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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

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(Extreme Roads: Bolivia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #4

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

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #6

A Six Minute Read

Sunset

(Stunning Sunsets: Kerala India)

Lesson #6- Times Will Change: So Will You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**Tomorrow you can expect Lesson #5 from the road. Thank you for reading! 🙂

Waking Life – The Gap/Stories of Progress

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #7

A Five Minute Readimage5-e1449691163956

(Endless Road: The Paraguayan Chaco)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Danny Macaskill ~ The Ride

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #8

A Six Minute Read

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(The Solo Road: Sudan)

Lesson #8- The World is NOT Scary: Travel

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.”Anais Nin, Cuban Essayist

 —-> We live in a world that is becoming increasingly complex. Wars are fought with ulterior motives, religion is at the forefront of debate, fourteen killed here, a rainforest chopped down there and Donald Trump is crazy. This is what you hear about the different places of the world. But beyond those imaginary lines, there are beautiful vast expanses of our world. Rugged mountains, wild plains, desert badlands, clear lakes and rolling hills. These wild landscapes have moved in shape over thousands of years. We get to experience but one piece in our Earth’s extensive history. Embrace the outdoors, wind, rain and sun.

They say that travel is the best medicine. It teaches you the things you will never learn in any classroom. It shows you the complexities of our world. It allows you to see the beauty of the Earth and learn a lot about yourself. It allows you to spend time by yourself. Whenever I am traveling I have a feeling of being completely free. Like the unknown is welcoming me forward. Some say travel can age you; however, inside you will feel younger than those that never go anywhere.

I meet many people who think that they need to travel with someone. Though this does have benefits, it limits you in many ways. You are less likely to meet new people if you already have that other person to talk to. You are less likely to go outside that comfort zone and explore beyond your personal boundaries. On my bicycle ride many people asked me, if I ever got lonely. The simple answer is, almost never. There were always people to talk to. The more you explore this world, the better you will understand how difficult it is to actually get away from people. We inhabit most of the planet, in one way or another. Very rarely on my journey outside regions of Bolivia, Sudan, Kyrgyzstan and Western China, was I far from someone I could talk to. We are a social species.

“Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain, Writer

I believe that unless you travel alone, you never get down to that bare bones of self-reflection. I understand that this is not for everyone. I get it. But, people often wondered why I travelled on my own. On a journey over two years, you have to know yourself. I knew traveling with someone else was not right for me on such a trip. You are not forced to look inside yourself and see who you really are. Thousands of hours of contemplation while cycling, meals alone and hundreds of evenings spent in my tent, taught me more about myself than I ever thought possible. I now know who am I am what I hope to accomplish in the future. Travel wide, wander free and see our world. It can teach you a great deal.

You can see all of the wonders of our world, but don’t stop to look at what’s in-between. Talk to the people where you are visiting, eat their food and spend a little time on yourself.

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*Less than $550 to go to the final goal of $50,000 and the last schoolhouse in El Trapiche Nicaragua. CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

**Tomorrow you can expect Lesson #7 from the road. Thank you for reading! 🙂

Walter Mitty ~ Downhill Longboard in Iceland

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #9

A Five Minute ReadEthiopia

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

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” – Will Rogers, Humorist

—-> Bank memories, not things. That is the message. At the end of your days the last thoughts will not be on the newest iPhone or that expensive car you once had. Well, hopefully. You will more likely be looking back on the people and memories you are leaving behind. Did you live a good life? Did you treat people with kindness, love and compassion? What legacy are you hoping to leave? Did you do what you loved?

We really do not need all of the things we fill our lives up with. The feeling of buying something new can make us happy, but it is only a fleeting moment. The memories we look back on with the most nostalgia are the ones spent with family, friends and the people that shared this experience we call life. I know remembering a funny moment with a friend long ago, has more value to me than the memory of buying my iPad.

On my journey, I had but four small bags and a tent. All of the items I had with me were essential in my daily life. I was self-sufficient and living in the now. My life was not cluttered in any way. All of my things had a place that was their home for two years. There were very few extras necessities, especially when considering places like the Peruvian Andes with massive seventy kilometres climbs. Life was simple and sweet. My things were few but my memories and experiences will last forever.

