“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
“I am always doing things I can’t do; that’s how I get to do them.” ~ Pablo Picasso, Painter
Since I was a young kid I always loved getting out in nature and having mini-adventures. Building forts, having bonfires and exploring with friends from the countryside of rural Canada was always something that I will look fondly back upon. Growing up in the country allowed me to get hurt and learn from my mistakes. When I finally started my cycling adventure around the world my days spent camping were a constant throwback to a nostalgia that was waiting to be awoken again. Throughout the journey, I made a lot of mistakes, but I learned from those moments of hardship. They have continued to make me stronger and shape the way I see the world from the more comfortable side of the seat.
You never know where you will end up. I would have never thought years ago that I would have actually gone after my dreams and succeeded. That single decision has irreparable changed my life for the better. It has opened my mind to new horizons and given me a deeper perspective on what truly matters in life. There are certain things I no longer take for granted after seeing the hardships of our world firsthand. I see things more clearly than ever before.
In a world that has been so giving I feel that I am obliged to give back in some form, whether it be through charitable work, speaking engagements or maintaining this website. Recently, I spoke at the yearly ‘Just Us Youth Day’ with all Grade 10’s from the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario as the keynote speaker. It was an event I was honoured to be part of. We all have the power to make a change in our lives, community and country. It was inspiring to see the engaging attitude from the youth of tomorrow.
This post of ‘Top 10 FAQ’ was inspired by that talk and the collection of questions I typically get on my ride. If you have any others please feel free to drop me a line at any point.
“The Wilderness holds answers to more questions than we have yet learned to ask.” ~ Nancy Wynne Newhall, Writer
1-How many countries did you visit?
I visited 40 countries on my round the world cycling tour. I have travelled to over 60 countries total in my life. Other notable adventures include a motorbike adventure through the wild steppe of Mongolia and the rolling beauty of Laos. I also have fond memories from my backpacking trips in Bangladesh and Myanmar.
2-How old are you?
I am 28 years old. I began the trip around the world when I just turned 26. I am happy that I started the trip when I did. However, it is never too old to begin an adventure such as this. I met people doing similar things who were more than twice my age. I believe that a journey such as this ages you internally, rather externally.
3-What is your favourite country? Least favourite country?
This is one of the toughest questions of all. I really do not have a favourite country from the journey. I like different countries for different reasons. For example, I like Mexico, Greece and India because of the food. I liked Peru and Lesotho because of the diverse stunning views. I like Kyrgyzstan, Sudan, Afghanistan, Turkey, South Africa, Paraguay, Colombia and Mexico because of the people. I liked Bolivia and India for the mental as well as physical challenge. China because it will always hold a special place in my heart. I like Canada because it feels like home. I do not have a least favourite country, however, I did have a very difficult time in Ethiopia. But, that is a story for another day.
4-Did you ever feel lonely?
The honest answer, rarely. I think if I did this trip even ten years ago I would have felt a lot more of that lonesome feeling. However, with the recent development and improvement of new communication technology I was typically able to stay fairly connected to my wife as well as people back home when I wanted to. In most of the world, phone plans are quite cheap. I would simply get a SIM card and top it up with some 3G data. There are simpler ways to do this, but I became an expert in figuring out the easiest way to communicate back home. When I knew there might be long periods where I would be out of touch, I would try to let certain people know in advance, so they didn’t worry. They still worried though.
5-Did you ever have any problems along the way?
This is the most popular question of all. It is the most popular question because when people ask they are not asking about problems with my bike. They are asking if I was ever basically robbed, frightened or threatened along the way. The truthful honest answer is always a resounding no. In Peru I had a very tiny problem where someone stole my bicycle tools out of my bag at a busy port in Iquitos. Other than that, absolutely not. There were the daily challenges of finding food, places to sleep and the elements of course. I was hit by an ice cream truck in Greece, which was an accident I am lucky to have walked away from. If anything people were too kind in most of the places I visited. People are just nice, that is a fact.
6-Did you ever get lost? How did you know the way?
I was never really lost on my journey. Everything was always new, so I was in a way lost most of the time. I had a good navigation system using HERE Maps and consulted paper maps whenever possible. I had an external power source which allowed me to charge my electronics for up to four days. Between that time, I could take a break somewhere to get things booted up. If I had to do it again I would get a dynamo hub that charges your gadgets while you ride.
I really did not know the way, but would plan key points I would like to reach as a guiding direction. The plan changed almost daily as I lay awake in my tent planning routes at night. Some countries I missed entirely as routes, weather and feeling guided me towards another. As I got close I would research Visa expectations and what would be feasible. You are never really lost if you are not sure exactly where it is you were supposed to be in the first place.
7-Are you married?
Yes. I am newly married to my wonderfully supportive wife Eliza. You can actually check out our wedding story from China with explanations, videos and pictures by CLICKING HERE.
8-Did you have any sponsors and how did you pay for the journey?
I get this one a lot more often from adults. Many believe it must take a massive sum of money to take off on a trip for two years. Most of these people are used to the week away holidays and do not understand the actual cost on the ground as the locals live. I will say that I had a good job and I made saving money for the adventure a top priority. Some people save for a new fancy car, I saved to have an adventure of a lifetime with memories to last the same.
On a daily basis I tried to live very cheaply and camp for free whenever possible. I took breaks to get caught up on my life in cheap hostels and guesthouses. In many places I could find a place to sleep for 10$. It was not luxurious, but it was a place to sleep and that is all I needed. On days where I ‘free camped’ I could usually live off around 5-10$ a day. If I had enough food on me, sometimes I would spend nothing in a day. Of course unexpected costs arose, airplane tickets between continents were a hassle and paying for a fair amount of travel visas got slightly expensive. But other than these types of things my day-to-day was fairly cheap. I have no exact number and frankly, I don’t want to know how much I spent. There are no regrets in that respect. Money is made to be spent. I would rather spend mine on memories.
I did have a massive support base of people from all over who helped me raise enough money to build schools throughout the world. You can read a recent post on an update from all five of the countries we were able to build schools in with WE Charity by CLICKING HERE.
9-Would you ever do it again?
This is a tough question. Would I do the exact same trip over again? The simple answer is no. Well not right away. I would return to almost every country I have visited, but knowing everything I know about how difficult some of the places along the way were, I would be hard pressed to get out there and do it all over again.
That being said, after getting back into a comfortable sort of life, I do yearn a bit for that thrill of adventure. That big question mark of the day. The wonder and awe for the world. The beautiful camp spots and the friendly locals that go with exotic lands. I am always looking to new places and there are quite a number of locations along the way I had to make hard choices about. Places like Iran, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Namibia, Chile and more of the Balkans.
