10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #3

A Six Minute Read

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(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.

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**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!

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #4

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(Study Group: Masaai Mara, Kenya)

Lesson #4- We Can Make a Difference: Give Back

“We so often feel powerless to do anything about the many problems in the world around us. We are so often left to wonder whether one person can possibly make a difference.” ~ Craig Kielburger, Free the Children/ME to WE

—-> In the grand scheme of things Canadians are pretty lucky. I read an article the other day that said Canada ranked number two in the world for the highest quality of life. After cycling around the world and visiting over sixty countries throughout my life, I can say for certain that the article is not far off the mark. We have it very good here. Yes, we complain about the rising prices of goods, gas and taxes, but the services we get in return, cannot be matched. We are well off and monetarily we live above many other places in the world. With our disposable income and time we have the power to make change a reality for people in struggling parts of the world.

It doesn’t mean we all need to start a fundraising campaign to build schools, health clinics and clean drinking water projects around the world. What it does mean is that we all have the power to make change happen. This can be right in our home community. I also understand there are plenty of Canadians that are going through a tough time and need our help as well. Volunteering at the local shelter, lending a hand to an old neighbour or using whatever skills we possess to help the less fortunate are just some way you can help. We don’t need to change the whole world with our actions, but we have the power to change individual lives in the present. I know when I give back, the feeling of having done so goes a long way for my present state of mind.

On my cycling trip I decided to partner with Free the Children, because I was passionate about education. As a teacher I knew the power that education can have on the lives of people around the world. In the modern age, without education, many people are lost and without much hope for the future.  Because of that initiative, four schools have been built and one final school in El Trapiche, Nicaragua is on the way. It is hard to believe, but we are almost there. With less than $320 to the final goal of $50,000, I am blown away. When I look at the long list of over 300 individual donations from great people throughout Canada and beyond, it leaves me speechless. If you would like to donate on the last push of the fundraising journey, please CLICK HERE.

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*A full update on all of the schoolhouses constructed under my cycling journey will come once the final goal of $50,000 is met. Not long now!

**You can expect Lesson #3 tomorrow. Almost there! 🙂

Free the Children – Who We Are

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #5

A Six Minute Readimage4-e1417505798966

(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

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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.

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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.)

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*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

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #6

A Six Minute Read

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(Stunning Sunsets: Kerala India)

Lesson #6- Times Will Change: So Will You

“Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.” Stephen Chbosky, The Perk of Being a Wallflower

—-> We are not the same people we were in the past. It is important to always be working on ourselves and not look back with regret with who we used to be. People change. We have to accept the people we knew throughout our lives are always adapting, growing and changing as the pressures of the world mould their new selves. The world is a difference place than ten years ago. A good many things have changed. Being ready to say ‘yes’ to something new is key. It may sound hard, but being open to the wild and wonderfully new may change your life forever.

If we were the same person throughout our lives, I think it would be pretty boring. As our careers, interests and life expands, we become new people. In fact, every seven years we biologically become a new person as cells and blood is replaced. Over the course of that time all of our skin cells have been replaced and replenished by new ones. So if you look at it from a biological standpoint, by the time you are 35 years old, you are just beginning your 6th self. If you look at yourself as a multitude of people, and not one singular being, it is easier to let go of your past and move towards a new future.

We may look back at nostalgia at the old days and think that nothing will ever be as good as that one point in life. I think that thought is flawed. It leaves your present self at an unfair advantage. As if you will never be that fit, charming or intelligent again. The game is never over until the end. I say don’t fight for the good days, make every single one count and never idolize the past to the point where the present moment is forgotten. It is important to remember that those past ‘Glory Days’ have shaped you dramatically, but they do not need to define you wholly.

“But all he kept talking about was, Glory days, well they’ll pass you by.” ~ Bruce Springsteen, Songwriter

By working on aspects of our personality, physique and the impact we would like to have on our surroundings, we continue to grow as people. We can make ourselves into something better. Stagnation in our development is never going to help us turn into a happier person in the future. If you don’t like something about yourself, change it. Learn a new language, try something that scares you, hit the gym or take a trip to somewhere new. I know I have my flaws and I am trying to work on them. No one is perfect, but realize personal development is a never-ending journey. Stay motivated.

