to use these instances to step back and really look at where I was. Even when the road was tough and I wanted to throw it all in, I had to remember why I was there in the first place. Taking into account past decisions for my present circumstance, was something that always helped me make sense of it all.
Our present state is a culmination of our decisions. At one point we wanted something more than anything else. Living with our decisions and moving forward is one of the harder aspects in life, but in time things get easier. Don’t give up, it is all part of our greater history and journey.
**You can expect Lesson #2 tomorrow. Almost there! 🙂
***Bolivia, one of the most challenging, wild and unforgettably beautiful countries on my trip. If something is worth doing, it won’t be easy. I had some extremely tough and wonderful days in Bolivia. Days I wouldn’t trade for the world. Never give up, it will be worth it in the end!
(Spice Markets: Kabul, Afghanistan)
Lesson #5- The World is Full of Delicious Food: Have a Taste
“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.” ~ Doug Larson, Columnist
—-> With transportation, trade and communication bridging the gap between countries around the world, we are privileged to a wider array of ingredients, flavours and information than ever before in history. People used to sacrifice their lives bringing spices from China and India, now they are available in almost every town. We eat the foods that were once only available to the richest and most powerful people. We have the opportunity to eat, healthy fresh and delicious food from around the world.
However, many of us fill our stomachs, baskets and fridges, with subsidized junk. Food that lacks energy, takes zero effort to make, expands your waistline and does nothing more than fill that empty hole. In return, we get the sluggish people, slow minds and self-inflicted sickness. Taking a bit of extra time to prepare something healthy will repay you in the long run. With the food selection today, healthy does not just mean salad anymore.
When I was on my cycling trip and actually had the opportunity to visit a ‘real’ grocery store, I would often go in and spend hours just gawking at the excess. Coming from the mountains, desert or countryside into a big city and visiting one of these stores, I felt like an alien. Typically I would shop at local markets and tiny shops on my route. Almost every grocery store in Canada is packed to the brim with foods that can make us feel awesome, but we oftentimes choose items packed with salt, sugar and fat. If you don’t know how to cook, buy a beginner cookbook, take a class or ask a friend to help you. It’s never to late to learn.
“If we’re not willing to settle for junk living, we certainly shouldn’t settle for junk food.” ~ Sally Edwards, Author
On my website, I almost always made a point of sharing at least one recipe from all of the countries I made my way through. I believe to understand and experience the food of a culture is half the battle. It is the gateway into people’s homes and lives. Whenever I passed through new lands I always ate what the local people ate. Often times, it was the cheapest and most delicious thing to be had. Chow Fan in China, Kabuli in Afghanistan, Biryani in India, Kushari in Egypt, Shawarma in Turkey, Pizza in Italy, Chips Mai in Tanzania, Braai in South Africa, Encebollado in Ecuador, Ceviche in Panama, Tacos in Mexico and Barbecue in the United States. The list goes on. My stomach growls just thinking about it all.
In any big city you can experience food from all over the world. A quick Google search will allow you to step into new culinary adventure in any big city. You’ll find hidden gems that will keep you coming back. Remember, in Canada we are able to eat bananas in December and mangos in February. We are a lucky people. Take a chance and have a bite of someone else’s culture. You might just be surprised.
(You can expect a post on my top ten favourite dishes from around the world in the future.)
*Less than $320 to go to the final goal of $50,000 and the last schoolhouse in El Trapiche Nicaragua. CLICK HERE TO DONATE.
**Tomorrow you can expect Lesson #4 from the road. Thank you for reading! 🙂
Kabul Pulao – Afghan Cooking
A Six Minute Read
(The Solo Road: Sudan)
Lesson #8- The World is NOT Scary: Travel
“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nin, Cuban Essayist
—-> We live in a world that is becoming increasingly complex. Wars are fought with ulterior motives, religion is at the forefront of debate, fourteen killed here, a rainforest chopped down there and Donald Trump is crazy. This is what you hear about the different places of the world. But beyond those imaginary lines, there are beautiful vast expanses of our world. Rugged mountains, wild plains, desert badlands, clear lakes and rolling hills. These wild landscapes have moved in shape over thousands of years. We get to experience but one piece in our Earth’s extensive history. Embrace the outdoors, wind, rain and sun.
