The Cycle of Life:
The Power of Saying Hello




A New Beginning: At Home

“Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road, healthy, free,
the world before me.”
~ Walt Whitman, Poet

The day finally arrived. I had thought about it for years, but I didn’t quite feel how I envisioned. There was this sinking feeling in my stomach. I was almost sick.

Rampaging around the apartment like a lost dog, there seemed like so much left to do. I must be forgetting something, I thought, as I searched through empty cupboards and musty old closets of my island apartment. Throwing on my last bag and bungee cording a spare tire to the back of a relatively inexpensive Trek bicycle, that I converted to a mountain touring bike, everything was ready to go. Only a few days before, I’d finished my job as a teacher at a Canadian International School in the southern Chinese island city of Sanya — dubbed China’s secret Hawaii.

Now it was Monday and time to leave. No one was making me, I reminded myself, this was all my doing. It was 8 a.m. on a Monday. Why didn’t I just tell everyone I was leaving at noon, I thought, as I scanned the apartment for any last-minute items I had forgotten. I was no longer a teacher; I was now an adventurer. Well, at least that is what I told myself.

You imagine these days for years in your mind and yet the last moments are always the most frantic. Looking back, I should’ve thrown half the junk back into the closet that I’d jammed into my bicycle bags. Hindsight 101 can be tough.

The pressure was on. The week leading up to my departure the donations had already doubled for the community in Guang Ming, China. I hadn’t even biked a kilometre and already had hundreds of dollars donated to support the building of a schoolhouse. My community of supporters started online with friends and family donating via a crowdfunding webpage for the school. Slowly, fundraising started to expand beyond that to dozens of supporting schools and people who heard about my journey. The intended goal was to fundraise for the construction of one-room schoolhouses in remote rural communities at a value of $10,000. In the same way I had access to education growing up, the goal was to ensure young people would have a safe place to go to school. I hoped to visit these communities on route to share with supporters, the impact of their donations. This thing was more real than I ever imagined it to be. Sweating buckets and I hadn’t even cycled a foot.

Among the busyness, there was this still moment of clarity, where all of the hectic days came rushing to a halt. I realized that this was it. I took a deep breath. No turning back now. Easing my heavy bicycle to the edge of the door and out into the humid morning heat thoughts whizzed through my mind like, What am I doing? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just be normal? Can I go back to bed?

Mounting the bike, I awkwardly pretended to look confident. Blubbering through a goodbye to a small collection of friends, colleagues and my loving girlfriend, Yiying (Eliza), I said goodbye. Soon I was zigzagging around the corner and out of sight. Nervously, I wobbled into traffic not knowing if I would make it past the next intersection. As the edge of the city appeared, busy streets gave way to quiet paths with green hanging palms. With a surge of adrenaline, I told myself, You’ve got this! Rocking the bike into a lower gear, I grinded my way up the first few hills. The temperature crept upwards, and my heart pumped. My eyes zeroed in on the road, as I attempted
to keep my overloaded bicycle upright.

Rolling into a small village mid-afternoon, I stopped for my first break of thousands. Running my hands to wipe the sweat from my brow and through my short brown hair, I saw a place to sit and rest my short stalky frame. Grabbing a refreshing cool coconut, I plopped down on a low wooden chair to quietly sip its juice. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched as the shopkeeper looked at me, at my heavy bicycle and then back at me again.

He asked, “Nǐ yào qù nǎlǐ ma?” (Where are you going?)

Pausing, I laughed and replied with a smile, that was probably too smug, “Jiānádà.” (Canada)

China – 1 day on the road; 1 act of kindness and counting…

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