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*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 #5 from the road. Thank you for reading! 🙂

Waking Life – The Gap/Stories of Progress

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #7

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(Endless Road: The Paraguayan Chaco)

Lesson #7- Exercise is the Best Medicine: Get Outside & Explore

“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.” ~ Plato, Philosopher

—-> Take care of your body. You only get one. We have to ability to be as healthy and active as we want to be. It is all about motivation, time management and caring. Even those with the busiest of lives can find a few minutes a day to get that body moving. In a society with a rising blood pressure, obesity and clogged arteries; we can’t blame everyone around us. It comes down to our own choices.

I know in my experience, when I haven’t been paying particularly good attention to my body, I feel lethargic, weak and tired. Just like anything in life, you get back what you put into it. As I traveled throughout the world, I found that for most people, life takes place outside. However, in North America and Europe, I found much more closed types of lifestyles. People’s homes in the developed part of the world are very comfortable. Inside there is a television and more gadgets than you can think of. Kids spend more free time inside in these societies and less time running around. These sedentary habits carry over into adulthood.

Start a routine that suits you. If you really don’t like running or biking, then don’t run or bike. You are sure to give it up, if it is something you really don’t enjoy. Find another activity which you do like and keeps you active for a little bit each day. There are lots of options. It is important to get that heart racing each day. Once you get into that rhythm, you will feel younger and all other aspects of your life will benefit. Exercise is a stress reliever and mood enhancer.

Adventure is right there in your neighbourhood or not far from it. Exploring old places, in new ways, will give you an added respect for your home country. Ride a bicycle, go for a hike or camp wild. Leave the phone at home and get that heart racing.

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*Less than $320 to go to the final goal of $50,000 and the last schoolhouse in El Trapiche Nicaragua A special thank you to my Aunt Fran Quattrocchi for her nice recent contribution to bring us that much closer. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

**Tomorrow you can expect Lesson #6 from the road. Thank you for reading! 🙂

Danny Macaskill ~ The Ride

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #8

A Six Minute Read

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(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.

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*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

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #9

A Five Minute ReadEthiopia

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)

10 Lessons from Cycling the World: Lesson #10

A Seven Minute Readindia“In the dim background of our mind, we know what we ought to be doing, but somehow we cannot start.” ~ William James, Philosopher

What can we take away from this life? I believe we all come into this world a blank canvas. Throughout our days, the people we meet, our parents, friends and even the media, all splash colours on us. They coat our canvas with hopeful blues, emerald greens and radiant yellows. Others dash our picture with aged greys, sunburnt browns and scarring blacks. They contribute all of their different colours onto our blank sheet in different ways. Over time, some colours run deeper than others. If we are not careful, we become more of them, than our own selves. It is up to us to figure out how we want our picture to look. How we want to stand out from the rest of the beautiful works around us.

Over the last two years, I have learned a great deal about a variety of cultures, foods, people and myself. The hard lessons I gained along the way, have shaped who I am today and hope to be in the future. This is the type of post where each point, has the potential to be a whole story unto itself. However, there will be a time and place for that in the book I am currently working on. In the meantime, I will be sharing with you a bit of that wisdom which I have gained on my cycling journey around the world. These lessons I learned before, during and after my ride, I hope can inspire anyone to go out and ‘Find Their Bicycle Ride.’

I have spaced these short reads over the next ten days. Each day, I will share a new lesson from the road. This will allow you to gain some perspective, on just what my journey was like and the impact of those times. These are just my lessons. Simple mixtures of the paints that were dealt to me. You can take bits of the colour, but it will never be all your own, nor would you want it to be. We are all individual and must paint our own canvas. We are all still learning, growing and changing. It is amazing what a dash here and there can do. Remember, it is never too late to start that picture over again.

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“Begin today. Declare out loud to the universe that you are willing to let go of struggle and eager to learn through joy” ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach, Author

#10- Everything Will Never Be Perfect: Start Today

—-> Starting something new is scary, intimidating, and challenging. It is everything that most of us hate. That feeling of leaving everything that is comfortable and heading out into some unknown space can be hard. That same fear is what keeps us on the couch, keeps us at home and makes us feel like we are not good enough. We are afraid to fail. We are afraid people will laugh at us. We remain stagnant because of own looming self-loathing fear.