Throughout all my travels I can honestly tell you there is only a certain level of possessions we need to make us happier. Beyond a certain plateau of material wealth, we do not become any more content inside. We simply become more competitive to keep up with our neighbours. It becomes an internal lifelong race to beat the credit card bill. This idea that happiness can be bought or sold is flawed to the very base. What we will all remember are the people we are leaving behind and how we lived our lives. Everything else is a distraction.

Eventually the pearly gates will come calling for us all. They will not care what types of things we carried with us throughout our lives. The extra bits that wore us down under all that stuff. We have the ability to live as simply as we like. The less you crowd up your life with, the freer you will be to move. Quit wasting your time buying things. These are moments you will never get back. Get out there and start living!

*Less than $550 to go to the final goal of $50,000 and the last schoolhouse in El Trapiche Nicaragua. CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

**Tomorrow you can expect Lesson #8 from the road. Thank you for reading! 🙂

What’s in your Backpack  – Up in the Air (Video Clip)

Human Boundaries: Biking Nicaragua with Free the Children

A 14 Minute Readimage

To be doing good deeds is man’s most glorious task” ~ Sophocles, Greek Tragedian

The human experience. One of the greatest gifts one could ever be privileged to. We have the potential to break personal boundaries and share with the world our individual powers, strengths and failures. Being accepting of our weakest points only makes us stronger. Keeping up appearances is destined to end poorly. Unwrapped, this is who we are. Approaching our flaws and growing from them makes us allow us to be who we really are. Embrace those weak points, by making them strong.

I’ve had thousands of hours to contemplate the human experience. What does it mean to be human? With the media in our faces and online glamour profiles we have become closer connected but increasingly disconnected from ourselves. We want to create the best image of ourselves. Online we can represent ourselves in business, personal and social forms. This connection has sometimes made us shallow and vain. In the last few years, a new dream has been born without definition or shape. It is frustrating and the world is trying to keep up in a race with no finish line.

Before, the road to ‘happiness’ was more defined. Family, kids, house, car and job. At least there was a goal, however somewhat materialistic, to work towards. We are more free to choose now than ever. Life shouldn’t be lost to hours on your phone or a checklist of gains. It is a beautiful experience, you just need to look up and look around. That is the main issue. There is no guide book. And there never should be. There is no definitive right or wrong way. Each individual should have the power to be their own person. To live their own life. That is why I cycle for education. Because it gives hope to those who otherwise do not have the same choices or options as I did growing up.

This brings me back to the human experience. It is just that. Life should be about each other. Helping others achieve their goals. Sharing in the achievements and bettering the lives of our fellow people. Whether they be right next door or on the other side of the world. We are all players in a spinning, living, natural world. We have the power to make a difference in our personal and broader world. We should leave a legacy that is real. Choose bright human futures, over decaying plastic superficiality. Life is the book we are all destined to write.

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I was very excited to be in Nicaragua. The land of beautiful lakes and soaring volcanoes. It was the thirty-third country on my round the world tour. The terrain became instantly very flat, I had a pretty good tailwind and it was much cheaper than Costa Rica. I also had a lot to look forward to in the coming days. I would be meeting up with the people at the Free the Children community of El Trapiche as well as the Me to We team in Nicaragua. However, first I had to get there.

I got off to an early start from the hole in the wall where I slept the night before. The wind was generally on my side and I passed through a windmill farm along Lake Nicaragua. It is a massive lake that apparently has predicable winds year round blowing off of it. By the time I reached Rivas I was starving. I even met a French couple as well as a Slovenian cycle tourist on the way. I ate a massive and cheap breakfast. One of the best breakfasts I had in a while. Basically rice and beans mixed called Gallo Pinto, served with fresh salty cheese, eggs and tortillas. You can see the recipe for Gallo Pinto HERE.