I would have liked to go everywhere of course. All of these places were serious considerations and hard bypasses. Some places I chose over others and some it simply wasn’t in the cards. Time of year, visa restrictions, conflict, logistics and the mood of the day changed my course quite regularly.
It is my hope that I can go back some day and fill in some of these gaps. I desperately would like to see Iran, Pakistan, more of the Middle East and Western Africa. I was not going to rush it then and I am not going to rush it now. It is a long life.
10-What made you want to cycle the world?
A huge combination of things led to me wanting to cycle the world. However, actually getting started is another thing entirely. It is one thing to dream, but another to go live it. The dream was born back in university after reading an excellent book on the topic and deciding that was something I would also like to do. After first it was a hopefully little idea, then it became something I had to do. It was during a time that my love for international travel was growing. I devoured travel books by the dozens and poured over the globe with dreams of wild far off lands from the literature I was reading.
In 2010 I moved to South Korea for a year to teach English. I had a phenomenal time getting to know a culture I knew almost nothing about before going. It was here that I really started to travel on my own to new exotic lands. I returned to Canada to get my Bachelor of Education and then got an incredible offer at a Canadian International School in Sanya, China. It was here that I knew I would begin my cycling trip around the world after my two-year contract was complete. I would have time to save some money and mentally prepare for such a journey.
During my time in China I further entrenched my love for travel and explored a variety of very interesting countries in Asia like Mongolia, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Philippines to name a few. I always travelled light and cheaply. This was preparing me for the challenges that were to come.
Before I left, I knew that I also wanted to do something more than just ride circles around the world. I wanted to give back. Education was something I was very passionate about. After careful research and a few phone calls, I found that Free the Children a Canadian based International charity was a perfect match for me. In the beginning, I was not sure how the charity would be received. I had goals of raising enough money to build five schools, in five different countries that I would go through. The locations on the map I believed would keep me motivated and moving towards a larger goal that would continue to give back long after my ride was done. I started with one school and worked my way up from there.
When I finally set out, it was this dream of a putting forth a challenge bigger than myself. As the final days of preparation loomed, I felt a sense of extreme fear and excitement all at the same time. The dream was finally coming true after six long years of quietly daydreaming. I wanted to read, write, meet people, take photographs, experience hardship, failure, get to know myself and most of all, feel alive. For all of those reasons, I set off into the wild unknown. It was just something I had to do.
*Thank you to all the people who continue to follow and read my website. It is because of you that I continue to write and share my story. I am also working away at my book when time affords. Be patient, these things take time.
**News on a big change for the new year to come soon!
***In my presentations, I do not show the whole clip of my cycling trip around the world, but just the first few minutes. I am working towards a more concise and revised version. In the meantime, enjoy!
An Twelve Minute Read
“No one has ever become poor by giving.” ~ Anne Frank, Writer
This past week I was privileged enough to attend WE Day in Toronto. It was one of those experiences that really puts the pieces of our work into perspective. As I watched other change makers and hopefuls share their story, it truly was inspiring. To see the roar of the crowd and the countless people who believe in a better future take the stage was something I will never forget. To see the messages received by the youth of tomorrow and feel that connection was fantastic. Whether it was Gord Downie or Fire Chief Darby Allen sharing their stories, it seemed like we are all working together for something greater. A better future for all. Equality, change and perspective are things I think the world needs to continue to strive towards.
I often think back to those moments on the road. The times of extreme high and low. The poverty and riches that I saw along the way. Both extremes have left a lasting impact on the way that I now see the world. From cobbled roads of Italy, to the hectic Indian byways. From the affluence that is the western world and the imaginary lines that separate similar lands. I have flashbacks to faces and places that now only seem like images of a dream I once knew. The good, the horribly difficult and the monotone moments of challenging bliss in-between.
During those days I smiled a million smiles and felt the weight of my dream on my shoulders. Sometimes, the immensity of my goal weighed a little heavy. When the mountains snaked up on tiny roads beyond my sight or roads stretched out to nameless expanses, I felt that pull forward and pull back to reality. Was I going to make it home? Would people care enough to donate to my cause? Was it all worth it? The answer to all those questions was and always will be a resounding, yes.
“It always seems impossible, until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela, Freedom Fighter
(Below you can read the five-page full update from WE Charity on all of our schools fundraising projects throughout the world. Very exciting!)
Along this journey I had the unique opportunity to help give back. With well over three-hundred sponsors we were able to raise $50,000 for Free the Children (WE Charity). I am blown away by both sides of this accomplishment. The whole experience taught me a good deal about the people I call family and friends, as well as those throughout our world who wished to make it a better place. It showed me that one idea really can make a difference. That we can change someone’s world for the better.
Throughout those two years, people from all over the globe reached out to help me achieve my goal. However, in the process, it became a collective mission. It was no longer just one crazy guy’s idea on a bike. It was a goal that is now shared by hundreds of people. There were even schools throughout Eastern Ontario that rose to the occasion and helped push the metre ever higher. Without the endless donations and goodwill, our collective goal of giving children in struggling nations access to safe and reliable education would have never been possible. Five schools in five different countries.
I will admit, when I first set out, though my hopes were high, I did not know how far or how well the charitable portion of my journey would be received. I had this dream inside my heart of five schools in five countries around the world. However, I set out with one to start. I did not want to look over ambitious or fail miserably for the whole world to see. However, by the time I reached the edge of the Chinese frontier in Xinjiang Province, the goal for the schoolhouse in GuangMing, China was achieved. As I crossed into Kyrgyzstan on a cool afternoon, I knew we could achieve great things if we worked together. It truly was a feeling like no other.
To be able to give back to a country which meant so much to me, was a sign of good things to come. The school in China’s Sichuan province has been complete for some time now and I assure you the effects of which are felt on a daily basis. For the people that live in Guang Ming it represents a chance at a better future. A future that has more than hope at the end of it. Though I was unable to visit the community due to horrible flooding of the road, I plan to make a journey there at some point soon. To see the faces of the change and hear their stories. Sichuan was one of my favourite sections of China and it is a place that will always call me to return.
As I continued to bike, the support rolled with my tires. Countless people continued to donate and some even began to donate for a second time. On the road, I would connect with my sponsors through personalized emails. I wanted to know what made these people feel the pull towards my cause and thank them for their generosity. No matter if it was $1000 or $10, I sent a message all the same. Every donor meant the world to me while I was on the road. I knew that people were giving what they could and sometimes even when they couldn’t. It gave me the energy boost I needed. Sometimes, when I was feeling down or lonely, a donation from a friendly stranger would ignite the flame inside to keep moving.