We use excuses for our short-comings and not beginning that new project. We blame others for our inability to make a change, like our children, spouses, family and friends. We blame everything and everyone but ourselves for not making that change in our lives. That change to a new career, losing the weight, starting your own business or traveling the world. I get that fear, because I have lived it over and over, each time I started something new.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Change can be the most exhilarating feeling in the world. The feeling of working towards something you are genuinely passionate about can be just the thing you need to get all the other aspects of your life in order. It is what allowed me to keep pushing forward on my journey. That feeling of doing exactly what you were meant to be doing in that time and space.

When you step back and look at your dreams, how does it make you feel? Does it feel fully complete or full of unfinished business? 

I remember when I first developed the dream of cycling the world. It was almost eight years ago, that the original idea was born on an idle Tuesday back at Trent University. At the time, I laughed at myself and barely entertained the idea. But, it remained. Every time I went on a trip, looked at a map or read something about travel, it was always there. Like a haunting memory of a former self, it jumped out more frequently as time went on. I knew I needed to act or I would regret not having tried for the rest of my life. The I started telling everyone I knew, so they would make me accountable. If I failed the whole world would know, but it didn’t matter, I had to try.

The bottom line, is that everything will never be perfect to make a change. There will always be an excuse to stay exactly where you are. It is in our human nature to search for comfort. In the end though, we have to consider if that comfort is getting in the way of what we really want. Is fear of an unknown failure keeping you chained down? Change does not come overnight, it comes with hard work and time. It begins with one choice. Your choice.

So, I encourage you, to start today.

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*We are now on the final few days of fundraising for the fifth and final schoolhouse in El Trapiche, Nicaragua. With less than $550 to go, it feels truly amazing that we are so close. From the bottom of my heart I thank you for all of support to make this dream come true. A full update on all of the communities will be given once we reach the final goal of $50,000. I look forward to sharing this with you very soon. I would also like to thank J. Quattrocchi & Co. Ltd., Nick Pankiw, Donna Healey, Dorothy Edwards, Pat & Barb McGlade and our 300th donor, Brent Webley, for all their recent generous donations. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO EL TRAPICHE, NICARAGUA.

**You can check out a new feature in the Ottawa Citizen from Free the Children’s Marc and Craig Kielburger by CLICKING HERE.

***You can also look up an interview podcast I did on ‘Alumni Voices’ with Trent University Radio by following the link HERE.

****Thank you to everyone for your continued love and support!  

—–> Tomorrow you can expect Lesson #9.

After Cycling the World: How Does it Feel to be Home?

A Ten Minute Read

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“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” ~ Greg Anderson, Writer

Doing something you love is a hard feeling to describe and even harder when it comes to an end. To be working towards something that is bigger than you, delivers powerful energy into everyday life. I believe that if you invest every ounce of your mind and energy into a project, you will achieve it over time. It may sound cliché but, ‘all good things must come to an end.’ This is true of anything and an annoying reality.

After you have worked towards something for a long time eventually you will achieve it. That big promotion, building a home, getting married or riding a bicycle around the world. Sooner or later it will come true, if you stay true to your goals. Then what are you to do? It is easy to feel lost and slightly empty at the end of something like that. It may feel as if there is something missing from your daily existence. This big achievement was your definition forever. Where are you to go next?

However, I believe that a singular achievement should not be the whole definition of our reality. Famous sports stars, musicians and actors often fall victim of these types of feelings. One day they have an injury, are not seen as relevant anymore or simply get ‘too old’. These people sometimes struggle and fall into depressions. They can’t let go of their past selves. Attaching too much of ourselves to one side of our personality is never a good thing. We must remember we are not one dimensional creatures, but have a good number of things more to share with the world. My message is that it can’t define you wholly. There is more to you.

