A Ten Minute Read
“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” ~ Greg Anderson, Writer
Doing something you love is a hard feeling to describe and even harder when it comes to an end. To be working towards something that is bigger than you, delivers powerful energy into everyday life. I believe that if you invest every ounce of your mind and energy into a project, you will achieve it over time. It may sound cliché but, ‘all good things must come to an end.’ This is true of anything and an annoying reality.
After you have worked towards something for a long time eventually you will achieve it. That big promotion, building a home, getting married or riding a bicycle around the world. Sooner or later it will come true, if you stay true to your goals. Then what are you to do? It is easy to feel lost and slightly empty at the end of something like that. It may feel as if there is something missing from your daily existence. This big achievement was your definition forever. Where are you to go next?
However, I believe that a singular achievement should not be the whole definition of our reality. Famous sports stars, musicians and actors often fall victim of these types of feelings. One day they have an injury, are not seen as relevant anymore or simply get ‘too old’. These people sometimes struggle and fall into depressions. They can’t let go of their past selves. Attaching too much of ourselves to one side of our personality is never a good thing. We must remember we are not one dimensional creatures, but have a good number of things more to share with the world. My message is that it can’t define you wholly. There is more to you.
When I was traveling around the world, there is one question I almost never asked anyone. What do you do? I believe that someone’s job shouldn’t be their defining characteristic. Sometimes people let their jobs define who they are. However, I believe that we are more than that. We are brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers. We have interests, values and characteristics which are outside this one aspect. Deep down though, we are something so similar to one another. We are most of all people, uniquely complicated and individually beautiful. This is what we must remember, when we think our goals are all complete, washed up or forgotten. We are still ourselves living a dynamic and ever-evolving story.
“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe, Writer/Poet
When I crossed that finish line, I knew that my dream had come true. It had the feeling of finality. The goal was complete, with only a few loose ends to work out. The pride I felt at the end of the journey is something I have been coming terms with. The unique feeling that I can in fact do anything is a powerful pill to take. I feel like more doors have opened now than ever before. The problem is finding something I enjoy doing and am passionate about. I know what I would like to do, but here I stand at the beginning of a new challenge. It lays beyond money and superficial feelings.
The question I get most often now is: How does it feel to be home?
Plain and simple, it feels great. I set out and completed my goal. That ultimate dream is over and I can rest easy in the knowledge, that I worked towards something that was near and dear to my heart. I will always have this feeling of accomplishment. Home is comfortable. Friends and family are close by. Life is in a word, comfortable.
So, what is next? What will I do now that I am home and what have I been up to? Is there a next adventure in store?
Now that I am home, I have a good many things to do. I believe that life is not one singular adventure but a multitude of individual adventures. Together all of these things work together to define our being. They shape who we are in the present. They leave our past looking like a mysterious ghost. Sometimes, I think we find it hard to gaze back at our past selves. As we pass through different tracks of our lives we reflect on the moments of old and wonder at how we could have been so brave, naïve, immature or bold. I know reviewing old photos and videos from my journey has sometimes blown me away. How could I have ever fought through some of those days on wild isolated roads?
“On the first day of school, you got to be real careful where you sit. You walk into the classroom and just plunk your stuff down on any old desk, and the next thing you know the teacher is saying, ‘I hope you all like where you’re sitting, because these are your permanent seats.’” ~ Jeff Kinney, Diary of a Wimpy Kid
As I sit back from the comfort of home, the outside world of adventure seems a million miles away. I still enjoy riding my bike, but it is not the same as it once was. Now I ride to keep fit. Before, I was never riding to stay in shape, I just was. In the past, getting on my bike meant that the adventures of the day were limitless. My whole existence was a liberting question mark. I never knew where exactly I would sleep or who I would meet. Interesting conversations were abound and I was constantly learning. Now, I sleep in the same place and there is routine of the day. I do miss many parts of the road. However, I do not miss some of the bad days, the longing for a friendly face, horrible winds and soul crushing distances.
