Category Archives: Me to We
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” ~ Confucius
Looking at the year past, I sometimes peek back at my old journals. They take me back to a different place. A place where sometimes I even have trouble remembering. That is why I wrote them. To capture those moments, to capture those tough days, the highs and lows of two years alone on the road. It was a different time in my life. We are always changing as people and reminding ourselves of who we once were, who we think we are now and hope to be for the future are very important.
This is a random journal entry I opened to today. A year and half into my journey. Have a look.
Dec 1st Yunchara – Bolivia – Acclimatizing
-Today was another extremely hard day
-Rode all day long and just covered 65km
-Though the scenery was stunning. Some of the best I have seen in a long time
-The climbs, hills and wind were less forgiving
-A tough road. Pushing most of the way up the big climbs on the rocky gravel towards Tupiza
-Sometimes I question myself, as I know this is not the main route to Uyuni. But I think it will be stunning, I have to get there
-First day of seeing Llamas today, they look a bit like camels
-Nice guy named Alan gave me a piece of chocolate
-Got to Yunchara and was looking for a place to camp
-The one lady told me to camp by the church in the middle of the village
-It was a little cold and very windy today, so I asked around
-A truck driver asked a friend and now I am sleeping in his house. All good and a new amigo. People here are so nice.
-Pretty sunset in the distance
-I want to curl up and sleep for days
-The altitude is kicking my butt.
In the quieter moments, I look back in wonder at how I ever did it. How different my life once was. In the days and months that have passed since arriving back, I have become comfortable. Sometimes, I wonder if we are all a little bit too comfortable. Comfortable in our routines, expectations and what we think the world owes us. Sometimes, I have to catch myself, when I think back to the days from the road. In those days, I expected very little. More like, hoped for very little. I hoped for a place to sleep, something to eat and water to drink. Everything else was a bonus.
I realize now, that those reading this are the minority. A vast majority of people live daily with those three hopes, shelter, food and water. It is not up to us to feel obligatory or sorry for our current position, but thankful and mindful of our privilege. For me, to be able to go on the bike ride was a complete privilege. I am only now really starting to understand all that I saw and experienced. The days were long and so much was happening, that sometimes it was hard to make sense of it all. Now, after a year in reflection, speaking and thinking about the ride, the pieces that I once struggled with like poverty, war, inequality and even my own selfishness are coming to light. I do not dwell on the past, but look to it for guidance on how I can be better.
Since finishing a lot has happened. I am now with the women that I love. My wonderful wife, who makes me stronger and better each day. After two long years of separation, we were united together. Sometimes, I take for granted how much we once missed each other, now that we are together. Those long periods of time between seeing each other were incredibly tough, but the wait was worth all the while. It is in the little moments with her, that I find the greatest happiness.
I also now work a job that I love. Motivational Speaker, sharing my story and the incredible work of the WE Movement. Without this opportunity, my transition to life back in Canada would have been much more difficult. I will be the first to admit, after the excitement of being home died down, I had a tough time. Trying to find my place in somewhere I hadn’t lived for four years was not easy. Eventually, I found something, but it was not what I envisioned. I had lived the last two years on the bike with an incredible purpose and then one day that purpose vanished and I had to sort things out. We all go through these periods in our life and with hard work we can make the changes we want to see. Then I was given the opportunity I was looking for. This year has been an introspective year as I searched through my two years finding the best way to share the story. I now go out each day excited about the chance I have to make a difference in people’s lives. I could have hoped for nothing better.
The ride put me closer in touch with the human and natural energy that guides our world. I see that it is important to understand what we have and embrace change as it comes. Life is not about filling your life up with things, but investing in memories. You cannot take any of it with you, so by investing in memories, you invest in yourself. Throughout my journey the common thread for happiness in all of the countries I have ever traveled to boils down to a few basic things. Happiness is having a place to sleep, food to eat and a few good friends and family to share your time with. It is that simple. On my bike ride I managed to always find the first two and the third was almost always missing. Now, I have all of those things. Embrace your happiness, it is already there. You don’t need to ride a bike around the world to find the secret to a happy life.
