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Year in Review: Reflections from Cycling the World

“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.

Back to Kenya: Basic to Beautiful with ME to WE

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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.

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“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.

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*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.

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2-Year GoPro Bicycle Adventure Around the World

 

 

 

The Five Villages: Our Impact and the $50,000 Goal

An Twelve Minute Read

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“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.

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“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

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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.

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*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.

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My Cycling Journey Around the World

Gord Downie at WE Day

 

 

A Chinese Wedding Story: Mark & Eliza

A Ten Minute Read

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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.

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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)

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*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. 🙂

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Escape Plan ~ The Brightest Star in the Sky (Wedding Song)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzuy63eCUKc

Ed Sheeran ~ Thinking Out Loud (Wedding Song)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lp-EO5I60KA

2-Year Bicycle Journey Around the World Captured on a GoPro

A Three Minute Read

(NOT INCLUDING THE VIDEO BELOW)

DCIM103GOPRO

“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

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*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.

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #1

A Seven Minute Readimage22-e1422877813997

(Dancing in India: Verdara, Rajasthan)

Lesson #1- You are the Only You: Be Yourself

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, Writer

—-> Of all the messages I learned around the world, I believe this is the most important one of all. Just be yourself. Out in the wild reaches of our Earth I was forced to come to terms with who I was. On those long days, the bicycle allowed me to come face-to-face with my own shortcomings, failures and things I would like to improve. It taught me about who I was as a person and who I would like to be in the future.

When things went wrong during my trip, I had no one to blame but myself. If I didn’t pack enough food or water, took a horrible road or forgot to buy extra bike parts. In those moments, I got to experience myself just as I was. Things went wrong quite often. In the beginning, I would get stressed out about the little things. Soon I came to realize that it was all part of the puzzle that was this adventure. A new personality began to take shape. When I was alone, if something went terribly wrong there was no one to complain to. I usually said nothing and got on with fixing the problem or finding a solution. There was no one there to keep me motivated. I had to figure things out myself.

I believe that knowing ourselves is the most important thing we can have in life. However, in the modern age with all of the distractions and busy lives it is hard to cut through the noise. Past the advertisements, Facebook pages and familial influences, there is a person that is just you. Getting past all of the outside influences can be tough, but there is a great deal we can learn from ourselves.

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” ~ Dr. Seuss, Writer

For two years I was stuck with myself. On that type of trip, you have to know who you are before setting out. I had already done a great deal of group and solo travel beforehand. I always found that I do better on my own. Sometimes it is hard to like yourself all of the time. But, if you always need other people around, you never get down to the true spirit of your personal being.

Remember you are an individual. You are your own person. You have the power to control your future and be whomever you would like to be. Don’t forget to be you.

My 10 Lessons From Cycling the World:

Lesson #10 ~ Everything Will Never Be Perfect: So Start Today

Lesson #9 ~ You Don’t Need All That Stuff: Cherish What You Have

Lesson #8 ~ The World is NOT Scary: Travel

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

Lesson #6 ~ Times Will Change: So Will You

Lesson #5 ~ The World is Full of Delicious Food: Have a Taste

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

Lesson #3 ~ Never Give Up: It’s Not That Bad

Lesson #2 ~ People Are Friendly: Say Hello

Lesson #1 ~ You are the Only You: Be Yourself

Thank you for reading all the way to the end. I believe all ten of these lessons do not just pertain to a bicycle ride, but are part of a much larger picture of how we can live. Take care of yourself, explore and be the best person you can be.

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*Two days ago we reached the final goal for the fifth school in El Trapiche and the ultimate goal of $50,000. I am overwhelmed with the support over the course of the last two years. Additions are always welcome and will be put towards work in developing the community of El Trapiche. Updates on all of five of our schools to come soon! CLICK DONATE.

** Stay tuned for future posts and thank you for continuing to read!

Can We Auto-Correct Humanity?

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #2

A Five Minute Readimage27-e1459911284563

(The Cycling Crew: El Trapiche, Nicaragua)

Lesson #2- People Are Friendly: Say Hello

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” ~ Desmond Tutu, Social Activist

—-> Ni Hao, Tashi Delek, Salaam Alaikum, Privet, Namaste, Ç’Kemi, Ciao, Bongu, Jambo, Moni, Hallo, Bonjour & Hola. All of these mean the same thing. Hello or greetings. The most important word in the beginning of a conversation with someone I had never met before. Hello is the link that separates us from strangers and finding new friends. That simple exchange has left me with friends from all parts of the planet. The worst part of ‘Hello’ is ‘Goodbye’.