When I was traveling around the world, there is one question I almost never asked anyone. What do you do? I believe that someone’s job shouldn’t be their defining characteristic. Sometimes people let their jobs define who they are. However, I believe that we are more than that. We are brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers. We have interests, values and characteristics which are outside this one aspect. Deep down though, we are something so similar to one another. We are most of all people, uniquely complicated and individually beautiful. This is what we must remember, when we think our goals are all complete, washed up or forgotten. We are still ourselves living a dynamic and ever-evolving story.

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“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe, Writer/Poet

When I crossed that finish line, I knew that my dream had come true. It had the feeling of finality. The goal was complete, with only a few loose ends to work out. The pride I felt at the end of the journey is something I have been coming terms with. The unique feeling that I can in fact do anything is a powerful pill to take. I feel like more doors have opened now than ever before. The problem is finding something I enjoy doing and am passionate about. I know what I would like to do, but here I stand at the beginning of a new challenge. It lays beyond money and superficial feelings.

The question I get most often now is: How does it feel to be home?

Plain and simple, it feels great. I set out and completed my goal. That ultimate dream is over and I can rest easy in the knowledge, that I worked towards something that was near and dear to my heart. I will always have this feeling of accomplishment. Home is comfortable. Friends and family are close by. Life is in a word, comfortable.

So, what is next? What will I do now that I am home and what have I been up to? Is there a next adventure in store?

Now that I am home, I have a good many things to do. I believe that life is not one singular adventure but a multitude of individual adventures. Together all of these things work together to define our being. They shape who we are in the present. They leave our past looking like a mysterious ghost. Sometimes, I think we find it hard to gaze back at our past selves. As we pass through different tracks of our lives we reflect on the moments of old and wonder at how we could have been so brave, naïve, immature or bold. I know reviewing old photos and videos from my journey has sometimes blown me away. How could I have ever fought through some of those days on wild isolated roads?

“On the first day of school, you got to be real careful where you sit. You walk into the classroom and just plunk your stuff down on any old desk, and the next thing you know the teacher is saying, ‘I hope you all like where you’re sitting, because these are your permanent seats.’” ~ Jeff Kinney, Diary of a Wimpy Kid

As I sit back from the comfort of home, the outside world of adventure seems a million miles away. I still enjoy riding my bike, but it is not the same as it once was. Now I ride to keep fit. Before, I was never riding to stay in shape, I just was. In the past, getting on my bike meant that the adventures of the day were limitless. My whole existence was a liberting question mark. I never knew where exactly I would sleep or who I would meet. Interesting conversations were abound and I was constantly learning. Now, I sleep in the same place and there is routine of the day. I do miss many parts of the road. However, I do not miss some of the bad days, the longing for a friendly face, horrible winds and soul crushing distances.

I am happy to be home though. In my final days cycling through the United States and Canada, it felt like the end. As I rode through low hills and alongside the budding pastures of early May, I knew my journey had served the purpose. It was in those days, I was ready for whatever my next mission should be. I was ready for the next adventure. When I finally arrived home, I was ready to hang up the bicycle.   They journey was over and the next one was beginning.

When I mention the word comfort, it has a two pronged meaning. You could see it as sitting in a safe place to watch television and a warm reliable place to sleep. But, you could also look at it as a change to something more stable. I believe that too much comfortable, stability and predictability is not a good thing. At the moment, the idea of being comfortable is nice. For two years, I was rarely comfortable. I realize after getting a bit of stability back in my life, it is not what makes me happy. This is not the thing which makes me want to get up in the morning. For most people, the eternal search to better our lives is followed by the quest for an easier life. I could easily go back to this life, but it is not what would make me happiest.

I know from my experiences that the world for many people is not comfortable at all. I am privileged to have been born in a country where luxury is the normal expectation. I work towards something that is difficult, challenging and exciting once again. Because this is what fuels me. This is what makes me a better person. I want to challenge myself. The day flies by as they always used to. You’d be surprised how fast a day on a bike can go. If you are working towards something you are passionate about, eventually you will achieve it, and even have fun in the process.

