Tinkering with the idea of embarking on your own pedal-powered adventure? We want you to know about a really goosebumpworthy opportunity to go on your first (or twenty-sixth) bike trip with a great organization, for (wait for it) a great cause.
We have a bike crush on Two Wheel View – a Canadian non-profit that runs bike trips for students in Canada, Argentina, and Norway and provides students with leadership, environmental, and cultural exchange opportunities along the way. In short, they’re nifty.
In order to keep down the costs of their trips for students, they also run charity support rides for adult adventurers with a few extra bucks to spare. Riders sign up for one of two 16 day tours this spring (argentina!) or summer (norway!), and commit to raising at least $1,500 to support Two Wheel View.
The founders – Rick and Tanya – are an incredible pair with many years of experience leading bike touring educational programs under their belt… and they got their start sort of like we did, on an epic bike trip that changed their lives – I can only imagine the trips they lead will be just as incredible.
If you’re interested, check ’em out here.
“3 guys, 44 days, 11 countries, 18 flights, 38 thousand miles, an exploding volcano, 2 cameras and almost a terabyte of footage – all to turn 3 ambitious linear concepts based on movement, learning and food into 3 beautiful and hopefully compelling short films…..”
When the moment came for us to squeeze Sitka and Moose (our bikes) into inhospitable cardboard bike boxes and lug them to the FedEx in downtown Berkeley, I tripped on the sidewalk near the muffin store and took Brandon out for a beer. It was a bittersweet night of accomplishment mixed with that belly churning you get when you want to cling to the last string of something good. The next day we got on a train at 9 in the morning carrying a giant jug of half-brewed kombucha, a tattered ukelele, and the remains of our bike adventure packed tightly into our backpacks. We set east from our temporary home of CA to make an eight day train voyage to the east coast in order to spend time with our families for those days that we celebrate in December. I felt – and still feel – an uncomfortable nostalgia for the west coast (which, by the way, I had only visited once before this trip, when I was 22). Having now spent a solid six months teasing its contours on two wheels, it has come to represent more than rugged hills and tall trees: it is the home of our epic adventure.
It was only fitting to leave the coast with a similarly epic (and slow) voyage eastward. The California Zephyr (run by Amtrak) is quite a trip. I’m pretty sure the majority of fellow travelers on board are either afraid of flying, hopeless romantics, or simply looking for someone (anyone) to talk to. A few also do it because the scenery is spectacular.
Some Zephyr highlights:
1. We spent five hours talking with two relatively wild ramblers about: if there could be such thing as a ‘benevolent dictator’, the concept of God (who one guy characterized as a “frantic, nervous Woody Allen type”), the blues (via harmonica), string theory, and the meaning of life
2. We had on-train park service narration between Sacramento and Reno (the unfortunate accent of one narrator made him sound like he was saying ‘ray rod’ instead of railroad… which was, to our delight, referenced roughly every four words for several hours)
3. The personal narration of a train-enchanted four year old who, for an hour or so, made sure to remind his grandmother: “hey look! I’m looking out the window!” and “we’re on a train!”
4. Oh yeah, the most incredible traverses of the Sierras, several giant red canyons, and the Rockies, and snaking along the Colorado river, shooting through vast deserts and snowstorms, and leaping the continental divide. I will admit that I was a bit relieved I didn’t have to pedal my way through some of those snowy mountain ranges to get the views!
We’ve made stops in Salt Lake City and Denver, where we’ve climbed two mountains, hung out with Space Jesus, learned swing dancing at 1:30 am, spotted a great horned owl in a friend’s backyard, and acted ridiculous an unquantifiable number of times in public. Today Brandon played songs from “Amelie” on a random piano placed conveniently in the middle of downtown Denver and I waltzed.
I leave you with a few images from the journey:
What if we prioritized self-discovery over academic achievement? What if every high school graduate was encouraged to spend a “gap year” soul searching – creating things, working, apprenticing, adventuring, exploring, risk-taking – in the real world before jumping head-first into college? In a recent post, I said that funneling high school students directly into college doesn’t just promote a one track definition of “success”, it also forgoes an opportunity for students to apply their ideas and explore their passions in a way that will benefit their future education (however extensive that ends up being).
So what could you do with, say, a year of self-directed learning on your own? Here’s a list of ten “wise routes” to self discovery without school, chock-full of links to my favorite organizations and ideas for your (or your kid’s) time away from the education system:
1. Become an education hacker. Whether you want to learn how to build a website, speak Spanish, start a garden, write a book, become an expert on the French Revolution, or double knot your shoe laces, there are oodles of ways to educate yourself about just about anything for free. Watch this video for a great intro. Then check out p2pu.org for free online collaborative courses, find a Free Skool in your area, create your own Citizen Circle, or join the Uncollege movement.
2. Go on a group roadtrip. Looking to see what’s “out there” far and away from your own “bubble”? Why not go on a roadtrip with Roadtrip Nation (in a big green RV) or The Otesha Project (a group bike trip!)?
3. Explore jobs, internships, and apprenticeships. What if you spent a year exploring 4 different jobs, internships, or apprenticeships for 3 months each (or 2 for 6 months each)? This is a cool way to ‘dip toes’ into a few different fields, make connections without committing to anything long-term, and potentially make a few bucks along the way.
4. Voyage abroad. There’s no doubt that traveling abroad and experiencing a different culture is one of the most life-changing things you can do. It’s usually not free, but there are some great gap year traveling programs that offer scholarships. Our faves?: OneWorld Now!, Carpe Diem, and The Traveling School.
5. Help your community thrive. You don’t have to travel around the world to discover new things. Why not invest yourself in helping your own community thrive? Learn from neighbors or volunteer at a community organization in your area. Check out City Repair to get some ideas for reigniting community interaction.
6. Start your own venture. Is there something you want to change in your community (or world!) that isn’t being addressed? You can start your own venture and even get coaching and start up money to do it! Check out Ashoka’s Youth Venture or contribute your idea on Changemakers to win funding and recognition.
7. Build. Something. Big. At TEDxYouth last weekend, we heard the incredible story of Kendall Ronzano, a high school student that decided to build her own HOUSE and founded Nerd Girl Homes. If you like learning by doing, why not build something of your own? And hey – there are tons of great bike collectives all over the world where you can get free help building your own bike (coughsocoolcough).
8. Start a blog. Blogging is a great way to share your interests and ideas with a community of people interested in following along. I was inspired by my friend Rachel’s “Never-Have-I-Ever” blog, in which she tried a new thing every day for a year, and wrote about it online. To get tips on how to create a good blog, visit the WordPress support page, sign up for a class with Britt Bravo, or just read a bunch of blogs and get a sense of what you like!
9. Design your own Wise Route. If you don’t want to pay a program to have a cool travel experience, why not design your own? Whether its a backcountry hiking trip or a cross country bike tour, designing your own adventure is an incredible learning experience. Grab some friends, pack your bags, download an Adventure Cycling map, hop on a bike, and see what’s out there!
10. Embark on a quest for silence and inner peace. Sometimes in our search for ourselves, we forget to look inwards and focus on inner peace. The quest for less, not more, can often be the most challenging. Spend some time alone (perhaps in the wilderness). Meditate. Breathe. Be present. Prioritize you.