In India, I visited the community of Verdara. I was greeted by long time change maker Lloyd and his team with WE charity. Thanks to my supporters, a new schoolhouse has been added to the High School where there previously was none. Children have access to a higher education than has ever been possible in their community. They no longer have to walk far distances or move to continue their education. I saw the smiling faces of their youth and experienced a celebration like no other in their village. You can read about and see photos of my experiences in Verdara HERE.
When I reached Kenya, I was met by the warm handshake and laughter of the Masaai people. I explored the daily life of the community, along with their struggles and victories. Here I learned the value of community. I saw their thirst for education, carried water buckets and practiced how to throw a rungu. By the time I reached the bottom of Africa, the fundraising for the schoolhouse in Esinoni, Kenya was complete. I knew we would make the final goal with continued hard work and support. You can read about my days in the Masaai Mara with Me to We HERE.
In the Andean mountains of Ecuador, I pedalled on up to the community of Shuid. Here I saw the struggles of mountain life mix with natural beauty. I was met by Ryan and his generous team. The views were spectacular and the need the same. The dichotomy of all these places truly amazed me. Later that week as I pedalled into Quito, I wondered about the little community on the side of the mountain. I walked about a glimmering shopping mall in search of some peanut butter for the road, wondering about the hard divisions that separate our world. Seeing all that their city counterparts had, I knew that achieving the goal here was more important than ever. Now the two-storey building is nearing completion thanks to my countless sponsors. To read about my experiences in Shuid CLICK HERE.
On the dog days stretch of Central America, I burned into Nicaragua after a 8 day ride from Panama City. I was feeling the push for home. The end was in sight, but I knew I had unfinished business. The two years on the road had taken a toll on my mind and body. I was stronger than ever physically, but my mind was wavering. Once I met my friend Camillo from WE Charity and biked down to the community of El Trapiche with a group of boys, my resolve was stronger than ever. The $50,000 mark would be no problem at all. I returned to Canada with a mission and after a few short weeks the final goal came on a day just like any other. A feeling I can now proudly share with all of my sponsors. You can read about my time in El Trapiche HERE.
You can get involved with WE Charity or experience your own ME to WE journey by CLICKING HERE.
“He who allows his day to pass by without practicing generosity & enjoying life’s pleasures…breathes but does not live.” ~ Sanskrit Proverb
I have now returned to a life of a little more comfort. There is food in my fridge and a warm bed waiting for me each day. I have my wife, family and friends close by. All the little things that many of us take for granted, have been returned to me once again. But we always want what we can’t have. I still look at maps from time to time and have burst of nostalgia that almost hurts. When I ride my old beat-up bike to and fro I feel the pedals looking for the next hill. In some moments I wished I went a little bit slower or spent a day longer here or a week there. Sometimes, I wish I was still out there with the morning sun, evening stars, my tent and four bags. But, that was one adventure. Everything happened the exact way it should have. Had I stayed one place longer, I would have missed one person or another that directly changed the course of my journey and in turn the future of my life. I am on the next adventure and I can’t wait. No regrets. It was the ride of a lifetime.
I will never forget a feeling I had one night two weeks into my trip. While laying awake in my tent, I was looking at a map of China and the world. I had skirted a small slice of the monster that was China and put a pinprick on the world. I was going nowhere fast. I was terrified, alone and feeling down. I had left everything behind to pursue some crazy dream that looked better on paper than it was looking at this moment in real life. I took a deep breath and felt the world crashing down on me. I suddenly found that the idea of the whole world was too big. They journey was going to be too much to handle if I kept looking at it in this way. It was in this moment that I decided to live each day as it came. Forget about the long off finish line. This moment forever changed the rest of my ride and the happiness I felt in my interactions on a daily basis. Sometimes, I still need to remind myself of these moments as I pick away at my book and my goals for the future. One day at a time.
We too can all achieve great things with time, patience and a little help. I believe that with hard work and dedication, anything can be achieved in time. Without the help of all my donors, I would never have been able to get through some of the wild and difficult places that were thrown at me along the way. Without those days and the people who came at the right time, I would not be who I am today. For everyone that helped make a difference and construct the five schools in China, India, Kenya, Ecuador and Nicaragua, thank you. On behalf of all the people we have helped, a boisterous thank you. For believing in me, I humbly thank you all.
*Please see the inspiring full update from the good people at WE Charity (Free the Children) below as well as my YouTube video from around the world.
**In my following posts I will begin by highlighting some of the truly awesome people that I met on my way around the world. It is my duty now to share their stories and their world.
***To see my charity page from the journey and a rolling list of all the wonderful donors, schools and businesses, please CLICK HERE.
****You can also check out my alternate website at www.tinysbest.com.
My Cycling Journey Around the World
Gord Downie at WE Day
A Ten Minute Read
When you meet that special person in your life there is nothing which can separate your worlds. Many years ago when I was working in Sanya, China I met the love of my life. Not long ago I returned from China with a small group of family and friends for our wedding. I am now married to my best friend and the girl who will help share the rest of my days. It is an incredible feeling as we embark on the new adventure in life together.
Only a few people I know were able to attend the wedding China, so I will share with you a little bit of what exactly it is like to get married in China. We wanted our wedding to be traditional Chinese, so many of the aspects may seem strange or foreign. The whole experience was a learning curve for me as well. Enjoy the beauty in the difference.
I woke early on the day of my Chinese wedding. The last week had been a blur of meeting people, preparing for a wedding and getting to learn a little bit more about my new family. It was raining lightly outside. There I spent a quiet moment in my wedding room. Soon the wonderful chaos of the day would begin. It was a day I had been looking forward to for a long time. I knew it would not disappoint.
Not long after people started to arrive at my room. Family and friends from both sides. We shared a bit of a quick breakfast and tidied the room for the day. It had been decorated with nearly a hundred balloons, Chinese decorations and streamers. A new set of red silk sheets was put on my wedding bed, as is the tradition and I put on my special outfit for the day. Friends were given noise makers and we prepared to take the walk down to get Eliza.
As is the Chinese tradition, the groom must go pick up the bride at a separate location before the wedding day begins. Most weddings take place in hotels these days, so instead of picking her up at her parent’s house, I picked her up at room down the hall from me. However, it is not as easy as just knocking on the door and bringing her back. There was a laundry list of tasks laid before me.
