Andres refueling (with ice cream) for biking by Skagway Ferry.

Andres refueling for biking (with ice cream) in Skagway Ferry, Alaska.

Today we have the tale of an outdoor education teacher who is currently traveling from Alaska to Seattle by bike (!) to raise money for a great cause.

Andres, tell us more about who you are, and about your amazing and good-hearted travel adventure!

My name is Andres Esparza and I am a 27 year old outdoor educator at Yosemite Institute teaching in Yosemite National Park, California. I have been in the field of outdoor education for 4 years now, all in California.

I’m originally from El Paso, Texas but have moved around a bit growing up, living as far away as Guam as a child.

I am writing this in Southern Yukon and Northern British Columbia in Canada on a bicycle tour… an epic bicycle tour.

Andres at Prudhoe Bay, by Fairbanks, Alaska. Very, very North!

Andres at Prudhoe Bay, by Fairbanks, Alaska. Very, very North!

I am currently on a bicycle journey spanning the 2600+ mile distance from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Seattle, Washington. This trip is a major chunk of my life-long goal to ride from the top of the Americas (Prudhoe Bay) to the bottom of the Americas (Tierra del Fuego).

I was awarded a grant through Yosemite Institute in honor of a fellow educator, Matthew Baxter, who tragically died climbing El Capitan years ago. In his honor, the Baxter family set up a fund that allows educators to apply for a grant to fund a life-changing adventure, and I was lucky enough to receive one this year. In addition to my ride, I am raising money for another organization I work for, WildLink. WildLink, http://wildlink.wilderness.net/, is a non-profit organization that takes under-resourced students from California into the wilderness on expeditions to connect them with their public lands and raise awareness of job opportunities with the park service, forest service and other agencies operating in our public lands.

Biking from Tok to Skagway: entering Canada from Alaska.

Biking from Tok to Skagway: entering Canada from Alaska.

I have had numerous funny, memorable, and life changing experiences having travelled through many countries before on a bicycle. While I could sit here and tell you story after story about my travels on a bike I don’t think that would do bicycle touring justice. Instead I will describe, as best I can, why I choose to travel by bicycle.

To travel through a new land on a bicycle is to feel the land change in a way that simply cannot be felt in a motorized vehicle. You feel the cool breeze on your face and you coast down long, winding mountain descents in remote forests. Conversely, you struggle up seemingly endless climbs, dripping sweat, cursing the person who chose to build this road up this particular hill. You have the opportunity to pass multiple separate ecosystems in a single day and since you are moving slowly enough, actually feel the difference in the air between these zones. You have the advantage of being able to stop exactly where you want and enjoy the exact views that speak to you. You get to stop in quaint little mountain towns and talk to locals and get the real story of the region. You pull over whenever you want, walk into the woods, and set up camp for the night.

Haines Highway, winding from Alaska through Canada.

Haines Highway, winding from Alaska through Canada.

The road is your path, but anything along the way is fair game. Random, unmarked dirt roads sometimes lead to secret treasures you never otherwise would have discovered.

In addition, especially when you seem to need it most, you find others on the road cycling somewhere, searching for the same endless glory this world has to offer.

Those days where you find yourself riding with people you met only hours before and exchanging jokes and food over a campfire that night create unforgettable memories and friendships. A long, epic day makes any and all food taste like the finest French Cuisine and seemingly trivial junk food items like Snickers, Nutella, soda and peanut butter take on god-like status when it comes to your unquenchable hunger. Bike touring is this and more, and once you have sat in the saddle and pointed yourself towards a faraway destination, you truly realize the feeling of ultimate freedom.

Andres with his bike on the stretch from Tok to Skagway.

Andres with his bike on the stretch from Tok to Skagway.

Bike touring has made me a better teacher in that it shown me the power of experience in the learning process.

Although you can lecture a student to death and make them memorize all fifty states and their capitals, all you are doing is teaching memorization and test-taking skills. It isn’t until that student sets foot in Austin, Texas that all the historical context that goes along with that place really makes sense.

By travelling through places that I have read about, researched on the internet and heard about from friends, these places have finally become real, living places with personal connections.

As far as impacting me on a personal level, traveling has allowed me to see the world as the vast majority of the rest of the world lives. I still have many places to visit and people to meet, but every single person I meet or place I explore teaches me a little more about this wonderful world and all its hidden secrets.

The best and only advice I can give is to just do it. The fear of travel to new areas deters far too many people. All you have to do it suck it up, but a plane ticket, and commit.

This world is full of far more honest good people that bad people. All you have to do is commit to putting yourself out of your comfort zone and you will discover far more that you thought you would.

Andres getting nutrients for many, many more miles of biking!

Andres getting nutrients for many, many more miles of biking!

Cheers,
Andres

Thanks so much for sharing your inspiring and astounding story, Andres.

Thanks, also, to both Andes and Greg Mu (www.gregmu.wordpress.com) for the wonderful photos to accompany the article.

Readers, if you want to check out Andres’s blog, pop over to LazyManAdventures.wordpress.com.

If you are interested in donating to the worthy cause of WildLink, click on the “WildLink Donor” tab on Andres’s site.

Readers, what questions or comments do you have for Andres?

Where will the road of teaching and traveling take you, in your wildest dreams?

Where will the road of teaching and traveling take YOU?

May we all draw inspiration from this teaching-traveling tale.

Think about it: Andres was able to find a grant to pay for his dream of bicycling 2,600 miles from frigid Northern Alaska to Seattle.

If he was able to create and fund that opportunity, how can we say that OUR wildest travel dreams are unattainable?

There is support out there to fulfill every kind of travel opportunity for educators… and extra points if we can do it, and contribute back to a good cause, too!

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Posted by Lillie

Lillie started TeachingTraveling.com in 2010 to share the infinite ways to combine education and world exploration. Lillie has been a Boston teacher since 2003, and chronicles her own travels at AroundTheWorldL.com.

One Comment

  1. Andres,
    Thanks so much for sharing your experience. Very inspiring! I give you so much credit for biking 2600 miles! My uncle talked me into doing a half ironman race a few years ago which entailed biking 56 miles. I couldn’t wait to finish biking and get to the running portion of the race. Since then I stick with running, my true passion 🙂 Whether its biking or running, I completely agree with your comment that ” The road is your path, but anything along the way is fair game. Random, unmarked dirt roads sometimes lead to secret treasures you never otherwise would have discovered.” I have had the opportunity to travel/live in different countries and love to run in foreign cities. I have learned so much on my runs.
    I think it’s amazing that in addition to doing something that you enjoy, you were able to raise money for such a great cause. I used to work at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, which focuses on fighting hunger around the world. Our goal was to promote sustainable development and combat world hunger. You have inspired me to somehow combine running and educating others about the issues of malnutrition, which unfortunately are faced by many.

    Thanks again for your article!

    Shannon

    Reply

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