Throughout my bicycle ride around the world from China to Canada, I came to the grand realization that we are all very much alike. However, our locations, cultures and views threaten to divide us. They threaten to make us feel like we are different. That our common man or women are removed from our current reality. That we are somehow better than someone else by mere circumstance. These are dangerous notions which only perpetuate the feelings expressed behind the glass wall of social media forums or news programs.
We are all very much alike in our personal wants and desires. If you take away the money, greed and power, the root of the humanity can be found in a few basic needs. The need for food on the table, sanitation, access to healthcare, clean water, shelter and opportunity. Beyond these basic necessities, we all want to feel love and connection. A connection to family and friends. To call a few people our close ones. To feel that returning feeling of love, forgiveness and warmth.
We all deserve access to these basic and affectionate sides of the human experience. We can help people achieve the basic pieces of the puzzle, but the soulful side is in the hands of the individual. Share that individuality on a local and global scale.
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ~ Ralph Emerson, Writer
The sun cracks over the walled green horizon. In the morning glow, the Maasai Mara comes to life. Roosters make their morning call, donkey’s neigh and the chatter of women can be heard in the distance. One of the oldest areas of human life begins another day. A life of simplicity, family and challenge.
The little things are but part of the daily existence called life. Words like water, food and shelter. We call these words basic rights, but for many these are in top priority for the day. The morning chores, the weight of the water bucket, the cleaning and preparation of available food are part of a greater effort being enacted here.
Arriving back in Kenya was one of those experiences which drove me down a tunnel of introspective nostalgia. I have now accepted a position at WE Charity as a Motivational Outreach Speaker. I am incredibly excited about this opportunity. It will be a unique chance to share my story of cycling around the world with youth and adults alike across Canada and the US, while promoting the sustainable development work of WE Charity. Though leaving my position as a Teacher after finishing my bike ride was difficult, it is an opportunity I could not turn down. I am incredibly proud and excited to share this news.
The new position prompted my return to Kenya on the biannual staff trip. It was in this capacity I could gain a stronger perspective of the work being done on an international scale, come to understand the programs in place and meet some of my new colleagues. It would give me an opportunity to give back to the communities I partnered with nearly two years ago.
As we drove out to the Maasai Mara, I relived my cycling route out towards Narok. Rolling along the hilly landscape that winds out of Nairobi, I found myself retracing my steps. I saw ghosts of conversations I had along the way. A shop where I had a broken bracket welded and a bottled Pepsi rest spot sped on by as my eyes wandered.
One spot in particular stood out as we stopped at the view point over the Great Rift Valley. The cradle of life lay before me once again. It was Canada Day July 1st, 2015 that I stopped there to have a bite of lunch and a view. Moments later a bus load of Canadians stopped by and I was able to share an afternoon break with some people from home. This was one of the more memorable look out points on my entire trip, not just because of the view, but because of the historical as well as the personal significance the valley represents. There I snapped the same picture and returned to our ME to WE lorry with a smile where new friendships were forming.
Arriving at camp was a welcome experience, getting to know our wonderful facilitators, Maasai guides and more team members. Over the next week we would eat, work and learn together. It was an action packed ten days at camp. We learned about the history, culture and challenges of life in Kenya, particularly for the Kipsigis and Maasai peoples. Here we made new bonds and came to understand the stark differences that separate our world. Access to water, food, education, healthcare and opportunity were always at the forefront.
“If you’re in the luckiest one per cent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 per cent.” ~ Warren Buffett, Business Magnate
Throughout the week a variety of activities were designed to give you a sense of the daily reality people endure. We participated in traditional water walks where lugging a huge jug of water back from the nearest river is the norm. This experience gives you a deep understanding of how precious water is when taking into account the wastefulness of our Canadian brothers and sisters. If we had to walk a kilometre with a large bucket of water on our backs five to ten times a day, we would all reconsider our use of water.
