Here is your inside look at our trip so far! We are so grateful to have this platform of adventure to raise money and awareness about an issue we are so passionate about. Most days are pretty much the same, but we have compiled some of the highlights below. Stay tuned for more on why we are in this fight and why we are fundraising for Lighthouse Voyage.
Hey Everybody! Joel here.
It’s crazy to think that we have already been on the road for one month! After a rough few weeks of trying to figure out our daily rhythms of buying food, finding water, cooking, setting up camp, navigation, language and cultural barriers, we finally feel as though we have found our groove. We have settled into patterns and an understanding that this is what life is going to look like for the next five months.
We have been so blown away by the people who have blessed us by taking us into their homes, covering our bills at restaurants, giving us amazing deals on bike repairs, and simply supporting us in other capacities. We have love sharing about the purpose of our journey with such a mix of amazing people. Some of these people are pictured below.
In the last two weeks we have been in four different countries and have travelled well over 1000km. We left Prague after a restful two and a half day break and headed for Austria. For some reason we found it very difficult to find water our first day in the country. The towns we passed through were small and seemed relatively uninhabited and no public taps were turned on. It was a scorcher of a day and we were incredibly discouraged and dehydrated, but we knew we had no choice but to press on. Then, in the most unsuspecting town, we came across an public outdoor pool with wooden decks and reeds all around the outside. It honestly felt like we had found our own little paradise in the middle of a desert. We filtered water from the pool (it was fed from a natural source), ate lunch, and then went for a swim. We felt revitalized and felt ready to push on.
After crossing into Slovakia we made our way to Bratislava and spent a day purchasing resources we were low on and getting some much needed self-care. It was just a short stretch from there to Budapest where we were again refreshed by getting to stay with an amazing host, Viktor (above). Following this, we camped a few nights without our tent because the forecast said it would rain and we couldn’t find bridges with enough flat space to put up our tent.
After one of these restless nights we woke to discover our navigation app wasn’t working. We headed out into the rain in hopes of getting wifi, but chances seemed slim being that it was Sunday. However, we ended up running into a dreadlocked hippy nicknamed ‘Rasta’ (above) who invited us into his home to use his wifi. We got the app up and running and headed on our way, but not before his sister and mother served us coffee, tea and pancakes and gave us a tour of their beautiful home and farm. We left in high spirits. Twenty kilometres later, Brad broke two spokes on the gear side of the rear wheel that we needed a bike shop to help with the replacement. We asked locals if there was a repair shop around, but the town was far too small. It was at this point that we had to humble ourselves and admit that we couldn’t do every kilometre across Europe by bike. So we boarded a train and headed for the city of Debrecen in Hungary.
One hour and 70kms later we arrived in the city. We found a Macdonald’s and used their wifi to look up bike shops, but nothing was open until the morning. In a last ditch effort to find a place to sleep, we fired off a couple requests on Couchsurfer and to our surprise we got a response! An hour later we were acquainted with our friend Mazin, who is a cyclist himself, and a doctor from Saudi Arabia. He was an amazing host and took us to a bike shop in the morning before introducing us to some delicious Hungarian food.
Then we headed for the mountains of Romania. These last two days were two of the most mentally challenging yet. We had to walk our fully loaded bikes for kilometres at a time up rocky logging roads to get through the mountains. It was a miracle that our tires survived. On the second day, after our slowest morning on record and nearly 60km of not seeing a paved road, we hit asphalt. It felt like a dream. Almost immediately the road changed from a mountainous ascent to a 40km downhill cruise which took us to where we now rest in a family run guest house in Campulung, Romania.
At points during all of these stories there were moments we wanted to quit, to call it a day, to turn around and head back to smoother roads. As I reflected on these moments I reflected on why we kept going and I realized that it was for one simple reason: we had hope that there was something better in store, that eventually the rough road would end and the asphalt would appear, that the rain would relent and the sun would come again.
And we believe this for our cause as well. We believe that for each individual trapped in sexual slavery there is hope. We have faith that something better lies ahead for every person. We all need to cling to this hope for ourselves and for every cause, and every person we encounter. This is how change is possible.