With my cohort, I made my way down the hall at 9:30a.m. I arrive to a decorated door and a lot of noise on the other side. I brought with me a large amount of envelopes called ‘Hongbao’. These would serve essentially as bribes for the girls guarding the door to let me inside. I slipped a few under the door and then a few more and eventually had to push my way inside after being told to sing a Chinese song. When I came through the door I continued to be attacked for ‘Hongbao’ until I made my way to the centre of the room.
I stood at the foot of the bed before my beautiful fiancée. She looked gorgeous in her outfit wearing a variety of bright jewellery. In order to be allowed to take her from the room, I had to go through a few more challenges, that if I lost would cost me more Hongbao. First, I had to find two of her shoes hidden somewhere in the room. One was found by my brother in a pillow case and second was actually jammed inside the Majhong table. The next challenge was to eat a banana with the help of my friends. This was easily my most hated event, as the banana got closer and closer to the end. Then I was told to do twenty push-ups with one hand, which was surprisingly easier than I thought it would be in my insanely hot robe. Then I had three chances to find the correct end to a tangle of ribbons tied to her arm. The final challenge was to kneel on a bunch of Majhong playing pieces and put on her two shoes.
At the end of it all I picked her up and we bowed before her parents. I gave them my Hongbao, as is tradition, and Eliza got on my back in order for me to carry her back to my room. In Chinese tradition the bride is not allowed to touch the floor during this time as I took her from her bed to the bed in my room. As we left the room the hallway was filled with the loud sound of exploding noise makers bearing rose pedals and the bustle of getting back to my room. In my heavy robe, I was sweating like crazy as I carried her like a mule back to my room.
When we arrived it was time for pictures of multiple combinations. At one point I was launched into the air for a photo and nearly hit the ceiling. At this time Eliza was to change into another outfit, while myself along with family and friends were to head down to the wedding hall. It was my duty to greet the people attending the wedding.
As is typical of a Chinese wedding when people arrive at a wedding they give their hongbao to a central table. At our wedding they were returned a nice gift and each man received a cigar which I brought from Canada. Usually, all men receive a cigarette, but seeing is how I do not smoke, I thought this was a little better.
So there I stood, greeting the 150 guests in attendance while the final preparations were made for the ceremony. The people filed to their seats with rain drops on their shoulders from outside. In the corner of my eye I saw Eliza come down and remain hidden by the doorway as the ceremony was set to begin. The MC began the call for quiet and people to return to their seats.
The wedding started with two dancers along the catwalk of the stage. Eliza’s cousins, performing a beautiful dance as we approached the steps to the stage. It was my job to guide her for the first part of the wedding ceremony, as her head was covered in a traditional veil, which she could not see through. We climbed the stage and began to walk holding the red silk ribbon, a symbol of our bond. Over a wooden saddle I guided her, which would keep us safe year after year. Then finally we stepped over a fire pan as we walked to the centre stage of the catwalk.
Our parents came to the stage. We bowed three times and then once to our parents. At this time, I was able to remove the veil with a stick, in a three part fashion. The crowd applauded for the beautiful bride. Our parents were seated and we poured them tea in the traditional fashion. They accepted the tea and returned our Hongbao and went back to their seats.
I put a strand of Eliza’s hair in a box, to ensure we loved each other until our hair turns grey and exchanged a small gift. One of the final acts was to drink a traditional fermented beverage in a lover’s fashion with arms linked. After all was complete we bowed for our friends on the left, in the middle and our friends from Canada. The wedding ceremony was complete and we headed for our seats.
There was then a speech from my father, Eliza’s father, myself and Eliza. The speeches were translated into Chinese and English so everyone would understand how important this day was to all. Eliza’s speech moved the crowd and brought most to tears. It was a very emotional time as I could feel the words she spoke and a sense of pride at all of the planning coming together in the end of the day. We had done it and now we were together.
After the wonderful and moving speeches my brother on guitar, my mother on vocals, a talented neighbour also named Mark on piano and myself on the djembe played Ed Sheeran’s – Thinking Out Loud. The cameras went up and we played through to the crowd. The second song was done by my brother and our neighbour Mark. The amazing difference was that the song was in Chinese. A famous song entitled, ‘The Brightest Star in the Sky’ by Escape Plan. I was so proud of how hard they worked on this song and their dedication to learn a song in a completely new language.
They were followed by a very cool breakdance by the MC, where he did a backflip. The final performance was Eliza’s mother who sang a beautiful Chinese song in a captivating tone. By this time all of the food was on the table and the MC gave the cue to have all the chopsticks brought out. Dinner and drinks were served to all 150 guests. It was my duty to go with Eliza and cheers all of the tables at the wedding.
Not long after people started to pay their respects and say goodbye. By the time the wedding lunch was all over it was around 3pm. We returned to our rooms to rest and prepare for the small dinner with around 50 guests that night and the karaoke afterwards. A Chinese wedding is a full day event. I cannot thank everyone for all of the work that went into making our celebration a beautiful memory. It is one of those days that will live in my memory forever. Thank you to all of the friends near and far that made our day so special. Though a wedding may only be single day, it represents a beautiful union that my wife and I will share forever.
A Glimpse Into Our Wedding Day by Video (Photos Below)
*Please stay tuned as I prepare to release a new series in the coming days. As I made my way around the world I got to meet a good number of amazing people along the way. Some I only spent a few minutes with, others a few days and weeks. It is here I would like to share their stories. For me, meeting the people along the way was the most inspiring part of the journey. The people that welcomed me into their homes or just stopped to have a chat will forever be etched in my mind. For that past few years, you have heard of my love for travel and the spinning world. Now, please welcome their love for life and peer into what makes them so special. I look forward to reading as much as you.
**I apologize that posts have been sparse recently. It has been quite busy since I returned from China. I started a new job, I moved and my father was ill. However, I have never settled into a different pace of life and a new exciting adventure. I still plan to continue on with my book and will be launching a new website in the coming weeks. Back on track towards new and exciting goals.
***To check out one of my current side projects, look up www.tinysbest.com for more information on how you can place on order or check out products for delicious and healthy Chicken Jerky.
****Look for an update from Free the Children (WE Charity) in the very near future on all five of our school projects. Thank you to everyone that has donated over the past few years. Together we have achieved a beautiful change. 🙂
Escape Plan ~ The Brightest Star in the Sky (Wedding Song)
Ed Sheeran ~ Thinking Out Loud (Wedding Song)
(My Gear: Post-Trip)
“He who would travel happily must travel light.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Travel Writer
When I set out from China on my journey around the world, one of the hardest things was choosing what to bring with me. I had my four bags laid out on my bed and a mound of stuff that I thought I needed to take with me. I spent months before I left figuring out just the right stuff to bring on the trip. I am not sure what you would pack for two years, but it is easier said than done.