I am happy to be home though. In my final days cycling through the United States and Canada, it felt like the end. As I rode through low hills and alongside the budding pastures of early May, I knew my journey had served the purpose. It was in those days, I was ready for whatever my next mission should be. I was ready for the next adventure. When I finally arrived home, I was ready to hang up the bicycle. They journey was over and the next one was beginning.
When I mention the word comfort, it has a two pronged meaning. You could see it as sitting in a safe place to watch television and a warm reliable place to sleep. But, you could also look at it as a change to something more stable. I believe that too much comfortable, stability and predictability is not a good thing. At the moment, the idea of being comfortable is nice. For two years, I was rarely comfortable. I realize after getting a bit of stability back in my life, it is not what makes me happy. This is not the thing which makes me want to get up in the morning. For most people, the eternal search to better our lives is followed by the quest for an easier life. I could easily go back to this life, but it is not what would make me happiest.
I know from my experiences that the world for many people is not comfortable at all. I am privileged to have been born in a country where luxury is the normal expectation. I work towards something that is difficult, challenging and exciting once again. Because this is what fuels me. This is what makes me a better person. I want to challenge myself. The day flies by as they always used to. You’d be surprised how fast a day on a bike can go. If you are working towards something you are passionate about, eventually you will achieve it, and even have fun in the process.
“A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” ~ Oscar Wilde, Novelist
The idea of needing a ‘Life Purpose’ is a completely new concept in our world. This can be a stressful and liberating commodity as we are bombarded with messages and information about how we should live out our days. Pokémon Go, Donald Trump and ISIS aside, we are fortunate enough to form our own opinions. It can be a daunting task as we move further into our comfort zones and away from the hard choices that call themselves our dreams. Life can take us in a spaghetti bowl of lines. It is up to us to figure out which strands of life we connect with the most. To follow the lines that make ourselves and those around us feel the happiest. Life has no one set purpose, but is made up of a multitude of layers. The freedom of this reality is ours for taking. It is never too late. As terrifying as it may seem. I have said it before but, follow those dreams.
I now plan to take the next steps and turn my trip into a new adventure. One I am passionate about and frankly a little bit nervous. I am writing a book on my journey as a tool to encourage others to follow their dreams. I am also developing a new platform for my website and my speaking engagements. I want everyone to experience the feeling of, ‘Finding Their Bicycle Ride.’ Soon I will also embark on the adventure that is marriage to my wonderful fiancé. I have a lot to look forward to. I believe we can all do great things with time, dedication and hard work. With a little searching, you will always find whatever is next.
*After a successful night at my open talk to the public in Smiths Falls last week we are very close to the goal for the fifth and final schoolhouse in El Trapiche, Nicaragua. There is now less than $1,700 to the ultimate goal of $50,000. Together we are making a difference in the lives of people throughout the world. Giving hope and bright new futures. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE.
**To read a recent article by the founders of Free the Children and ME to WE Marc and Craig Kielburger on my cycling journey around the world, CLICK HERE.
***Stay tuned for a look at my new website and more frequent posts in the brand new format.
“It always seems impossible until it’s done” ~ Nelson Mandela, Freedom Fighter/Politician
There comes a time when we must make decisions in our lives. Crossroads present themselves in a sea of uncertainty. Sometimes decisions are quick and without thought. Others linger for weeks and plague mental patterns day and night. If we value change or growth, these moments come with some frequency. These decisions mould us, shape our present reality and the roads which bring us to the next junction. We are never the same person twice. The goals which we once had years, months and even weeks back, may seem like frivolous bothers in the present. They look like minor deviations from the whirlwind of our daily lives. However, everything culminates during daily micro-decisions to bring us to new avenues of opportunity.
Letting worry take over and cloud your modern reality is a needless distraction to the bigger picture. I’m sure we would find it hard to look back and remember with fondness on our most recent worries. It is much easier and positive to look back on moments of nostalgia, even if they weren’t that great at the time. On a bicycle journey, there is a surplus of time to think. I’ve put in a great deal of time contemplating and arrived at a few conclusions. They are apparent in my present state. If you want something bad enough, you’ll chase after it, I know I have. The end is not reached with the rabbit, but only leads to another series of holes. Enjoy the hunt.
“Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that’s the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing. Nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him if he gives too much.” ~ Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country
It was an early morning entrance to Botswana. Another country with new sets of rules and geography. For the first time in months it was flat. I entered from the Plum Tree border station and rode on fumes to Francistown. Relaxing in the shade I made a forward plan towards South Africa. With the wide shoulder and a relatively uninteresting section of road ahead, I decided to make my break. Putting in my longest day in Africa of 176 kilometres from Francistown to Palapye I arrived after dark. Setting up my tent on some crusty ground, I cooked some tasteless pasta and it was lights out. The next day, it was up early again as I skidded off towards the South African border. There was no service stations until I reached the border over a hundred kilometres away. Drinking orange Fanta out of coolers from the side of the road, I spent my last bit of money on a fly covered bun with warm cream inside.
If you are wondering, why all the hurry? It was because I was running behind schedule for an important meeting on the horizon. My girlfriend and family were coming to visit. They were due to arrive in Johannesburg in just a matter of days. Every moment counted to get me there on time. I returned the bottle of Fanta and slugged my way to the border. Crossing into South Africa felt like I was returning to civilization. There were functioning stores in each town with a wide selection foods and affordable delights. South Africa is the most developed country, given most respects, in Africa. I quickly felt at home and the welcoming nature of the people. I saw the first McDonalds since Egypt and to say I didn’t order up the ubiquitous ‘Big Mac’ meal would be a lie. Sometimes on trips like this, that little bit of familiarity can go a long way to make you feel at ease. When everything is always new and unknown, those little pieces of the known go a long way.
Rolling into Lephalale, I was searching for a local campsite when a man almost backed his truck into me. After he saw me and we chatted a moment, he asked where I was headed. I explained my plan of action and he invited me to stay in one of his guesthouses for free. It ended up being my own apartment with hot water, kitchen and laundry. Cycling dreams are made of this magic. My new friend, Victor, introduced me to the welcoming nature of South African people. After I was rested up he invited me for a breakfast before I was off riding again. We had an instant connection and some inspiring chats. The local newspaper showed up and an impromptu interview took place. They sent me sailing with a happy first impression and a bag full of food. That night I slept on the soft green grass of the local golf course amid warthogs and skittish little monkeys.
“Travel is more than a seeing of sights. It is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” ~ Miriam Beard, Author
On route to Johannesburg a friend I had met in South Korea named Dene, had arranged for family members of her husbands to host me. They picked me up and took me off to their farm. Jaco and Jessie gave me the first taste of true South African ‘Braai’. You can read more on the process and style HERE. It is basically barbecue, but treated with a sport like seriousness. They even have a ‘Braai Day’, which I will get into on a following post. In any case, my first experience was a beautiful appreciation for food, as I slowly began to put on weight. One of the most amazing things they did for me while I stayed with them was returning my shoes, that were nearly headed for the garbage bin, looking brand new. At this point I only had one day to make it to the airport in time to meet my girlfriend. Jessie offered to take me most of the way into Johannesburg. I left feeling like I was part of the family and a warm energy bubbled inside. I made it to the airport with 20 minutes to spare. Cutting it close to say the least. I rubbed my burley face wishing I had time to shave.
Seeing a familiar person on a trip such as this can do more than you know. I didn’t need to introduce myself or be that guy on the bike. I was simply able to be me. With my family and girlfriend, Eliza, it was just like old times, only we were in South Africa. After a day of rest we went out on safari. Something I had only done by the seat of my bike all through Africa. Now I was the person that rolled past people in the big vehicle as hundreds of white kneed tourists had done to me throughout Africa. Only this safari was more than about just seeing herds of zebras and spotting lions. All down Africa I had thought about it carefully. On the top of a mountain just after sunrise I asked the love of my life to marry me. Slipping the ring onto her smooth trembling finger I felt all the world coming together. Looking up to see the tears in her eyes what I saw was my soulmate. The woman I would spend the rest of my days with. I am not sure what I said as the morning sun swallowed us up on that rocky outcrop. Nothing else mattered in that moment. Without the careful planning and help of my parents I couldn’t have pulled off the proposal. I am so glad we were able to share in it together.