“A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” ~ Oscar Wilde, Novelist

The idea of needing a ‘Life Purpose’ is a completely new concept in our world. This can be a stressful and liberating commodity as we are bombarded with messages and information about how we should live out our days. Pokémon Go, Donald Trump and ISIS aside, we are fortunate enough to form our own opinions. It can be a daunting task as we move further into our comfort zones and away from the hard choices that call themselves our dreams. Life can take us in a spaghetti bowl of lines. It is up to us to figure out which strands of life we connect with the most. To follow the lines that make ourselves and those around us feel the happiest. Life has no one set purpose, but is made up of a multitude of layers. The freedom of this reality is ours for taking. It is never too late. As terrifying as it may seem. I have said it before but, follow those dreams.

I now plan to take the next steps and turn my trip into a new adventure. One I am passionate about and frankly a little bit nervous. I am writing a book on my journey as a tool to encourage others to follow their dreams. I am also developing a new platform for my website and my speaking engagements. I want everyone to experience the feeling of, ‘Finding Their Bicycle Ride.’ Soon I will also embark on the adventure that is marriage to my wonderful fiancé. I have a lot to look forward to. I believe we can all do great things with time, dedication and hard work. With a little searching, you will always find whatever is next.

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*After a successful night at my open talk to the public in Smiths Falls last week we are very close to the goal for the fifth and final schoolhouse in El Trapiche, Nicaragua. There is now less than $1,700 to the ultimate goal of $50,000. Together we are making a difference in the lives of people throughout the world. Giving hope and bright new futures. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

**To read a recent article by the founders of Free the Children and ME to WE Marc and Craig Kielburger on my cycling journey around the world, CLICK HERE.

***Stay tuned for a look at my new website and more frequent posts in the brand new format.

The Red Ribbon: Cycling Home in Canada

A Twenty-Two Minute Read

image“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” ~ Aldous Huxley, Writer

What constitutes as someone else’s regular? After spending two years rolling through the regular lives of forty different countries, my prior perceptions have been changed forever. I can tell you that the people I met along the way are just that, people. They are not all that different from you and I. We really all just want the same few things in life. We want a few people to hold close to us, a roof over our heads, food on the table and our health.

However, what is so interesting about these regular needs and wants are the cultures which make all regions of the world unique unto themselves. This is why we travel. Because, it is new and different. Along the way I experienced many societies in the way local people do. I got to see the daily grind, struggles and fascinations on the ground level. Stepping back from the things we consider normal, you would be surprised how easy it is to forget what makes our own home amazing. Quite often I would tell someone that a certain area is beautiful and they would stop, look, think and finally agree. Sometimes we forget. Sometimes we need those gentle reminders.

I was so long in someone else’s regular, that I was very excited to return to my regular. With Canada around the corner, I was beyond excited to experience old things in new ways. What is interesting about your regular?

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“Canada will be a strong country when Canadians of all provinces feel at home in all parts of the country, and when they feel that all Canada belongs to them.” ~ Pierre Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister

With a friendly welcome from Canada’s border officials, and a picture down by the water in Windsor, Ontario, I was off riding. After nearly two years of cycling I was finally back in familiar territory. I took in a bit of the scenery and I honestly have to say it really felt like being home. Though Canada can be compared to the Northern United States, in many ways, it really is a different place. I felt a huge burst of energy and made my way towards London.

One thing I did miss immediately from the United States were the wide shoulders that are perfect for biking. People in Canada were respectful, but in a blowing side wind, I felt a little cramped on the side of the road. I pushed on, rolling down country roads alongside Hwy 401 through places like Lakeshore and Chatham. On my first night back in Canada I made camp near a little town outside the home of a farmhouse thanks to an old couple, Ed and Donna. They were happy to let me camp for the night. The sun was nearly set and I got to work cooking my pasta with garlic, onions and a can of beans I picked up earlier.

I set up my tent for the night and put everything in place. For nearly two years my things have all had a spot. The same tent with four bags and a bearded man. The routine of the nightly cook and preparation for bed was almost finished. While my pasta cooled, I wrote in my journal as I always did. Then I watched the sun set from my tent while slurping up some bean filled penne. I knew this would be one of the last times I could experience this type of moment. The peace and quiet of my tent after a long day of riding. The ache of my muscles and the final zip of the tent as I closed myself off from the world for a few hours. I lay back and let out a big breath, as usual. The strain of the road wafting into the corners of my tent.