Before, I had done a number of lightweight trips that usually lasted a few weeks to a month. However, on most of those trips I didn’t need to be self-sufficient. They were also much shorter than the journey I was about to undertake. I knew I needed equipment that would last and would be durable in the rough conditions ahead. In most of China though, outdoor adventure stores are a niche market and expensive. As a result, I had to navigate Chinese websites to get all of my gear ordered online. With the help of my teaching assistant in China, I was able to do just that. It was a headache of a process, but I learned a lot.
Finally, with all of my gear laid out on my bed, I packed it up into my four bags with a tent. When I plopped it all on my bike, I felt the weight of all that stuff. After a heartfelt goodbye, I was off riding along with this monstrous load of weight in the sweltering heat of the South China summer. After a hard first day of riding, I was shattered. My bags were far too heavy.
That night I unpacked everything from my bags. I took everything I truly didn’t need and gave it away. For a week, I did the same thing almost every day and lightened my load to the point where I only carried what I truly needed. Periodically, I would go through my gear as seasons changed and my needs. Eventually, I rid myself of all unnecessary items. By the end of the journey, every single item had a purpose and a place. It was liberating. I could move faster, longer and happier. Freeing yourself from shackles of things, allows you to see the world around you as it is. It allows you to see the face of travel as it was meant to be seen.
“On a long journey even a straw weighs heavy.” ~ Spanish Proverb
There are many ways that you yourself can travel cheap, light and smart. I will dive more into how to travel cheaply in the future, but in many ways what you pack can directly impact the cost of your trip. This will make more sense later. The most important part, for myself, has always been to travel light. This allows you to have an increase in mobility throughout your journey. After traveling to over 60 countries, most of which was done lightly as possible, I have learned a few things from my different adventures. I will break down packing tips and tricks into a few categories below, with a bit of practical context for each. Remember, in many ways, what you own in turn owns you.
(The only souvenirs I collect, besides memories & photos. I suppose I would be a mild collector, with all the bills from the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, Saddam from Iraq, a Pakistani collection, old Russian rubbles & Chinese bills before Mao, as well as an extensive collection of all countries I have been to and more)
1. Travel Light:
It is easy to travel light if you know a little bit about where you are going. Look at your upcoming trip. Do some research. Google is your friend and easy to use. Where are you going? What season is it? Will you need a winter jacket or will just a T-Shirt be fine, even at night? How long are you going for? What type of trip are you headed out on? Are you going for a week or a month? Will you be moving your bags a whole bunch? Are you planning on camping or staying in nice hotels? These are all things to consider when thinking about what you may pack for your trip.
If you are wondering if you will be able to buy something related to clothing, the answer is yes. If you are going anywhere outside North America or Europe, things will generally be cheaper to pick up on the fly. In most cases, aside from specialized equipment, you will be able to find almost anything in the country you are headed to. I do understand that if you are on a shorter trip, chances are you’re not going to be interested in looking for a power adapter or a new pair of socks the moment you arrive. Weather and seasons aside, here are a few packing tips to save space, weight and mental breakdown with your luggage.
Roll your clothes. This frees up more space for other more important items. Packing what is needed goes a long way to avoid lugging around a heavy bag or suitcase for weeks on end. For two years I had only 3 shirts, 3 pairs of socks, 2 shorts, 2 long sleeve shirts, 2 pairs underwear, 2 hats, 2 buffs, 1 toque, 1 pair of mitts, 1 pair long johns, 1 sweater, 1 pair of cycling shorts and 1 set of lightweight rain gear. This all fit into one small bag at the front of my bike. On my other trips where the weather was consistently warmer and I did not need to camp, I packed much less than this. Time and time again I have seen backpackers on short trips with double what I packed for two years. Most only stay in hostels and rarely need more than a T-shirt and a pair of shorts. What the heck do they have in those bags? Pack what you need.
Again, check the weather for the season and know where you are going. It is easy also to wash your clothes as you travel. A bit of laundry soap and travel clothes line or even a piece of rope can go a long way. Wash your clothes when you have the chance in a sink. Most places I stayed for a day off had at least a fan, things dry quickly and you save a bit of money. Even if you are going on a week-long trip, you can save time and money by washing your clothes yourself. You can also save time by just taking a carry-on backpack. You don’t need to wait for your bags after getting off the plane, you just get to go. Aside from moving to China and South Korea, I have never traveled with anything besides a small backpack. You beat the rush at immigration and you’re off on your adventure before everyone else gets their bags.
First Five Tips:
-Bring only what you will actually need
-You can get the little things later
-Roll your clothes to save space
-Pack for the occasion, not the end of the world
-Know the seasons & where you’re going
2. Travel Smart:
There are many items that you can bring that will make your trip much more enjoyable and safe. Bring a small lock with a key. If you are not staying in some fancy hotel with safety deposit box, then you will need to have peace of mind when going out for the day. Chances are you are not interested in lugging all of your things around each day, especially if you are hiking a mountain or walking long distances. In any hostel, there should be locker, where you can use the lock I just mentioned. You will likely be sharing a room with 8-10 people and sometimes you won’t even meet most of them. It is hard to know what everyone is thinking.
When there were no lockers, I pushed my bags underneath the bed and locked the most important bag. Nothing ever went missing. I have heard all of the horror stories about people being robbed. In most cases, in my opinion, people were doing something they shouldn’t have. Leaving a phone on a table in a busy restaurant, taking expensive cameras to a market, going to a bar late in a bad part of town and leaving a bag at a table to go to the bathroom. All of these people were robbed and they wonder why it happened.
Throughout my two years on the bicycle around the world and all of my other travels, I have only had two things stolen from me. My bicycle tools in Peru and a travel towel (little bit gross) in China. Truly inexpensive items, though slightly annoying things to replace. Maybe because I always looked poor, people left me alone. There are still a number of things you can do to prevent theft. One is trying not to look like a ridiculous tourist. Wear what you would normally wear and bring what you would normally use for a domestic trip back home. That way your clothes will be familiar and you don’t look like a target. There are people who make a living out of this type of thievery. In most cases, you will be fine.