“You must regard this deviation from plan as part of the adventure that you sought when you decided to embark on it in the first place…Absence of certainty is its essence. People…who choose to shun the mundane must not only expect, but also enjoy and profit from surprises.” ~ Adam Yamey, Aliwal
After a few days of wonderful wildlife, relaxation and full stomachs, a tearful goodbye was on the horizon as I prepared to get back on the bike. I knew saying goodbye to my parents would be tough, but seeing my new fiancée off was going to be even more difficult. I wanted to quit. I said that I had come far enough. That the end of Africa was achievement enough. I had accomplished more than I ever thought possible. I should pack it all in and call it a day, when I reached the southern edge of Africa in Cape Town. Eliza said that there was no way I was quitting. As hard as that may have been for her to say, it wasn’t what I wanted hear, but what I needed. She could have been selfish and let me take the easy way out. I could have quit right there at the airport and boarded a plane anywhere else. But I returned to my bike knowing I wouldn’t see her until I reached the finish line back in Canada, thousands of kilometres away.
Knowing everything I already do about life on the road, it would have been the easy way out. Returning to a life of comfort with vegetables in the crisper and 600 TV channels, would be ideal for a time. But, that route would have haunted me in years to come. Like a puzzle missing the final piece, I would only see that hole. The rest of the picture would be forgotten. Eliza could see this. As much as she may have wanted me to quit, she supported my dream without a doubt. This is what every man wants. To feel the support and understanding of his mindless plight. To be there for him when the future he presents is a bit hazy. She looked into my eyes and beyond the shadowy thunder that is my mind, she saw something more. On first day I ever met Eliza, I told her that I would ride a bicycle (which I didn’t even own at the time) around the world. She never thought I was joking and she stuck by me through all of those distant nights. If I were to quit now, it would be breaking the very first promise ever I made to her. Now, that is something I could never live with.
*The rest of the South Africa story will continue in the next post along with adventures through ruggedly beautiful Lesotho and eventually to the stunning coast of the Garden Route towards the end of Africa in Cape Town.
**Please continue to help support funding for the new schoolhouse in Esinoni, Kenya. We are less than $1,600 away from reaching our goal. Which is so amazing! Thank you for the surprise early donations from some of our supporting schools back in Eastern Ontario. You guys rock! CLICK HERE TO DONATE.
***To follow along with daily photo updates from my phone through the South American section of the journey link to my Instagram by CLICKING HERE.
“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” ~ Tim Cahill, Travel Writer
We live in a beautiful world. In our daily experience we are only seeing a piece of the magic it has to offer. It is but a slice of the pie. If one were to travel forever it would only be to soak in the faintest image of daily life. Seasons and times change. Places degrade in their authenticity and never seem as wonderful as they once were. We are but players in the ever-changing reality that is our planet. The world is a magical place because of that very fact. Things are only the way they are once and we are only ourselves in that moment. Years later we are different people with alternative preferences, ideals and goals. We change in the way we see others, our world and most importantly ourselves. Looking back on those nostalgic moments it is important not to forget how the present space only happens once and we are only going to have that chance right then. We have this one moment. Don’t waste it.
I awoke on the Tanzanian side of the border and my tire had gone flat in the night. On the downhill towards Malawi I had repaired two spokes the day before. I now had two more broken spokes and a flat tire to take the wind out of my sails right from the beginning. However, I wasn’t going to let it dampen my spirits, for I had a new country to attend to, Malawi.
“I went to sleep dreaming of Malawi, and all the things made possible when your dreams are powered by your heart.” ~ William Kamkwamba, Malawi Author
I quickly found a shop on the Tanzania side, spent the last of my money by fixing the spokes and bought an extra tube. My tubes were starting to look like the dreadful patchwork I was once used to. By mid-morning, I was off on my own in Malawi. The terrain was flat for the first time in months and I sped along quickly. After a few miles I caught up to a group of retired Germans and their Rastafarian guide. They were cycling from Kilimanjaro to Victoria Falls. I chatted as we rolled to the first town. During our search to find a cheap guesthouse we were separated when I went to the bank to get some Malawi Kwachas and find some food for dinner. I curled up under my mosquito net with the power cut for most of the evening.