I had only planned to make it to Rivas that day as I wanted to go see the volcano that sits within Lake Nicaragua. However, it was Good Friday and was told there were no boats running that day. While I thought about what to do I found a Burger King with internet and drank unlimited sprite. I decided to just make a break for the historical town of Granada where I was to meet my host, Camilo, the following day.

It was Holy Week so many people were on holiday, making the road extra busy. I hunkered down and made it into Granada at the end of a nice downhill. I found a cheap place on the outskirts of town and a got some dinner before bed. Exhausted after another long day, but feeling good about Nicaragua so far.

“I am still profoundly troubled by the war in Nicaragua. The United States launched a covert war against another nation in violation of international law, a war that was wrong and immoral.” ~ Bianca Jagger, Nicaraguan Human Rights Activist

The following afternoon I met Camilo for lunch and got settled in downtown Granada with his help. It was nice to see a friendly face and actually just do something normal for once, like meet someone for lunch. I was more excited than he knew about simply meeting for lunch. Almost all of my meals are alone or rushed at the end of a long day. It was nice to chat over good food with a friendly face. Not often is there someone waiting to meet me.

I explored around historical Granada for the rest of the day and the following morning. Camilo arranged for me to join a Me to We group from Winnipeg for a tour of the city and to visit ‘Café de las Sonrisas’. I met a nice guy named Joe, with the organization, and we headed to the café together. There we listened to Antonio’s inspirational story of how he came to Nicaragua and started a café where all of the employees are deaf. He also has a workshop that only employs people with handicaps to make hammocks for sale. He is an truly passionate and talented individual who is currently making a huge difference in the lives of people who would otherwise have few options for employment. Nicaragua would be a very hard place to live with any sort of disability and he gives people bright futures. Together they are making a massive hammock out of old plastic bags, which you can see below. He is also a huge Bruce Springsteen fan.

After lunch the group asked me to speak about my ride around the world. Antonio was a hard act to follow, but they were a great audience with a number of questions. The students had some time to do a bit of exploring around Granada at the end of the afternoon and then we said our goodbyes. I never know who I am going to meet on this trip. That’s what is always exciting.

The lake is known to have been controlled by pirates as early as 1665 when Henry Morgan led six shallow draft canoes up the San Juan for an attack on Granada.” You can also read more about piracy on Lake Nicaragua and the real Captain Morgan HERE.

The next day I took my time cycling to Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. On the way I took a break at the historical Masaya market and walked about for a while. When I reach the city ‘Where the streets have no name,’ I navigated my way to where Camilo had nicely arranged for me to stay. The streets actually have no names in Managua, making finding anything a bit difficult unless you live there. I went with Camilo that evening to meet another Me to We group and to hear him speak passionately about the history of Nicaragua and the work of Free the Children. You can read a brief account of the complex and interesting history of Nicaragua by CLICKING HERE.

Early the next morning was the big day. Up at 5:30am, I had a quick breakfast and set out towards the Free the Children community of El Trapiche. It was a direct 25 kilometre climb up to where I would meet a group of boys from the community. We would then cycle the rest of the way to El Trapiche together. I was very excited and spun my pedals in low gear all the way to the top of the pass. It took almost three hours of slow climbing, but I finally made it with the boys waiting to shoot down the dusty road to El Trapiche. There is a drought in Nicaragua at the time, so things were even more dry and dusty. This made for quite the fantastic downhill bike ride.

It was a dream come true to cycle with these kids to their school. We laughed together as we rode down the crazy road and talked about what music they liked. They were divided among their taste of Justin Beiber. I can understand the division. The youngest of the group was the strongest of us all it seemed. On a few very steep hills we all had to get off and push as he climbed on up. The one boy told me that they ride the road once a week to go to the highschool on the weekend. Two things that are a testament to the reality of life in rural Nicaragua.

We arrived thirsty, hungry and a little dusty. After a some food and a water break I shared my journey with the people in the community through the help of Camilo translating. It was so nice to hear their questions and reactions to what I have and hoped to accomplish with my trip. The one man said that to them I am a hero. I almost welled up when I heard this. In my day-to-day existence, my trip seems incredibly normal to me at this point. Navigating countries, finding places to sleep and embracing different cultures is essentially what I do. I have come to understand that I am good at what I do and am still able to have a lot of fun while doing it. An experience I wish all of the world could have.