This is why we are fundraising for an organization that is making a tangible difference in people’s lives. We are so honoured to announce that since the launch of our campaign in late December of 2015, we have already raised over $25,000 for Lighthouse Voyage, which is an organization that partners with local efforts in India and Nepal to rescue and rehabilitate victims of sex-trafficking. As little as $200 can be difference between captivity and freedom, so this sum is an enormous amount! However, we are not done yet. We believe in something better and an even greater change is possible as you continue to give so generously. Thank you for the crazy love and support!
With much love and great anticipation,
Joel & Brad
Hello from Prague!
Nine straight days and almost one thousand kilometres has brought us here from Cologne, Germany. We are so thankful to be staying at a friends apartment right in the heart of the city. A much needed couple days filled with rest and a few errands (plus two Euro Cup matches on TV). Life has reluctantly slowed down – temporarily.
We left Cologne knowing we had a long rough stretch to push through. Our first few days we dealt with some minor navigation problems. It would have been so nice to just hop on the Autobahn and cruise to the next city. We did attempt that earlier in the trip, only to be honked at by every passing vehicle. So we resorted back to winding through the hills using our trusty GPS to guide us. Even that proved to be half helpful most of the time. Once we got through two days of up and down country hills, we managed to finally figure out how the signs worked for the cycling paths in Germany. This made our days flow much more smoothly because we didn’t have to stop every other turn on the road to see if we were still on route. It was smooth sailing for the rest of Germany.
At this point we have both gotten used to eating much of the same food everyday. Fruit and muesli for breakfast, sandwiches or pasta for lunch and pasta for dinner. Throughout the day we are munching on granola, nuts and protein bars. We make an effort every day to find a cool place to cook lunch. Whether that’s at the top of a big hill overlooking a town or on a picnic bench beside a cool river. Dinner usually ends up being after we post up for the night – usually under a bridge or overpass. By that time we are pretty tired. If it rained all all, we make an effort to set up a line to hang our wet stuff on. Then it’s time to read and sleep.
About four hundred kilometres outside of Prague we ran into these two young Czech guys who were headed back home. As friendly Canadians, we began talking with them about life on the road. We decided it would be a great idea to ride together since we both were bound for the big city. Thankfully for us, they had Czech crown. Our lack of research made us assume the Czech Republic used Euros. So we had to borrow a bit from them until we were able to exchange currencies. They treated us to a fantastic traditional Czech meal in a small village and filled our bellies with Czech sweets for four days. They were two of the friendliest guys we’ve met so far. Even helped us with a few spoke repairs in the middle of remote mountain trails. Not a bad introduction to the Czech Republic.
We arrived in Prague at lunch on Tuesday. We wished our new friends well on the rest of their journey and we parted ways. By this time, Joel and I were both eager to shower, eat and prop our feet up and watch a footy game. Nine days is likely going to be our longest stretch between real showers and beds while we are in Europe. It hasn’t taken long for either of us to appreciate a cozy bed, clean clothes or a nice warm shower. When you pack you’re lives into eight 20L saddle bags, food and shelter take priority. Clothing, comfort and cleanliness become luxury. You learn how easily we take those things for granted.
As we move onto the next leg of our journey this evening, we both want to thank everyone for keeping us in their prayers. God has been good and has provided us with what we need thus far. Putting the right people in our path and keeping our minds focused on why we’re doing this. We often do have to remind each other why we chose to do what we’re doing. It’s not about us, or the money, or the photos, or the travelling. We do this because we genuinely want to see a change in the way people are viewed and treated around the world.
We love you all and are so thankful for each person reading
“The aim of life is appreciation; there is no sense in not appreciating things; and there is no sense in having more of them if you have less appreciation of them.” – Gilbert K. Chesterton
Brad and Joel
Thanks for checking in. We are doing well and are staying with friends in Cologne, Germany. Our next Major destination is Prague and we are excited to see more of this beautiful country on our way there. Joel wanted to share some of his thoughts from the first week of the journey so enjoy!