The following morning I started very early, due to the time change between Malawi and Tanzania. I made good ground and camped near the beach of the beautiful Lake Malawi. It is one of the largest lakes in the world and home to the most diverse selection of freshwater species. Beautiful, peaceful and pure. I eventually climbed up into the mountains, where the temperature was significantly cooler, especially in the morning. I camped out at a hostel in Mzuzu for the night. The next morning I was off after a ridiculous incident involving myself, the owner of the hostel and a toaster. Needless to say I ended up eating my stale bread on the side of the road.
All was soon forgotten with a long downhill that took me through the morning all the way to Nhkata Bay. I took a long overdue day off and relaxed by the water. Days off when you’ve been going for many in a row are usually not that relaxing, but filled with annoying little chores like ever dirty clothes, getting plenty to eat and catching up on a long list of e-mails. I do set aside time to enjoy myself a bit, take a few pictures and in this case float around in the complementary kayak the hostel had to offer. Beautiful waters and a clear sky.
After a rest I shoved off early and put in a very long day through a wavy landscape and strengthening headwind. In Malawi, there was always a wind from the south. Sometimes faint and others soul crushing. I pulled in late to a campsite near the lake to spot a familiar tandem cycle. It would seem I had met up with my old friends David and Steve once again. They had taken a train through a section of Tanzania, but I had caught them here. We were headed the same direction and rode together through a very windy road the following day. We had ‘eggy bread’ (French toast) for breakfast and it kept us going most of the day. At one point we all had a stock of very chewy maize to chomp on as we pushed along. I felt like a local as I grinded through the tough barbecued corn while riding. Finding a cheap guesthouse we collapsed for the night. Still hungry after dinner, Steve and I went out exploring for a bit of fried chips. While searching we found barbecued mice with the fur still intact, tails and teeth. I settled on some spicy chips at a different stand.
“Gold is a debt we can repay, but kindness not till our dying day.” ~ Malawian Proverb
Eventually, I would say goodbye to my friends from England after a final dinner at their wonderful friends house Emmanuel in Malawi. The father and son rode from Mombasa, Kenya to a small town near Lilongwe on tandem. I was proud to share the last day of their journey with them. We are all players and actors in the stories we take home with us. For the people we tell about our journeys they are only names and photos. For us on the road they are our brothers, the people we camped next to, battled winds with and shared a bit of food. This is what we will remember.
The next morning Emmanuel offered a lift to the capital and it was hard to refuse considering a full day uphill ahead. In Lilongwe I quickly procured a Mozambique transit visa and was off climbing up again towards the Mozambique border of Dedza. It was a full day as I rolled into a hilltop campsite. I camped out back of a guesthouse that was way too nice for me. I walked inside to charge my annoying and always dead gadgets. While I waited I listened to the next table joke about Hyenas in the area. Funny stuff for them sleeping safe in their beds. That night I had a terrible dream about Hyenas outside my tent. When I woke to pack my tent in the morning my bike had clumps of fur all caught in the chain and bolts. Was I dreaming? Was it just some stray dogs? Or were there really Hyenas outside my tent? I’ll never know.
The following morning I turned a curve and dropped down into Mozambique. As I caught the downhill I’d been dreaming for days I had time to reflect on Malawi. Rolling on I thought about the peculiar and endearing moments I was witness to amid the bouts of solidarity. Daily dinners on my own with the same old pasta I’ve been making since Sudan. The peaceful nature of Malawian people. A bicycle nation. The general poverty and heartbreak of the developing world. Begging of children on the side of the road, but in a sort of playful manner as opposed to Ethiopia. A nice conversation with a man at a local stand. Litchi soda. Kachumbani salad or ‘relish’ (see receipe HERE). And of course, bicycle taxis.