If you are worried about your health, pack medicines and health items which are versatile. Check the health warning and any vaccinations you may need for an area. Even if something terrible does go wrong, I assure you, health services are better than you think in most countries. If you have adequate insurance then you should be covered, if anything goes terribly wrong. Don’t over pack on the medicines. You can get most of the same things for coughs, sore throats and diarrhea in any country. A basic medical kit is all that you need. Take regular vitamins to stay healthy, especially when you cannot access healthy foods and take care of your body.
For two years I carried the same bit of pills and medical equipment around the world. I rarely used any of it. I was only truly sick twice during that time. For all of the terrible places I ate and the worn out rough conditions I was through, I think that is pretty darn good. Along the way I ate a ton of garlic and onions, took my vitamins and ate healthy whenever possible. Preventative measures are the best way to keep the doctor away. It also helps you lighten the load and maintain a healthy mood. No one likes getting sick on a holiday. Take care of yourself before your go and while you are abroad.
Also, don’t forget a good set of earplugs. Much of the world is quite noisy, especially in the developing world. A decent set plugs will save you a good night sleep and your enjoyment the following day.
Five More Tips:
-Bring a lock
-Look like a normal person
-Don’t do dangerous things
-Pack only necessary medicines
3. Extended Travel:
There a good number of key items that will allow you to cut down costs, save space and make your trip more liberating. For myself, the number one thing on any adventure trip is the camp stove. You can get a lightweight stove that runs off liquid gas for less than 80$ at your local camping outlet. Over time, this little invention will save you much more in terms of food costs as well as mobility of where you can travel freely. The stoves are easy to carry and less than a dollar to fill up. I used regular unleaded gas, because it is available everywhere. It is the most beneficial item you can have if you are on an extended trip into expensive or far off places of the world. Also bring a small knife, plate and lightweight pot. A spork is a handy tool for eating on the road and useful for stirring your pasta or rice. You won’t be able to cook the most amazing meal in the world, but I have whipped up some pretty satisfying things on the fly.
Bring a lightweight and easy to set up tent. Again this only pertains to extended travel, but that tent, like the stove, will allow you to be out in the wild. If that’s what you like, the tent will allow you to experience nature and the people who live in those parts of the world. Free camping is exactly that, free. There are only a few occasions on my trip around the world where I agreed to pay for camping. When I rode my motorbike around Mongolia, I never did. It depends on the country and the type of comfort you are looking for with your travels. People are kind, so say hello. They will almost always allow you to camp on a patch of land near their home. I have a rule of always asking, if I don’t know. Gives you peace of mind while you sleep. You never know, you may even make a new lifelong friend.
A good sleeping bag. You can now get very warm and tightly packed sleeping bag that will allow you to sleep comfortably anywhere. In some places where I found the cheaper hotel beds to be completely filthy, (ie India and Ethiopia), a sleeping bag also comes in handy to separate yourself from the unclean sheets that won’t be cleaned even if you ask. Forget packing the bulky travel pillow and roll up your sweater or your towel for a fairly soft place to lay your head. If money is an issue, the more you save on buying the best of everything, will allow you to do what you came to do. Travel.
Lightweight electronics. Forget the huge laptop at home and invest in a small tablet or use your phone. This does not include a nice camera, if taking pictures is what is really important to you. The worst part about electronics though, is charging them. There are now many types of external battery sources from solar, electric and even self-powered energy devices. Find the one best suited for your trip and it will allow you to still stay connected in far off places and even enjoy your music.
Obviously with all of this stuff your bag is getting a bit heavier, but if you are going on a long enough trip with a budget and seeking adventure, I believe all of these items are liberating and will return their weight in cost and memories over time. Though it weighs more, I recommend bringing some sort of journal for those extended trips and making a point of writing as often as possible. It only takes a few moments to fill a page. Online blogs are nice, but there are certainly things you would write in a journal that you wouldn’t publishing online. It isn’t for anyone but yourself. You will likely be the only one interested in looking back later at your former self. On any long journey, always remember to bring an open mind. This can be the most important thing of all.
Last 5 Tips:
-A Journal & An Open Mind
These are just a few points to get you going in the right direction for your next trip. If you would like to learn more about these topics or have questions about travel in general, please don’t hesitate to send me an email at email@example.com. Until next time, take care, travel light and live for the adventure.
*Now that we have reached our goal for five schoolhouses in five different countries, an update is underway by the good people at Free the Children (WE Charity). I look forward to sharing the full update on the progress of all five schools in China, India, Kenya, Ecuador and Nicaragua with all over my sponsors. Stay tuned!
**If you didn’t see my new video from cycling around the world, you can check it out below, or even just watch it again! 🙂
A Three Minute Read
(NOT INCLUDING THE VIDEO BELOW)
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch, Author
Looking back at old clips from my journey around the world, it transports me to a different time. It evokes a feeling of wonder inside, at all I went through to reach my final goal. Now looking back, it has all started to feel like a dream from yesterday’s past. Going through the thousands of hours of footage, one of the most important messages continues to jump out at me. It was always about what was in-between and never about the destination. I am happy that I learned this lesson very early on. Looking back on these videos of challenging, bright, tiring and beautiful days, I can honestly say it was worth it all.
Please take a look at my cycling video around the world. It was shot on my GoPro Hero 3+ and my DSLR Camera. For two years I kept the same mount and recorded it whenever I was able to do so. I have used those thousands of hours of footage and compiled it into a single video. I take you on a first person perspective journey around the world. Through 40 countries and five continents, from China back to Canada. Enjoy the wonder that this is our world. The struggle, strength and power of the human experience. A tour on two wheels.
The Video: 2 Year GoPro Bicycle Adventure Around the World
*We totally did it. The ultimate goal of $50,000 to help build five schools in five different countries around the world is complete. Now that we have met our goal for the fifth schoolhouse in El Trapiche, Nicaragua, the good people at Free the Children (WE Charity) are working on a full update. This review will include all five schools in China, India, Kenya, Ecuador and Nicaragua. It is a big update so it will take a bit of time. Once it is out I will be sharing it will all of my sponsors. Thank you everyone!
**You can see the completed donation page for yourself by CLICKING HERE.
***I will be condensing the video into a more succinct version for future presentations and speaking engagements, complete with all of my own music. In the meantime, you can check out videos, articles and podcasts on my ‘Media’ page HERE.
****If you are interested in learning more about my new side project, making healthy and delicious original recipe ‘Chicken Jerky’. CLICK HERE to check out my new website.
A Ten Minute Read
“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.
“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.
*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.
A Twenty-Two Minute Read
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?
“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.