We beaded like the Mama artisans who participate in the opportunity pillar projects making a wide variety of fair trade items for sale through ME to WE. You learn how important these types of empowerment projects are in the lives of the local people. It allows them to send their kids to school, buy medicines and provide for their families in a way that was previously impossible.
These projects are supplemented by ‘merry-go-round’ initiatives which enable women as well as men to make investments into larger items in their household or community through a roundabout style collection and distribution of money. Basically, everyone puts in $10 and eventually it will be there turn to use $100 or more for something that would improve their lives. It is amazing what these people can accomplish with a simple hand-up. It is not a handout, but a hand-up to create sustainable change for future generations.
During the trip we had a variety of local entertainers join us. We went on a safari drive deep in game reserve territory where we saw elephants, zebras, gazelles, warthogs, buffalo wildebeest, giraffes, vultures, hyenas and even watched a huge pod of hippos while eating bagged lunches. We participated in weapons training where we launched arrows and threw traditional Maasai weapons called rungus into the afternoon heat. There was a rungu making session as well as Swahili lessons.
There were two huge ceremonies for the surrounding communities while we were in Kenya. The opening of the boys High School was a huge highlight and a massive step forward for education in the community. We also got to experience the graduation ceremony at the Kisaruni girls High School. Of all the groups of young learners I have ever met in my life, these are the most dedicated, mature, strong and powerful young ladies I have ever met. When I first had the opportunity to meet these girls I was blown away by their enthusiasm and often thought about how often we take education for granted back in Canada.
For myself, one of the most amazing aspects was visiting the Baraka Hospital, especially the surgical wing. When I was in Kenya a year and a half ago the surgical wing of the beautiful Baraka hospital was only a foundation. During my time there I participated in laying some cement in the work site. At the time it was difficult to envision what the end product would look like. Seeing the finished product and realizing the greater picture of change it would enact is hard to describe. When people travel hours down bumpy roads to get to a hospital only to be told they had to again travel another few hours to a hospital which offers surgical procedures, must be crushingly difficult. Soon, that will no longer be the case with the surgical wing opening in February.
The list of experiences and accomplishments goes on. The work being realized by WE Charity in Kenya is truly inspiring and difficult to accurately describe in full. All of the projects are interconnected to one another. The model of sustainable development has been put in place to a point where life events are coming full circle. People who went through the school system in communities which are now independent have gone off to university and returned to become teachers that give back to the community they grew up in.
The work here is truly changing and improving lives on a daily basis. It is something I am very proud to attach my name to. Helping communities rediscover their independence through projects they can be proud of has shaped future generations to come. Of the many communities WE Charity has partnered with, many are now completed independent. They have worked to a point where they function as a sustainable unit through the projects that have been implemented. They work under the sustainable model that empowers people through empowering them with education, healthcare, water, food and opportunity programs.
As I transition into my new role as a Motivational Speaker with WE Charity, I thank all of the people who have supported my ride. I thank those that have donated to make a difference in the lives of the people in the communities we sponsored in rural China, India, Kenya, Ecuador and Nicaragua. I thank most of all my wonderful wife, family and friends for being there through it all and helping me get to this point. I am now doing my best to live the message I have been promoting for over the last two years. Speaking for WE will allow me to get that message out there to a much later audience. For that I am eternally grateful for the people at WE Charity. I am so excited to join a team of intensely passionate and energetic people at WE. Together, through challenge and change, we can have a lasting impact on our world.
*I look forward to continuing to share my adventures on here as my new exciting role with WE Charity begins. I will keep updates rolling as I develop my new speech and take to schools across Canada and the US.
**If you are curious to read about my original time cycling through Kenya, please feel free to CLICK HERE.
***If you haven’t had a peek you can watch my GoPro cycling journey around the world at the bottom of this post.
2-Year GoPro Bicycle Adventure Around the World