Who could forget the bicycle taxis? Malawi is among the top ten poorest countries in the world. Due to the recently withdrawal of foreign aid from western countries, because of governmental corruption, it has sunk even lower. 42% of their yearly budget came from foreign aid. Mind-boggling when you think about it and the subsequent implications for an already struggling people. This of course hurts the poorest of the poor much more than those who already lined their pockets. Which returns me to the bicycle taxi. When people cannot afford cars or motorbikes to get around, the bicycle taxi is the next best thing. Nothing as fancy as the Indian rickshaw, but simply a bike with an extra seat on the back. Some are decorated nicely and others are a simple work horse. They wait in queues in small towns for passengers to climb aboard. On one occasion, I recall following one of these taxis with a women and her baby on the back. The baby starred at me for miles strapped to the mother. All I could see was his face with his body stuffed into a bright cloth. He starred at me and I starred right back. It was mesmerizing.
“Don’t think there are no crocodiles just because the water’s calm.” ~ Malawian Proverb
From the border my bike rolled on with Malawi at my back. Across another imaginary line into a new world. I felt the same old feeling of those first strides into new territory and the excitement that goes with it. The feeling of starting a new job, seeing an old friend again, Christmas morning and a long weekend. The knowledge that anything is possible. The canvas is blank and we are the painter. Savoring these first moments is one of my favorite parts of the ride. I’m fortunate, I know, to have this opportunity. This piece in time where it is just me, my bike, 4 bags and a tent. The open mountains beckoned me forward and the wind gave me a welcome burst to let me know it was still there. I pushed onwards not knowing where I’d lay my head that night, then cracked a smile knowing it would be just fine.
*Thank you to all the recent donations to my charity with Free the Children. Because of your contributions we are now less than $2,000 away from meeting our goal for the schoolhouse in Esinoni, Kenya. I would like to specifically thank my friend Linda for her amazing and most recent contribution, it all blows me away. CLICK HERE TO DONATE.
**This week on Thursday is WeDay Toronto. A grand gathering of youth using their power and voices to help other youth. To learn more about WeDay CLICK HERE.
***The stories I share, the people I mention and pictures I post are only just slices of a bigger idea. When I write down my thoughts it is a constant struggle to choose the moments. There are endless pages in my notebook of kind people and amazing sights. I hope I’m able to share it all one day. Pictures that go on for days and memories to last a lifetime. Piece-by-piece. Thanks for following!
A Nine Minute Read
“The art of living well and the art of dying well are one.” ~ Epicurus, Ancient Greek Philosopher
On the road there is only the unknown. The only thing predictable is unpredictability. Sometimes my world seems like a fictitious playbook. Beautiful views and kind people dominate my days in larger than life experiences. Simple similarities between countries remind me of places months behind. From a quiet road to the sound of a car horn. These moments transport me back to times that feel imaginary. Portals of nostalgia drive me forward to the blissful yonder. Never riding the same road twice. Faces to never be seen again. Memories to last a lifetime.
On a cloudy cool morning I rolled out of Istanbul. A happening city. Bound towards the Greek border. The morning sunshine tried to peer out from the clouds with little hope as it spat rain. I rode early and quickly to escape the traffic. After crazy Indian roads, every moment felt like peaceful order. Sadly buying another delicious kebab from a street vendor I looked back from a hilltop over my morning work and a fading Istanbul. Bundled up warmer than ever, I pushed on through long straight hilly roads as light rain turned to flakes of snow. Melting on impact like a forgotten memory.
My first night out of Istanbul I was looking for a place to camp when it started to rain more heavily. I was hurrying along until I spotted a motel. Given the miserable conditions I decided to check the price and if nothing else get out of the rain. The owner, seeing me roll up was quick to welcome me inside. He decided to offer me a room for free. I couldn’t believe it. He quickly showed me to a warm room. Not long after he brought me a huge dinner and insisted I not pay for anything during my stay. Words cannot describe this type of kindness. I gave the guy a massive hug. In his limited English he said, “Gift from Turkey to Canada.” Fantastic!