The following morning, I was up early and headed for London. A 140km kind of day was ahead of me. The weather didn’t look that promising, so I started moving quickly after a few bites of peanut butter and bread. I was to stay with a cousin, Mary-Anne, and her family. I was excited to see a familiar face and have a warm bed to sleep in that night. Dark clouds were brewing behind me. For most of the day, I kept a strong pace while the clouds spit rain at my tail. However, this was not to last forever. The rain came in freezing cold buckets. The only thing keeping me warm was the movement of a bike. I was about forty kilometres from my destination. I decided to press onwards in the rain and worry about my soaked shoes and clothes later. Every time a car passed a freezing cold burst of wind would blow up my soaked rain jacket.

After about an hour of riding in the rain it cleared with the sun warming my body once again. Stopping to shake a bit of water off, I squished around in my old shoes bought way back in Peru. The heels were broken and had seen nearly six months of road. They owed me nothing. I jumped back on the bike and made it to my destination in the early afternoon. It was so wonderful to see someone I knew once again and get caught up. We all talked that evening over a beautiful steak dinner with Mary-Anne’s family and a close family friend named Christine. It was great to have people to share my evening with.

In the morning, we had a delicious brunch and I was full of energy for a much easier day of riding to Stratford. We took a few photos together and I thanked them for their hospitality. Being part of a large extended Italian family has many wonderful benefits. Along the way Christine took photos as I rode up along the undulating hills north of London. I waved as she snapped some shots and thanked her for all the support she gave during my journey. With the wind at my back once again, I zig-zagged down country roads towards Stratford.

I was staying at the house of a long-time friend who I had not seen in quite some time, Spencer. He was out of town when I arrived, so I stayed with his parents, John and Kim. They were beyond hospitable and very enthusiastic about my trip. When I arrived a family friend and cycling enthusiast named Brent was there to meet me. We talked about routes, our cycling trips and looked at some maps for my trip home. Recently, I heard that Brent had a stroke, and is currently on the road to recovery. Please keep this friendly man in your thoughts.

During my time in Stratford, I ate like a king and relaxed before making the push to Toronto. Kim, who is a professional massage therapist, helped me get out the months and years of strain in my muscles. I felt like I was a new man afterwards. I also visited ‘Ross’ Bike Shop’ to replace my tires that were balder than anything. This would explain my recent heroic spill in downtown Detroit a few days earlier. When I arrived he had already heard of my story through a friend, Scott, who I did an interview with a day earlier in the Stratford Herald. (READ THE ARTICLE HERE) He told me not only did he have new tires for me, but he was going to do a whole overhaul on my bicycle for free, along with brand new water bottles. I think he felt a connection to my story, the work I was achieving through Free the Children and my hopes for the future. I was blown away by his kindness and chatted with the guys around the bike shop. In no time at all my bicycle had a new heart put back into it. It was one of the most generous acts of kindness on my whole journey. I cycled back to Spencer’s place, feeling humbled once again by the beauty of humanity.

*

“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” ~ Dr. Seuss, Writer

That night I got caught up with my old friend and made plans for seeing each other at the finish line of my journey back in Rideau Ferry. I shot off towards Toronto on a 160km day with rolling hills. There was traffic up to my teeth as I approached Toronto. Riding through Brampton was very busy as I cut along near the airport and headed for my cousin Marina’s house in Etobicoke. Marina was one of my biggest promoters and supporters of the journey. This was also a very special day, as the love of my life, Eliza, was flying in that night from China. I could not wait. It was going to be a very special day of familiar faces. Once I saw her come though those gates, my heart felt whole again.

Picking Eliza up at the airport with Marina late at night was an emotional time. Seeing my fiancée after eight months of separation was one of those moment you never forget. United Airlines annoyingly lost her bag though. We were too happy to be bothered much by it. The following day Marina had arranged a potluck dinner and an opportunity to talk about my ride. It was the first group of people I was able to share my ride with in a long while. The food was fantastic and I was even able to meet Alexas from Free the Children, who helped me coordinate the construction of all five of the schoolhouses. From Etobicoke, I made my way on a short ride downtown Toronto after saying goodbye to Marina. Eliza and I got settled downtown and prepared to meet up with Global News and visit the offices of Free the Children. This was also something I had looked forward to a long time.

