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