“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. 🙂
*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! 🙂
On the road to success there are always obstacles that will stand in your way. Some will seem like they are impossible to overcome, while others will just be minor annoyances. Overcoming these roadblocks are all part of the larger struggle that leads to new avenues of personal development. Change in the face of opposition can be the hardest mountain to overcome. But, with determination, all good things will come to light.
After over twenty-three months on the road I have finally completed my journey around the world. However, it does not stop there. My trip continues on in my heart and my mind. There are a good many things I still have left to share and a message I want to make known to the world. The bicycle served as a guidance system to bring me through the challenges I needed to face. In many ways, the ride was more of a mental struggle than any other aspect. It was a daily obstacle course that involved split second decisions and chance encounters. I believe that the game of life is no different. We just do not see the consequences of our actions as quickly. The impact of our actions are in fact compounded over time.
In the quiet moments over the last few days, I have had periods to contemplate the ride. Sometimes I think I have a handle on all of the things that happened over the last two years and in other moments it seems to just be a cloudy dream. Images of people and places jump out like stalking lions. Some lay on in plain view. It will take some time to make sense of all that has happened. I have taken the messages from the road and know what obstacles I must overcome to move on. At the moment I am encouraging people to, ‘Find Your Bicycle Ride.’
You can check out the recent story on my completed ride and homecoming by Global News Canada by CLICKING HERE.
“The great thing about the United States and the historically magnetic effect it has had on a lot of people like me is its generosity, to put it simply.” ~ Christopher Hitchens, English American Author
Our story picks up at the Mexican border post in Brownsville, Texas. Crossing over from Mexico was like stepping into another world. The affluence of the United States instantly blew me away. Throughout my journey stepping into a new country was always different. However, sometimes the changes were more apparent than others. Instantly people spoke English and I understood the world around me much better. In Southern United States there is still a heavy Spanish influence, but most people are able to speak English well. It really felt like I was coming home.
After a quick and relatively painless border check, I went to stay with some old friends who I hadn’t seen in five years, David and Diana. We had all taught English together in South Korea. During my break my good friends ensured I got a taste of American culture through some of the awesome food, sights and events in the area. It was a wonderful time catching up with them. Almost as if we had never been apart of one another. I even made the front page of the Brownsville Herald and was awarded a special honour from the Mexican consulate thanks to their help. It felt good to be with people who I had known from a different life. You can read the article in the Brownsville Herald HERE.
After a good rest and a hard goodbye, I was off cycling into a northern headwind. The landscape was flat and punctuated by massive ranches. On the first night I had rode all day and as the sun went down the wind began to pick up. I hid my bike and tent behind a wall of a ranch entrance, hoping no one would discover me in the night. Waking early the next morning I found that my water supply was running a bit low and no service stations were present at all. I saw a guy waiting in a rest area and asked him for water, to which he happily gave me a few bottles. Eventually I made it up to Corpus Christie and continued onwards through the beginnings of rolling hills. The views were quite pretty and the camping was fairly easy.
One evening in a small town the police said I was not allowed to camp in the local park. The sun was going down and I saw a man on his porch so I asked if I could camp. Mike said it would not be a problem as long as I didn’t cause any trouble. He made it be known that he had lots of guns and was not afraid to use them. Later that evening he came out to my tent with a huge venison steak, a couple sausages and tortillas for my morning breakfast. I was blown away and very thankful for his generosity. Throughout the United States I was taken in by people or the recipient of random acts of kindness just like this.
“A huge dollar bill is the most accurate way to teach children the real motto of the United States: In the Almighty Dollar We Trust… Until the average American realizes that capitalism damages her livelihood while augmenting the livelihoods of the wealthy, the Almighty Dollar will continue to rule. It certainly is not ruling in our favor.” ~ Kyrsten Sinema, American Politician
The following morning on I went north. Throughout my time in the United States I also spent a great deal of time getting caught up on my calories in the various gas stations. The excess and consumption was sometimes hard to handle after so long in countries where people struggle for the basic necessities. However, many people went far out of their way to help me through this section of my ride. It was humbling and endearing to witness. There are simply too many stories to share from this leg of the ride in a single post. I spent a great deal of time camping in trailer parks, where I met down to earth locals and people with genuinely curious smiles. I ate with rehabilitated criminals, chatted with remote farmers and shook hands with cycling enthusiasts from all over the United States.
On I went through Texas towards Arkansas. The hills continued to roll and the scenery was beautiful. I loved the roads through Arkansas with their wide shoulders and quiet swamps. One night I slept on the lawn of a family who brought me out beef stew and some ice cream bars. I was a happy camper as I passed my way through Arkansas experiencing the Southern hospitality. While resting outside a dollar store one afternoon, a man walked up to me and gave me a dollar. I tried to return it to him and explain that I did not need any charity, but he was not hearing it. When he came back from inside the store, he gave me a flashlight from his car and would not take no for an answer. What a guy.
Throughout the United States there were many people who walked up to me just to ask where I was coming from and where I might be going. Sometimes I did not want to get into the whole story, but if they were able to get it out of me, they usually did not believe it at first. I had gone to many countries on this trip that people are taught to fear. I continually tried to convey the message that even people in the ‘dangerous’ parts of the world are just that, people. Ninety-nine percent of people are not out to get you. Most would simply like to go about their business and be left alone to enjoy their lives. During the course of my journey I can say that people are not inherently bad. People become bad when they are pushed enough by internal and outside influences that cause them to rebel against certain factors. It is important to remember that the people throughout the world are not a statistic, but living breathing humans with similar wants, desires and dreams. We are all not that different.
Cruising along through Arkansas I eventually made it through a horrible crosswind along a flattened road to Memphis, Tennessee. I was in the house of Elvis and took my second day off since beginning my cycle across the United States towards Canada. With so many roads available, my route was continually changing. In most cases, the howling wind usually had a direct impact on where I ended up and who I met. Wherever I found myself at the end of the day, it always seemed right. It never felt as if I was lost or on the wrong track. There was always a new face to talk to or give me the motivation to continue onwards. Throughout the United States it was a mostly a mental battle I was waging against myself. I was trying to make it back to Canada in time to meet my lovely fiancee Eliza, who I had not seen in eight months. She was flying into Toronto and I needed to be there on time.