The following day, I spoke at Free the Children and got to meet some of the amazing people behind the scenes. They even had a cycling cake prepared for me after the presentation. However, the table broke as we were about to eat the cake. It was not meant to be. Global News wrapped up their story and I was able to rest up in Toronto for the next few days before saying goodbye once again to Eliza. She went to be with my parents, and I rode onto Lindsay on route homeward. This would be the final leg of the journey home.

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“The fact that over 50 per cent of the residents of Toronto are not from Canada, that is always a good thing, creatively, and for food especially. That is easily a city’s biggest strength, and it is Toronto’s unique strength.” ~ Anthony Bourdain, TV Host/Chef

I made it to Lindsay after breaking through the traffic of Toronto. I stopped on the way to chat with an old friend from South Korea and swung by another friend’s house on Lake Scugog, Dale and Nikki. With so many people to greet me along the way home, my face hurt from permanently smiling. A great problem to have as I rolled into Lindsay to stay with Aunt Bev. I arrived at a familiar house, where I made many fond memories as a child. We drove over to her son Dave’s and we had a delicious dinner with their family. The following morning Aunt Bev and I had a bit of brunch at a diner (awesome) before I cycled off to Peterborough to stay at her other son John’s place in Peterborough.

Now I was really back in familiar territory. For five years I lived and even worked in Peterborough while I went to school at Trent University. I went by Trent and a few of the old places I lived just for the sake of nostalgia. After an interview with the local paper, I continued on cycling to a few old haunts with a big smile on my face. Not far to go now, I thought to myself as I rolled over to John’s place to stay with his family. All these extended relatives opening their homes to me and sharing their lives was so amazing. We dined on some delicious kabobs and I jumped into the hot tub with the kids before it was time for bed. I was gaining weight for the first time in weeks after being so well-fed everywhere I went.

In the morning, I met my Aunt Joanne, Uncle Scott and their daughter Christina for a diner style breakfast. How could I complain. A great way to meet close family and get my day underway. After a proper breakfast I was off riding. The weather started to turn while I rode on route to Sharbot Lake. During the day I got soaked three times along busy old Highway 7. Trucks splashed piles of water onto me and the sun would appear to tease me. The humidity would rise high, while the storm turned around and hit with another cold shot of rain. Even during all of the horrible rain there was a brief pause where I came over a hill and watched a beautiful rainbow form. Eventually, I made it to Sharbot Lake after 170 kilometres of hard riding damp and ready for sleep. During the day I had stopped for a quick poutine, just because I could. To see a recipe for a Canadian classic CLICK HERE.

The following day, I met up with Eliza and saw my mother for the first time since South Africa. It was a nice reunion before heading off to Granite Ridge and St. James Major Schools to share my story. I had whipped up a quick PowerPoint to share with the kids and answered a ton of questions. I thanked them for all they had done to help me achieve my goals with building schools in different parts of the world.

Sharbot Lake holds a great deal of memories from my childhood. I always remember visiting my Grandmother there and going to play at the beach. I rode by her house and thought about the old days. Grandma was a pretty big traveler herself and I often thought of her on my journey. From time to time, I wondered what she would think of the whole thing. We all had lunch with an old friend named Marg and my great Aunt Edith before I rode off to spend the night at my friend Josh’s about 30km on backroads away. More friends and friendly faces were to come.

It wasn’t far from Josh’s place to Perth. I made quick work of it and rolled into town ready for a talk at St. John Elementary on my ride. They were wonderful supporters throughout my journey, so it was so nice to share my story there. I had an interview with the local radio, Lake 88 and a final presentation at Queen Elizabeth School nearby. A few days early my best friend Dave & Tara McGlade had their first baby. That night I spent the evening with family having dinner then returned to Dave & Tara’s place to meet cute new baby Charles, before drifting off to sleep. It was a wonderful time to be back home.