Restored and rested, I left early the next day into a beautiful sunny morning. Riding through coastal towns and over big mountain climbs. The wind picked up around mid-day and blew a snowstorm in. Pushing up wet hills I made it along, wishing for goggles, missing warm weather. As daylight faded I tumbled into a roadside gas station cafe. I ordered the cheapest thing I could find from the heat lamps and slumped down. As I ate I gathered a small crowd of workers in the empty service station. Through phone translations, we sorted out the details of my journey. I asked if I could camp out behind the gas station. The one man said I could have his room for the night and again, no one would let me pay for my food or accommodation. Turkish people are unreal.
After another complementary breakfast in the morning I made a break for the Greek border. I rode over hills with a crosswind that I haven’t seen since the western deserts of China. With my bike tilted on a permanent angle I pushed on through northern winds that constantly drove me into traffic. Ten kilometres before the border I met a French couple. Heading towards the same place, we decided to ride together to Thessaloniki, Greece. Crossing the border we laughed together at the terrible winds. Finding a place under a bridge we set up camp and bunkered down to cook some pasta.
Over the next week we camped in icy conditions, riding along the ever beautiful coast of the Aegean Sea. Through picturesque towns we flew and up thigh crushing hills we climbed. Sunsets with dozens of colours lit the sky and cool mornings welcomed me awake in quiet fields. During long lunches we shared tales of the road and discussed plans for the future. Passing forgotten buildings, archaeological sites and derelict cemeteries, I wondered at the iconic history of Greece.
“He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.” ~ Socrates, Ancient Greek Philosopher
However, it was not all fun and games. Minding my business riding along, my bike was struck by a truck on an empty road. Actually, it was an ice cream delivery truck. Through careless driving he blew my left bag completely off my bike and hit my shoulder with his mirror, scaring the life out of me and knocking me over. I now know what I sound like when I am terrified. Luckily he stopped to check if I was okay. How I walked away without a scratch is beyond me. I was also happy not to be alone. After a lot of shock and checking over the damages we sorted out a plan. Unable to continue with my broken bags, he drove me and my broken bike to the next town. He bought me two new bags and gave me some money for dinner. He was terribly sorry and very worried about me. I counted my lucky stars as the moment replayed itself in my mind long into the night.
Upon arriving in Thessaloniki I was grateful for many things. After a week of riding. I was desperately dirty and in need of a day off to unwind. In the miles after the accident, I had some serious hours to contemplate my journey. At first I wanted to outright quit. To pack it all in and call it a day. It really shook me up. But, after relaxing a bit, I began to think of it as a motivational tool. To understand the value of life and how quickly it can disappear. For over two years I worked towards this journey. I couldn’t let this freak chance send me packing. This is my dream. The last eight months have been the most exciting, educational and inspiring moments in my life. Another experience and valuable lesson. To which I say:
Be more than you can ever hope to be. Don’t waste your days with pointless worries and regret. Never regret. Fulfill the promises you make. Life is very short, but it can feel infinitely long if you live everyday the best you can. By being your own person you can achieve this. Follow that itching screaming dream inside. Awake that curious child we all once were. The one that laughed at silly things and asked too many questions. When life was an entertaining game and not an monopoly obstacle course. My ride around the world is simply my fun little game. I write all the rules and can put my wagon back in the box whenever I like. But, I’d prefer to pass GO and keep on riding over the next hill.
We can all be pieces of change and hope. Life can be as simple, happy and fulfilling as you want it to be. My hope is to leave the world a little bit better than the way I found it. I ride for love, challenge and hope. To be apart of that change and not the problem. Give someone else that same dream. Check out my experiences in Verdara, India and the site of the next school we are in the process of fundraising for with ‘Free the Children‘ by CLICKING HERE.
*To donate to my charity and give others that same hope CLICK HERE.
**Thank you to the hundreds of school kids in Canada for their active support of my ride and pursuit of making the world a better place. My family, girlfriend and friends for always being there. I smile in happiness from miles away, on that beautiful winding road of life. You are all amazing people. 🙂
***See new pictures below (Turkey/Northern Greece). Part #2 of my ride so far in Europe coming soon. Greece cont’d, Macedonia(FYROM) & Albania. Stay tuned!