“Yesterday morning I woke up sore. I mean really, really sore. We had biked over 120 km the day before and were camped on the side of a hill with tree roots sticking up beneath us. I know this sounds like an awful choice of camping spot, but we honestly had no other options. My first thought when I woke up was that I didn’t want to get on my bike at all. My second was that there was no way we were going to be able to do this for another five and a half months. I started craving the comforts of home and getting a little frustrated at myself for ever deciding to go on this venture. Honestly, I felt entitled. In that moment I truly believed it was my right to be comfortable all the time.
This is not the case. It was never our right to be comfortable and yet it is something we seek above almost everything else. We spend time with the people we like to be around. We go visit places where we know we won’t have to step out of our comfort zone. We read one blog article on an issue instead of spending the time to do legitimate research, because that might mean we actually have to engage reality head on instead of just voicing an opinion over social media.
Let’s get uncomfortable with the fact the millions of people around the world are victims of sex trafficking. Let’s get uncomfortable with the fact that our choices and cultural viewpoints might have something to do with that.
Maybe sex trafficking isn’t the specific area you feel passionate about working against. That is so valid! But whoever you are, and wherever you might be, always be willing to get uncomfortable so that you can engage with the world and sit with others as they experience pain and hardship. And in the end always believe that there is hope. Even in the apparent absence of hope, and in the most uncomfortable of times, hold on to hope.” – Joel
With much love and great anticipation
Brad & Joel
A couple weeks ago Brad and I took a ride from Vancouver to Squamish with our bikes fully loaded as a trial run to get a feel for what the average day might be like on our six month venture. The view was absolutely stunning the entire way and for the most part the riding wasn’t too bad either. As we neared the towering face of Stawamus Chief, where we set up camp, we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of downhill cruising that we were able to do. In fact, almost the entire last ten kilometres of the ride were downhill and we revelled in the feeling of the cool evening breeze and having our feet planted firmly and unmoving on the pedals as we coasted to our destination. However, upon arrival at ‘the Chief,’ we were both quick to acknowledge that the morning riding was going to be brutal because all those downhills would be gruelling ascents on our return. Needless to say we dreaded the thought of remounting our bikes in the morning.
We were not wrong. The morning was rough. With a tent, sleeping bags, cooking gear, and countless other items weighing us down, we moved slowly. With each hill looming ahead of us our hearts sank into a bit deeper despair and I found myself longing for flat ground so that I could rest my legs for even a moment.
Then I realized that my mindset was all wrong. Everyone has endured some form of hardship in life and we all know that it is in times of struggle and difficulty that we grow the most. It is in these times that, with the right mindset and support, we change and become more complete human beings. So why was I longing for the hills to end? Slowly but surely my mindset changed and I began to crave the inclines, seeing each one as a new obstacle to overcome.
Our mindset needs to change in regards to how we tackle human trafficking as well. We must accept that change is not going to take place immediately and that the process will be slow and excruciating. We must look deeply into ourselves to determine how our personal experiences and interactions with culture have shaped our views of one another. It is out of this introspection and self-analysis that we are able to step out and be the most impactful. Both men and women must ask themselves: “How has culture influenced my view of myself and others?” I believe that, to an extent, we must all go through a process of rediscovering the value in ourselves and in others so that we can act out of true passion and conviction when we work to combat sex trafficking.
The process of change on a personal level and the vast global scale are both excruciating and do not take place overnight. But I hope that we can learn to revel in the painful and freeing process of learning to see the value in ourselves and others and living lives that seek to bring hope and freedom to everyone. It’s a huge hill to climb but I am ecstatic that we are taking the first steps (or pedals) together. Be willing to check yourself and then go change the world.
With much love and great anticipation,
Joel & Brad
Over the last few months we have had a wide variety of reactions to what we are doing. These have ranged from really uncomfortable looking facial contortions of total shock and awe, to smug head shakes which, in no subtle terms, suggest that we will never make it (and we are yet to prove them wrong), to warm hugs and whispered “please come back alive’s.” Regardless of the reaction, there is almost undoubtedly a massive ‘why’ attached to it. The why is simple enough: this trip provides a platform to raise money for an absolutely worthwhile cause and gives us a chance to raise awareness about the injustices that are being inflicted on millions around the world every day. But there is a deeper why, a why that resonates profoundly with both of us, and chances are it is something you connect with as well.