We have the notion that the world is full of horrible people. If you watch the evening news, that is what we would be made to believe. You hear pieces of the good and a full dose of the bad. Countries throughout the world are painted with a broad stroke of the media’s brush. They do not show the normal people that live in these countries. Places are vilified because of a few individuals and greedy governments.

The most welcoming countries on my journey were Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Sudan, South Africa, Paraguay, Colombia, and Mexico. These are typically all places you do not hear much about in the world. The only time you do hear anything about these locations, are when terrible things happen. When was the last time you heard a positive story out of Sudan? But, I assure you that the vast 99.9% of people there are kind and welcoming. I have never felt so at home in a country, that was so foreign.

Parking my bike on the side of the road and walking up to a person I said ‘Salam Alaikum’ (Peace be unto you) then asked for a safe place to sleep. With a curious smile whomever I asked quickly assured me I would have a safe place to sleep. Oftentimes, the places I slept were right out in the open, a few feet from the road. I never felt the least bit uncomfortable. No one ever even thought of saying no and often whisked me off for dinner or into their home for the night.

Throughout my journey, I said ‘Hello’ in dozens of languages to thousands of people. Almost none of them treated me unfairly. Mostly, I was met with unconditional kindness and genuine curiosity. People I had just met welcomed me into their home, gave me a place to sleep, food to eat and water to drink. We shared stories, smiles and laughter.

It all started with a ‘Hello’. Don’t be afraid to take that first step.

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*We have now reached the fundraising goal for fifth and final schoolhouse in El Trapiche, Nicaragua for a grand total of $50,000. I can’t say how thankful I am to everyone for their wonderful contributions. Thank you to the last three donations by Chris & Doug Good, my wonderful fiancee Eliza as well as the final donor Marina Quattrocchi, to take us to the $50,000. Over the course of over two years, there have been more than 300 indiviudal donors. I am happy to report that our fundraising journey for ‘One Adventure Please’ has met our ultimate goal. This type of dream is something I never imagined we would achieve when I set out on this adventure. It really shows you the power of collective action. Thank you for making change a reality for the kids in El Trapiche, Nicaragua as well as our other four communities in China, India, Kenya & Ecuador. An update on all five of our schools will be coming soon. Thank you one and all!

**If you would still like to donate to help with other projects you can still, CLICK TO DONATE. The following donations will continue to help with the community of El Trapiche. A specific need will be identified later on.

***The final installment of the ‘10 Lessons from Cycling the World’ series is tomorrow. Thank you for reading and stay tuned. 🙂

Greetings Around the World Clip

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #3

A Six Minute Read

image1-e1452448451942

(Extreme Roads: Bolivia)

Lesson #3- Never Give Up: It is Not That Bad

“Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.”Sir Winston Churchill, English Prime Minister

—-> Life is not that complicated. However, we do a good job of making it just that. Sometimes the present seems impossible. We think we’re up against a terrible resistance and the end is nowhere in sight. Maybe something happens that impacts our life, seemingly irreversibly. Though some horrible things may come our way throughout life, it is important to keep focused on what is still important to us. It is important to focus on who you are. There is a bigger picture. Like in cycling, every up eventually has a down.

If you want something enough there shouldn’t be anything that stands in your way. Obstacles will come, changes will be needed and hard decisions are likely to ensue. Do not be a victim of circumstance. The world, your family and friends need you to be the best you. There are others out there that depend on you and you in turn will depend on them when things get tough. We need each other on the good days and the bad.

No matter how awful you think things may be in the present moment, years, months and weeks down the line, you will wonder why you felt so upset over those little things. We get bogged down by our present situation and forget what really matters. The tiny details that stress you out are but minor inconveniences in the grand scheme of our lives. Why stress about all the little details when they impact your overall persona but really do not matter?

I am sorry to say, but we’re all not that special. We share the world with over seven billion other people. Thinking the world revolves around you and your personal desires is not only detrimental to your present state, but impacts everyone else around you. Being selfish and ignorant of your surrounds, will get you nowhere. Being aware and in the moment is the most important aspect to enjoying life as it is and as it comes at you. Looking forward to certain dates is something we all do. However, don’t let it get in the way of living in the moment.

