Brendan Szewczyk
Jul 25, 2018 · 4 min read
Thanks to John for hosting us at his home in Ocean View, Norfolk.

Have you ever been in a situation at the end of the day and wondered… how did I get here from where I started? Since I left home to live full-time on a bicycle with my wife Lindsay, that experience has become something of a nightly routine for me. Sometimes it’s terrifying. It’s physically painful and mentally exhausting. I miss home a lot and every day I think about turning back.

It’s also been the greatest experience of my life.

Three weeks ago, I couldn’t have imagined where my bicycle would take me. We left Pittsburgh with no training or expertise, both of us fantastically out of shape with no planned route and only a vague idea of where we wanted to go. Dipping my feet into the Atlantic for the first time, feeling the water spill out onto my legs, relief and pride washed over me. The ocean had seemed so far away for so long, like we might never get there, until it was right there in front of us.

Tomorrow, we will leave one ocean and set our course west, toward the Pacific. When I tell people we’re going to bike to the west coast, the first question they ask is “Why”? And for a while, I didn’t have an answer. The experiences speak for themselves. “I want to travel,” I’d say.

But that’s not an answer. Not really. Why do I want to travel? Why do I want to travel by bicycle, of all means? There are certainly easier ways to get around.

Bicycles are cheap to purchase and cheaper to maintain. In a car, you can whiz past a small town and never meet the people in it. On a bicycle, you’re vulnerable, you’re slow, and you’re hungry. It’s difficult not to meet people.

If I had just wanted to go to Virginia Beach for a weekend, I could have rented a car and an AirBNB and never had any of the amazing adventures I’ve already experienced. Each day on the road is completely fresh and new. I am awake, stimulated by life in a way I never could be back home. I found what I was looking for, not in the sea, not in the many picturesque places between here and home (though they were beautiful), but in the 600 hard-earned miles I rode to get here, and most importantly, the people that shared them with me.

On our way to Richmond a couple of weeks ago, we were looking for a place to sleep, so I took a chance and contacted the pastor of a church nearby and asked if it would be possible for us to sleep on the floor of the church. I didn’t really expect a response. An hour after pulling into town with a flat tire, we were sitting at a table with his family, eating dinner. We were able to wash our clothes, fix Lindsay’s flat, shower, and sleep in a comfortable bed.

That kindness, shown to us by complete strangers, has not been unique. In fact, if you just ask, most people are willing to lend a hand. We have been given so much already this summer, that for the next leg of our trip, the next 4,000 miles, we wanted to find a way to give back and share with others. By writing here and sharing the pictures, maybe I can impart a little of what makes this experience so worthwhile.

From left: Lindsay, myself, and Pastor Michael

For us, riding a bicycle gives us access to long-term travel, something that would have otherwise been out of our means. For many others, the bicycle is not a tool of recreation but a tool of necessity. It was the same family that took us in that night who introduced us to World Bicycle Relief, a charity that “mobilizes people through The Power of Bicycles.” In rural African communities where transportation is non-existent, a bicycle can change lives by providing access to essential goods and services.

As much as my life has been changed by a bicycle, I know it pales in comparison to how much it would change the life of someone in poverty on the other side of the world. Equipping these communities with bikes is an inexpensive way of creating lasting change in the lives of real people.

I wanted this trip to be about something bigger than just myself. As we cross the U.S. from coast to coast, we’ll be fundraising for WBR with a starting goal of earning enough money to provide 30 bicycles for those in need. If you want to be a part of that, you can contribute here.

Brendan Szewczyk

Written by

Biking across the United States in support of World Bicycle Relief. insta: @burrendan

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