They say that travel is the best medicine. It teaches you the things you will never learn in any classroom. It shows you the complexities of our world. It allows you to see the beauty of the Earth and learn a lot about yourself. It allows you to spend time by yourself. Whenever I am traveling I have a feeling of being completely free. Like the unknown is welcoming me forward. Some say travel can age you; however, inside you will feel younger than those that never go anywhere.
I meet many people who think that they need to travel with someone. Though this does have benefits, it limits you in many ways. You are less likely to meet new people if you already have that other person to talk to. You are less likely to go outside that comfort zone and explore beyond your personal boundaries. On my bicycle ride many people asked me, if I ever got lonely. The simple answer is, almost never. There were always people to talk to. The more you explore this world, the better you will understand how difficult it is to actually get away from people. We inhabit most of the planet, in one way or another. Very rarely on my journey outside regions of Bolivia, Sudan, Kyrgyzstan and Western China, was I far from someone I could talk to. We are a social species.
“Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain, Writer
I believe that unless you travel alone, you never get down to that bare bones of self-reflection. I understand that this is not for everyone. I get it. But, people often wondered why I travelled on my own. On a journey over two years, you have to know yourself. I knew traveling with someone else was not right for me on such a trip. You are not forced to look inside yourself and see who you really are. Thousands of hours of contemplation while cycling, meals alone and hundreds of evenings spent in my tent, taught me more about myself than I ever thought possible. I now know who am I am what I hope to accomplish in the future. Travel wide, wander free and see our world. It can teach you a great deal.
You can see all of the wonders of our world, but don’t stop to look at what’s in-between. Talk to the people where you are visiting, eat their food and spend a little time on yourself.
*Less than $550 to go to the final goal of $50,000 and the last schoolhouse in El Trapiche Nicaragua. CLICK HERE TO DONATE.
**Tomorrow you can expect Lesson #7 from the road. Thank you for reading! 🙂
Walter Mitty ~ Downhill Longboard in Iceland
Lesson #9- You Don’t Need All That Stuff: Cherish What You Have
“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” – Will Rogers, Humorist
—-> Bank memories, not things. That is the message. At the end of your days the last thoughts will not be on the newest iPhone or that expensive car you once had. Well, hopefully. You will more likely be looking back on the people and memories you are leaving behind. Did you live a good life? Did you treat people with kindness, love and compassion? What legacy are you hoping to leave? Did you do what you loved?
We really do not need all of the things we fill our lives up with. The feeling of buying something new can make us happy, but it is only a fleeting moment. The memories we look back on with the most nostalgia are the ones spent with family, friends and the people that shared this experience we call life. I know remembering a funny moment with a friend long ago, has more value to me than the memory of buying my iPad.
On my journey, I had but four small bags and a tent. All of the items I had with me were essential in my daily life. I was self-sufficient and living in the now. My life was not cluttered in any way. All of my things had a place that was their home for two years. There were very few extras necessities, especially when considering places like the Peruvian Andes with massive seventy kilometres climbs. Life was simple and sweet. My things were few but my memories and experiences will last forever.
Throughout all my travels I can honestly tell you there is only a certain level of possessions we need to make us happier. Beyond a certain plateau of material wealth, we do not become any more content inside. We simply become more competitive to keep up with our neighbours. It becomes an internal lifelong race to beat the credit card bill. This idea that happiness can be bought or sold is flawed to the very base. What we will all remember are the people we are leaving behind and how we lived our lives. Everything else is a distraction.
Eventually the pearly gates will come calling for us all. They will not care what types of things we carried with us throughout our lives. The extra bits that wore us down under all that stuff. We have the ability to live as simply as we like. The less you crowd up your life with, the freer you will be to move. Quit wasting your time buying things. These are moments you will never get back. Get out there and start living!