From the other side of Perth, I made my way to Smiths Falls for three presentations on my ride to some of the supporting schools there. The speaking tour continued. Visiting St. Francis School where I went to as a young boy, was a very surreal experience. Returning to speak about my ride and encouraging young kids to follow their dreams seemed like it hit home for many of the listeners. As I wrapped up my day, I felt a huge sense of pride for all I had accomplished with my ride. Riding over to my uncle Joe’s I got caught up on a laundry list of e-mails and joined my family for dinner nearby at Aunt Fran’s with two friends from Trent. After a bit of celebrating it was time for bed. Tomorrow was a big day. My final day on the bicycle

After a good breakfast, I loaded up the bicycle one last time. I wheeled out into the driveway and thanked my everyone for their support. Global News was there to cover the last stretch of my ride. I pulled out on the road and began to ride as I always did. It was a cool and misty morning. The only difference between this and a regular day were the people cheering and signs posted welcoming me home. As I got closer to Rideau Ferry, I started breaking up on the bike. I had no idea it would be that hard. I saw a few more friends before I made my way towards the bridge to greet the group that would join me on bicycles to my home. Pushing over the bridge I saw the large crowd of people waiting with their bikes and signs. I was blown away. Tearing up as I roared down to the smiling faces I was overwhelmed and met with an endless supply of hugs. You can watch the whole story by Global News HERE.

*

“Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination.” ~ Drake, Songwriter

After a quick bite to eat at Jimmy’s Snack Shack and a final interview, the group of riders kicked off to cycle the final seven kilometres to my family home from Rideau Ferry. From then on it was only smiles and laughs all the way home. All ages of people with a variety of bikes joined in riding together. Near the finish line a friend had set up a lemonade stand for everyone. A welcome break for those on route. In the final moments of my ride I took the lead at the front of the line. I was riding down the same old road I had cycled a thousand times. It was all too familiar. I rounded the corner to a group of family and friends. I picked up some speed on the bumpy dirt road and broke through the red tape at the finish line.

I was finally home.

Be careful following your dreams. One day they just might come true. 🙂

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*I would like to thank everyone that has made this entire journey a huge success. From all of the people along the way that helped me get a place to sleep, some food to eat and spent some time to chat. To all of the sponsors who have helped us raise over $47,500 to construct five schools in struggling countries around the world. With the help of many schools in Eastern Ontario and over 275 individual sponsors, we have helped give young children hope for a better future. To Free the Children for all of their encouragement and the opportunity to make a different. To all of my friends who rooted me on during the course of the trip and joined me for the final leg home. Thank you to everyone who went out of their way to make my final days on the bike a warm and welcoming memory that will last forever. To my parents, Vince & Dorothy, as well as my brother Luke for always being there. And of course, my rock, Eliza for being my support throughout the entire journey. I couldn’t have done it without all of you working together. Thank you all for making it the ride of a life-time.

**We are now so close to the final goal of $50,000 for the last schoolhouse in El Trapiche, Nicaragua. With less than $2,500 I know that we will soon achieve our goal there. You can read about the community of El Trapiche by clicking the link HERE and scrolling to the bottom for an overview of the work being done there. It is truly unbelievable how generous people have been and how near we are to the final goal. It is a wonderful feeling, with too many people to thank. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

***Now that I have finished my ride I am continuing to speak around Eastern Ontario. On July 11th at 6:30 pm at St. James School (5 Catherine St.) in Smiths Falls, Ontario, I will be giving a general talk to the community about my journey. I call my presentation, ‘Finding Your Bicycle Ride’. It is designed to encourage young people and adults alike to follow their dreams through the use of my bicycle ride as a jumping off point. I share the hardships of people around the world, beautiful pictures and stories from my trip. There will be a period afterwards for refreshments and socializing. For more info on booking a speaking engagement CLICK HERE.

****Though my journey is over, I will continue to maintain this website. I have a great deal still left to share and travel articles to write. Look for updates and changes to the site in the following months, as I start my transition to a new format. I am also in the beginning stages of writing a book on my experiences over the last two years. Stay tuned for updates on this and other events. Thank you for following along!

*****Watch the interview with CTV Morning Live HERE.

******Happy Canada Day! 🙂

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