So why are we taking time out of university to bike from Belgium to India? We are doing this because we believe that each person has an unchangeable and priceless value that is not contingent on their situation; a value that does not suddenly disappear when they have been used and abused. Each person is deserving of a chance to experience the full beauty of life and yet millions of exploited people are robbed of this inherent right every single day. We have this gift of freedom and healthy bodies that are able to move without restraint and we do not want to take either of these things for granted.
And we are passionate about this specific group! It pains both of us deeply to think about the fact that there are adult women who have never stepped foot outside a brothel and that there are babies being born into captivity without a chance to know freedom.
Most importantly we are doing this because we believe that there is so much hope for change in this area of social injustice. There are so many incredible people doing amazing work to seek freedom for these captives and to offer them a chance at a new, radically different life. The organization we are fundraising for proves this! As I write this blog, two of their partner organizations are meeting in India to discuss how best to use the money that YOU have been donating! Within the last few weeks they were able to rescue 14 girls (including two babies) who were going to be killed simply because they are not males. Your donations have allowed them to be transported to safe houses where they are receiving care for as long as they need it. There is hope and we want to be apart of seeing it be realized in the lives of these precious people.
Thank you for joining us on this journey!
Brad & Joel
Since we launched our campaign in late December we have been overwhelmed by the support that we have received and are so excited about what is ahead. We wanted to give you some background on how this ludicrous venture came about as well as fill you in on what we have been up to so far.
It was in the middle of summer 2015 that I (Joel) had the idea to do a long-distance bike ride to raise money for victims of human trafficking. I had no idea who I wanted to give the money to, but I was very clear on the general vision: bicycle from Belgium to India to support organizations that are working effectively to free exploited individuals from sexual slavery. When I returned to my third year of my undergrad in psychology at Trinity Western I was approached by a good friend of mine who wanted to tell me about his experiences working with exploited women and children in India and Nepal. This man was David Punnamannil, the now founder and president of Lighthouse Voyage. He shared his desire to start a non-profit that would partner with local organizations in these countries to rescue and rehabilitate those trapped in sexual slavery. I immediately knew where the money from the bike trip would go and have been working to make this journey a reality ever since.
Brad overheard me talking to his brother about my idea for the trip and it sparked an immediate interest. He met with David and took time to consider whether participating in this fundraising campaign was a legitimate possibility. For him this would mean taking a break from his studies at Columbia Bible College, but the opportunity the make a difference in people’s lives and to take part in a once in a lifetime opportunity to bike across Europe and a large section of Asia won him over. After just over a month Brad made the commitment to join the campaign and Into the Silent Planet was born.
After we launched our campaign in December we immediately began connecting with people from all different walks of life who are passionate about seeing justice in this area. These connections have grown into sponsors, donors, and valuable sources of information and support as we move closer to leaving on this journey.
We have both been biking a lot more than usual in order to start getting in shape for strenuous demands of the trip, which will see us travelling through a variety of different terrains and weather conditions. We are mapping out the definitive route and looking at visas and flights as we prepare to leave in just under four months.
We have been able to share about our campaign in front of over 200 people at the Lighthouse Voyage launch event and are connecting with news sources in hopes of sharing the vision on a larger scale.
Currently, we are looking to connect with more sponsors in order to acquire the gear and finances needed to make this trip a reality. We have some really exciting leads in this regard, but are looking for more companies and individuals to come alongside and partner with us. Our sponsors so far are ‘My Canvas Media’ and ‘The Epic Group’ (go to ‘the sponsors’ page to learn more).
We are also in the process of planning a fundraising event, which will allow people to hear more about the cause, the journey, and how their donations can make a real difference. It will be a great time so stay tuned for more details!
We are unbelievably excited about the lasting impact that your support will have on so many lives.
Thanks for joining the journey!
Joel & Brad