Later that morning I helped with digging the new playground for the school with a Me to We group from Canada and the United States. It was fun getting to know the students, facilitators and teachers. After lunch I shared my journey to the group. We discussed my route, struggles I have faced, the change that they all can make in the world and following dreams. I call it ‘Finding Your Bike Ride’. In that very moment they were in the process of youth helping youth. For many young people, I think the experiences they have through Free the Children truly set in after they get home and return to the privileged reality of Canada. They see the reverse culture shock of the differences between societies. They see the power they have to actually make a change. To put a smile on a face and brighten the world for others is actually a very real possibly.

I was welcomed that night to meet Camilo’s lovely family and joined in for dinner after a full day. After the experiences we shared, I am proud to call him my friend. I am always blown away by the wonderful and passionate people Free the Children have on their team. I said my farewells and was off riding towards the colonial city of León the following morning.

I road past windy lakes and more stunning volcanoes. Nicaragua is one of those countries I would like to return to and explore more. The people are very friendly and are excited to share their home with the world. Arriving in León I found a hostel to park my bike and explored a bit of the city. At one of the focal points during the 1979 revolution, León represents more than just colonial fingerprints. People fought from street to street in a struggle to regain control of their freedoms. As you walk about you feel that there is more in the air than old churches and historic buildings. The revolution is in the eyes of the population. A lot has changed in Nicaragua in the last few years. I hope to return one day and see the continued progress and improvement of the daily lives of the people. Education, will be at the heart of this positive growth.

When I arrived at the border town of Somotillo some five kilometers away from Honduras, I checked into a rundown little guesthouse. As luck would have it I found a retired cycling couple from the United States there. Mike and Linda were headed south. We chatted that night over some dinner about our rides and routes ahead. Unexpectedly they even paid for my dinner. They said it was their contribution to my nice charity work. You can read about Linda and Mike’s journey at GONE 4 A Ride. Their trip is nearing the two year mark and they hope it will last another eight as they make their way around the world.

The following morning I was off fairly early and pedaled onto Honduras and the next chapter of my Central American adventure. After Nicaragua I was filled up with emotion and good vibes. I felt like I was really making a difference. That my ride was touching the lives of more people than I ever thought possible. The dream of changing the lives of individuals as I went and they changing mine in return, has been a continuous aspect of my journey. The power of the individual never ceases to amaze me. I felt like the wheels on my bike were rolling on more than just kilometres. I was being pushed by the hope and strength of the people. This is the human experience that drives me forward.

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*At the moment we are moving our way towards the goal for the schoolhouse in Shuid, Ecuador. Please keep the people of Ecuador in your thoughts as they recover from the most recent devasting earthquake. As far as I have heard everyone in the Free the Children communities are doing okay as well as staff and Me to We volunteers. Only $4,000 to go to reach our goal after a kind sponsorship from Tom & Pat Morell. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

**It has now been a year since the passing of my cousin Jamie Quattrocchi. He was tragically swept away by a rogue wave while sightseeing with his girlfriend Brittany at Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia last April. Thanks to the hard work of my Aunt Caroline, Uncle Jim, Brittany and support of the community as a whole back home, improvements have been made to safety at Peggy’s Cove. We all miss you Jamie and think of you often. You can read the article on improvements by CLICKING HERE.

***I am making my way through the hills of Mexico at the moment. It is a beautiful country with great food and a lot to take in each day. This week I reached a huge milestone at over 30,000km cycled since starting my journey. With home on the horizon I will be moving more quickly than usual, but still stopping to take in that which surrounds me. Thanks for reading!

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Adopt-A-Village Initiative ~ Free the Children

A Video on the Beauty of Nicaragua ~ A Must Watch!

Bruce Springsteen ~ Streets of Philadephia (For Antonio)

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