*Less than $550 to go to the final goal of $50,000 and the last schoolhouse in El Trapiche Nicaragua. CLICK HERE TO DONATE.
**Tomorrow you can expect Lesson #8 from the road. Thank you for reading! 🙂
What’s in your Backpack – Up in the Air (Video Clip)
A nineteen minute read
“What one hopes for is always better than what one has.” ~ Ethiopian Proverb
The nature of humanity is now a mixture of ancestral roots and modern influences. These vines of joy, change and sorrow are planted deep in the heart of Ethiopia. In parts of the country the global rush to urbanize has taken over, while others life continues on relatively uninterrupted, besides the occasional buzz of a cellphone. We are all apart of the global push to follow the thin yellow line. How we define ourselves is a complicated task when taking into account the bombardment of information each day. The many are following the prudent few.
Ethiopia opened my eyes into a world where outside influences and local acceptance do not always mesh. We are impacted drastically by the changing tides of global pressure. Trends and spotlights come and go. Africa has been dubbed the dark continent, but I believe it is the continent of hope. For years it has been pillaged at the expense of local lands and populations. However, in many parts that purity still reigns relatively true. To be of Africa, is something of a legendary tale. The land offers so much to the world and people just continue to take without even a nod. The world needs Africa, but it is never spoken. No one just builds a road into the desert for free.
It took me a while to come to terms with my time in Ethiopia. It has been the hardest place for me to write about, because it was the hardest to deal with mentally. I still find it hard to come to grips with it. What I will tell you is the short and sweet version of my struggles through one of the most beautiful countries I have had the privilege to ride through. It took me a while to write this as I often got down about it for various reasons. But the story must be told all the same. This will not be the most positive of posts, but a reality of the situation from the seat of a bike.
The moment I entered Ethiopia it was different. There was instantly more people. They looked and dressed more liberally. People were just strolling back and forth across the border between Ethiopia and Sudan, like it was a walk in the park. I was checked quite thoroughly as a man ruffled through my medicine bag. I had heard all of the horror stories of people who had biked through Ethiopia. It seemed like a nightmare and in many ways I wasn’t looking forward to it.
After some hoops at the border, I was on my own in the late afternoon of my 14th country on my round-the-world tour. I knew Ethiopia was going to be hilly. But it started immediately. As soon as I crossed the border gate there was a hill leading up through the town. The heckling started right away. “You, you, you!!!” “Where are you go!?” “Ferengi”(foreigner) or “China!” These few lines would be the soundtrack to my existence in Ethiopia. At first I played along. I actually thought the China one was pretty funny. But, this was my first day and I wasn’t bothered yet. There were few places to sleep in the bustling border town of Metama. I found one place that was filled with three very large spiders and an open toilet that fermented the room with a lovely stink. One of the spiders was the size of my palm and looked like something from a National Geographic special. I pitched my tent on the bed, not wanting any mosquitos or that hairy spiders crawling on my face in the night. I ate some of the local specialty, injera with tibs(beef), an Ethiopian staple and headed off to bed. The music boomed on Africa loud late into the night at the bar outside my room. Later there was a big rustle in the bed and around my tent, I was happy with my decision to lock myself away and tried not to think about that hairy spider.
I started early and begun my first day of riding in Ethiopia. Throughout the next two days I climbed my way into the mountains on the way to Gondar. The people on the first two days of my journey were actually quite nice and I was left relatively alone. There were small groups of curious children that surrounded me with huge smiles when I stopped for water breaks. Sharing my biscuits, we laughed together at nothing. I had a great conversation at lunch with a local man about the present state of Ethiopia and their achievements in recent history. I was happy to be riding in more bearable weather and food was more readily available than through the desert stretches of Sudan.