I rested up in Memphis and made my way onwards through spitting rain towards Kentucky. Very quickly the hills came rolling along with a ever increasing headwind. By the end of the day I got soaked in a cold rain. I was feeling low and miserable. Over the next few days this type of thing played on repeat with a cool northerly wind whipping across the landscape and hills that undulated for days. One evening I camped out in the yard of a retired Navy Veteran named Roy. He was a well travelled individual himself. We talked into the night about the history of Kentucky, shared travel tales and ate strawberries from his garden. I later found out he was a big fan of barbecued raccoon. Check out a few recipes for raccoon…HERE 😦
I left Roy’s house late in the morning after a second cup of coffee. I pushed onwards through roaring wind towards Indiana. As a made my way onwards I entertained myself with some FM radio after months of the same music on repeat. Biking through different regions allowed me to listen to a wide variety of music and genres. It was always entertaining as were the commercials. “Maybe your not fat, maybe you’re just bloated,” went the radio. “Take just one pill and see the results immediately.” I cracked a smile with the drone of the radio and advertisements in my ears.
“The United States gave me opportunities that my country of origin could not: freedom of the press and complete freedom of expression.” ~ Jorge Ramos, Mexican-American Author
Arriving in Indiana I pushed onwards towards Ohio and another friend’s home who I also taught with in South Korea. However, along the way I ran into a bit of bicycle trouble. My rear wheel seized one day on the side of a fairly busy highway. I pulled off the road and tried my best to fix the problem. I had been stubbornly fixing the same issue for months and it had finally given out. I was tired of repairing spokes and could not get the wheel to budge. I got the bike to the next service station and flagged down a ride to the nearest bike shop in the next town. I quickly got a new near rim, replacing the one that had rolled with me since Brazil. Truthfully, it owed me nothing at all. I continued on my way through Southern Indiana past a few ‘Donald Trump For President’ signs.
Later that same day, I got a flat. This was nothing new, as I was getting multiple flats almost every single day on my bald old tires purchased in Panama City. After patching the tube, that was now looking like swiss cheese, my bicycle pump broke. I was stuck on the side of the road again with no air and a very flat tire. As I was debating what to do, a man rolled up in a convertible. His name was Jim Jones and he offered to help me out. Stuck at the time, I welcomed his help. With the bike loaded up in his convertible we were off to get a new pump for my bike. Along the way, with the wind in our hair, he told me that he lost his leg on the very same highway when a transport truck hit him on the side of the road the previous year. His story of survival was amazing. As we drove he offered for me to join his family for a pizza, pasta and salad buffet. It was like a dream come true. We had dinner and shared some stories together.
After dinner we got the bicycle pump and he had originally planned to drop me off near where I left off. However, it was getting late. Jim suggested I come stay with him and his wife for the night. I was thrilled at the opportunity. When I arrived his wife was just getting home and she quickly welcomed me in as well. I was able to get a nice shower, wash my clothes and a soft bed for the night. I was blown away by this man. Even with his recent disabling accident, he had a lust for life and a genuine care for his fellow human. Saying goodbye the following morning was difficult, when he dropped me back off near where he found me the previous day. On I rolled towards Ohio with a heart full of hope and wonder for our world.
I had a good start on the day and had hoped to make it to my friend’s Zach and Bethany in two days. However, once I got rolling I decided to turn those two days into one. I arrived in Miamisburg, Ohio at 9pm after a huge 178km day over rolling hills and a crosswind. I was tuckered out and very excited to see some familiar faces once again. It was so nice to catch up with old friends and share some stories from old days working back in South Korea. I took two full days off to rest after my haul up from Memphis and was even treated to dinner at a Korean restaurant for old times sake.
From Zach and Bethany’s it was a long three day ride through the rest of Northern Ohio on into Michigan. I put in some big days and camped out along the side of the road. The wind was in my favour for once and pushed me forward through the final stretch of the United States. The terrain was almost entirely flat, so the long days were a little easier to handle. On the final few hours of my ride through the states I had to pass through the busy morning traffic of Detroit. At one point I ran into some construction, hit a patch of water and then a patch of gravel. Before I knew it, I had crashed and was rolling across the pavement. I was not impressed. I said I would replace my worn out tires as soon as possible back in Canada.
Finally, the Ambassador Bridge leading across the Detroit River to Windsor came into view. Even with my recent crash I was excited about my return back to Canadian soil. I wound around a loop of trucks and traffic as I made my way up the bridge. When I was nearing the halfway point of the bridge, a security lady jumped out of her truck, stopping both lanes of traffic. She yelled at me to get into the truck and put my bike in the back. The surly traffic police woman claimed I was not allowed to bike on the bridge. I had never had this problem my entire trip and was a bit annoyed. Especially, since her blocking both sides of traffic made the situation even more dangerous for everyone in the process. We got in the truck eventually and I asked her to just drive me the rest of the way across the bridge to Canada. She said, “no”, it wasn’t possible as I was on the American side of the bridge.
When I arrived back at customs no one was pleased to see me. I sat down in the group of other ‘randomly selected’ people and waited for the them to figure out what to do with me. I apologized for breaking the rules, I did not know existed, and was told to go down to the tunnel where I could get a shuttle to the other side. Apparently, biking back to Canada was not going to be a possibility. I came outside with all of my belongs gone through on a table. Begrudgingly, I put things back together and was off towards the tunnel. I asked if I could bike under the tunnel, but was told I had to wait for the shuttle. A bit annoyed once again, I waited for the shuttle and the ten minute ride over to Canada.
When I arrived back I was greeted by a few friendly border guards who asked a bit about my journey. They laughed when I told the story about the bridge. We all wondered why they just wouldn’t let me go. In total it was over 3,000km in twenty-two days of cycling through the states. I moved like the wind up from Mexico and had the massive expanse of beautiful country behind me. From customs I rode out into a sunny afternoon. I pointed my bike in the direction of home and let my pedals do the talking. It was good to be back. 🙂
*I am proud to announce with the recent outpouring of support from schools all around the Eastern Ontario region we are less than $3,000 from the final goal for the fifth school in El Trapiche, Nicaragua with Free the Children. This is like a dream come true not only for myself but mostly importantly for the young people we are helping around the world. A few donations are still to be posted online. #BeTheChange PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE.
**After arriving home I have been busy speaking about my ride. If you would like to have me talk about my experiences in your area please contact myself at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a date. I use my ride as a platform to help others, ‘Find Their Bicycle Ride.’
***To view the live interview I did last week with CTV Morning Live PLEASE CLICK HERE.
****Thank you to everyone near and far who have made my journey a wonderful success. To my family, fiancee, friends and online supporters who have made my trip an unforgettable experience, I cannot thank you enough. I will be sharing the final leg of the journey home through Canada in a post coming soon. Please stay tuned and thank you for following along! 🙂