Whether it is getting over something traumatic or setting your sights on impossible looking goals the most important thing to remember is that you can never give up. Each day is a new one with struggles and annoyances, but eventually you will get there. One day at a time.

On my journey, sometimes I would get wrapped up in distances and deadlines. I would forget to stop and take it all in. During those moments, I sometimes lost sight of why I set out in the first place. I set out to experience the world, see the beauty of nature, make a difference and talk to the people that share our world. Sometimes I had to catch myself and slow down. Rolling through everyone else’s normal for two years, it sometimes came to be my normal. At times I was spoiled by the beauty I was rolling through. Sometimes I took myself for granted as well, pushing too hard and too long on the bike. I had to use these instances to step back and really look at where I was. Even when the road was tough and I wanted to throw it all in, I had to remember why I was there in the first place. Taking into account past decisions for my present circumstance, was something that always helped me make sense of it all.

Our present state is a culmination of our decisions. At one point we wanted something more than anything else. Living with our decisions and moving forward is one of the harder aspects in life, but in time things get easier. Don’t give up, it is all part of our greater history and journey.

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**You can expect Lesson #2 tomorrow. Almost there! 🙂

***Bolivia, one of the most challenging, wild and unforgettably beautiful countries on my trip. If something is worth doing, it won’t be easy. I had some extremely tough and wonderful days in Bolivia. Days I wouldn’t trade for the world. Never give up, it will be worth it in the end!

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #4

A Five Minute Readimage5-e1438805529127

(Study Group: Masaai Mara, Kenya)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free the Children – Who We Are

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #5

A Six Minute Readimage4-e1417505798966

(Spice Markets: Kabul, Afghanistan)

Lesson #5- The World is Full of Delicious Food: Have a Taste

“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.” ~ Doug Larson, Columnist

—-> With transportation, trade and communication bridging the gap between countries around the world, we are privileged to a wider array of ingredients, flavours and information than ever before in history. People used to sacrifice their lives bringing spices from China and India, now they are available in almost every town. We eat the foods that were once only available to the richest and most powerful people. We have the opportunity to eat, healthy fresh and delicious food from around the world.

However, many of us fill our stomachs, baskets and fridges, with subsidized junk. Food that lacks energy, takes zero effort to make, expands your waistline and does nothing more than fill that empty hole. In return, we get the sluggish people, slow minds and self-inflicted sickness. Taking a bit of extra time to prepare something healthy will repay you in the long run. With the food selection today, healthy does not just mean salad anymore.

When I was on my cycling trip and actually had the opportunity to visit a ‘real’ grocery store, I would often go in and spend hours just gawking at the excess. Coming from the mountains, desert or countryside into a big city and visiting one of these stores, I felt like an alien. Typically I would shop at local markets and tiny shops on my route. Almost every grocery store in Canada is packed to the brim with foods that can make us feel awesome, but we oftentimes choose items packed with salt, sugar and fat. If you don’t know how to cook, buy a beginner cookbook, take a class or ask a friend to help you. It’s never to late to learn.

“If we’re not willing to settle for junk living, we certainly shouldn’t settle for junk food.” ~ Sally Edwards, Author

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On my website, I almost always made a point of sharing at least one recipe from all of the countries I made my way through. I believe to understand and experience the food of a culture is half the battle. It is the gateway into people’s homes and lives. Whenever I passed through new lands I always ate what the local people ate. Often times, it was the cheapest and most delicious thing to be had. Chow Fan in China, Kabuli in Afghanistan, Biryani in India, Kushari in Egypt, Shawarma in Turkey, Pizza in Italy, Chips Mai in Tanzania, Braai in South Africa, Encebollado in Ecuador, Ceviche in Panama, Tacos in Mexico and Barbecue in the United States. The list goes on. My stomach growls just thinking about it all.

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In any big city you can experience food from all over the world. A quick Google search will allow you to step into new culinary adventure in any big city. You’ll find hidden gems that will keep you coming back. Remember, in Canada we are able to eat bananas in December and mangos in February. We are a lucky people. Take a chance and have a bite of someone else’s culture. You might just be surprised.

(You can expect a post on my top ten favourite dishes from around the world in the future.)

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*Less than $320 to go to the final goal of $50,000 and the last schoolhouse in El Trapiche Nicaragua. CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

**Tomorrow you can expect Lesson #4 from the road. Thank you for reading! 🙂

Kabul Pulao – Afghan Cooking

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