After a long day of riding I found myself in a small village with no sort of accommodation. I located the church and asked to pitch my tent. The ‘leader’ of the church allowed me to camp and invited me to his hut nearby for dinner. It was cold injera with meat that looked like it has been sitting around for a long time, with a chunky milk in the middle. I ate and he didn’t, which should have been a sign. It was pretty unappetizing but there was no where else to get food and I didn’t want to be rude. I ate enough to satisfy him and myself, before crawling away in my tent. Some hours later that same man proceeded to shout, sing, talk and chant from one to seven in the morning over a loud speaker attached to the church. Not to mention the electric thunderstorm and heavy rain that rolled in. I got zero sleep and was going crazy.
In the morning I waited until the sun rose and got myself moving. When I got out of my tent there were about 50 people hanging around outside to greet me. Surprised, tired, hungry and feeling slightly sick I packed up as the entire village watched. The man continued to shout through the loud speaker. I got out of there as quickly as possible after a thank you for letting me camp.
I eventually made it to Gondar. Dubbed as Camelot, it boasts amazing castle complexes high in the mountains. I was shattered when I arrived after 8 long days on the roa and found a cheap guesthouse to rest. In the night I woke up extremely ill. I was sweating like crazy, freezing cold, every bone in my body hurt and getting very sick. I had a hallucination there were dogs in my room that wouldn’t leave and broke the toilet cover when I swear I saw a massive centipede jump at me. I suffered through the night and tried to make it downstairs to get some water in the morning.
I was way too sick to even think about venturing to the clinic. I had never felt this terrible. I knew I needed to go to the hospital, but I could barely function and was running to the toilet every few minutes. I met a French guy name Ludo the day before who came by to check on me and brought some soup. I eventually dragged myself to the ‘clinic’ which was the last place on earth I really wanted to be. There was a lot of really sick people there, including me. The building was rundown and in the back of a damp alley. I almost passed out while I was waiting due to dehydration and when a man crowded next to me with breath that reeked of old meat, I nearly lost it. The doctor was very nice and after some tests which I wont get into, he told me I have a severe gastrointestinal infection due to some parasites and was now dehydrated because of the illness. He gave me some medicine that never worked and I spent the next 2 weeks sicker than anything. Days later another trip to the hospital also solved nothing more than making me thankful for Canadian healthcare and cleanliness. I have seen better days.
During this time my body was wiped out. I couldn’t eat anything for days and spent most of my time holed up in my awful little room feeling sorry for myself. I wanted to quit. I wanted to go home. I knew it would be a while, even when I recovered, before I could ride again. I lost a lot of weight that I didn’t have to lose. With some massive mountain climbs on the horizon, I took a bus to the capital Addis Abeba and rested at a friendly Italian mans house until I was ready to continue on. I celebrated my 27th birthday in a miserable state of slow recovery.
From Addis I pushed back on the bicycle for a 730km journey to the Kenyan border. During this time I saw some of the most beautiful scenery on my trip. Throughout my time in Ethiopia I was blown away by the natural beauty. I was also blown away by the way Ethiopian people and in particular the kids acted towards someone on a bike.
“Cycling has encountered more enemies than any other form of exercise.” ~ Louis Baudry de Saunier
When I was off the bike it was generally no problem. People left me alone and carried on as usual. However, riding from Addis to the Kenyan border of Moyale was the worst experience of my trip. I was constantly shouted at all day. Kids would chase me and hurl rocks from the roadside. I was hit with sticks and had soccer balls kicked at me as I sped down dangerous hills. One kid ripped a Canadian flag off my bike and ran into the forest. In small villages people swore at me for no reason or jumped in front of my bike and demanded money. It seemed no one went to school. I had a rock fight in a village with a grown man after he tried to hit me off the bike as I passed and then threw a rock at me. At this point my patience was gone. We exchanged a few rocks back and forth before I got out of there at lightning speed.
The road was either under construction and was a dusty bumpy messy or full of huge terrible pot holes. In 3 years it will be a beautiful road, but for now it is a disaster aside from a few finished sections. I generally like to see the positive of the places I visit and so far on my this trip the kindness has been out if this world. At the end if each day I did my best to reflect on some of the nice encounters and friendly conversations with the local people. It was the only thing that kept my spirits high for the following day.
There was such a contrast from the welcoming nature of the Sudanese people. Everywhere on this trip I have felt overwhelming generosity and hospitality from complete strangers and it was sometimes hard to deal with the realities of cycling in Ethiopia. Upon reaching Kenya, life returned to as normal as it can be. The imaginary line I crossed into Kenya came with the disappearance of ‘You, you, you!” and I was just me again. I am back to full strength and people are as welcoming as ever. I now sense the warm genuine nature of Africa I had imagined in my mind.
The present state of Ethiopia has a lot to do with the failure of the west. During a famine back in the late 80’s thousands of people gave money and aid to Ethiopia. However, it was poorly managed. Handouts do not fix the problem. It was only a band aid. People then came to expect this money and have since seen white people as an opportunity for handouts. Maybe you would remember the images of children with bloated bellies and a sweet person talking about their sponsorship back in the 80’s and 90’s on daytime TV. This was done in good spirit, but again poorly managed and not sustainable. I was a rolling dollar sign. To live in Ethiopia is a difficult life and can never be properly understood from an outsiders perspective. Images streaming on the television are not the reality of a whole nation. Sometimes I don’t blame people for the way they acted towards me. I must look insanely crazy to them. Many people rode by and put a hand out the window as if to say, ‘What are you doing?’ A valid point in some respects, when many people struggle on a daily basis. I struggle by choice.
“In Ethiopia… you might find a seven-year-old expected to take 15 goats out into the fields for the whole day with only a chapati to eat and his whistle. Why are we so afraid to give our children responsibilities like this?” ~ Joanna Lumley
We are so fortunate back home to have all of the freedoms and luxuries we so often take for granted. In Ethiopia many children do not go to school, because in many places it is not available or they cannot afford it. I experienced Ethiopian healthcare firsthand, with kind doctors who were dealing with a neverending stream of people, under pressures of limited resources. Even if a doctor is able to help someone, the family may not be able to afford the medicine. The five dollars it cost me when I was ill, I didn’t even have to think about. Though if someone gets very sick in Ethiopia, it may mean the difference between recovery and a whole family eating. Things we generally do not think about back home. There is no safety net. People need to work and they work hard.
So it is with a heavy heart I look back on my time in Ethiopia. A mixture of emotions often wells up when I think about it. I wonder what I could have done differently or how I could have changed something for the better. It comes back to me as I ride alone down quiet roads. The images you see of Africa on television are not the reality. Yes, poverty does exist in large numbers, but it is a starkly beautiful part of the world and in general the people are full of a deeply proud heritage. There is food on the shelves of stores and it is by no means a wasteland. Wthiopia is beautiful, mountainous and green. He roof of Africa. However, sometimes people don’t always need our help and we don’t always know best. To share knowledge is a gift, but to force change is to be met with failure. Working together is the key. I saw many shades of light in people’s eyes. They all bear pieces of an individual story. Some of struggle and some of hope. I wish I had time to hear them all.
**After a huge effort from many schools in Eastern Ontario we have achieved our goal of raising an additional $10,000 towards building a new schoolhouse with Free the Children. A total of over $22,000 has been raised since I started my ride. This always blows me away. The work done by Free the Children is part of a sustainable development project that puts education at the heart of their initiatives. Construction of the school in Verdara, India is set to begin soon with updates to follow. To donate to the next school project in Kenya CLICK HERE.
***This week I celebrated my 1 year anniversary since beginning my adventure in China. With over 15,000km cycled in 16 countries it has been a life altering experience. Words cannot describe the beauty and kindness I have experienced this year. Looking back on old photos, it sometimes doesn’t even seem real. Is that really me? Was I really there? Then I feel the hardness of my legs and softness of my heart and know it was all true. It makes me welcome the following year with open arms. Thank you to everyone, near and far. We are all part of the same world. Find your adventure. Find your place.