I don't really cry very often so when the time comes it's usually for a pretty good reason. Over the course of the last six months most of my productive thinking time has occurred on the bike. There's something about movement that stimulates thought — whether that be walking, riding a bike, driving long distances or even flying. At times I've cursed myself for not having a dicta-phone as I worry I'll lose those wonderful thought-trains forever.
Yesterday as I weaved my way through the backstreets of La Jolla to my last stop on this whirlwind American odyssey, I couldn't help thinking about all the people who have made this trip what it is. And I'd like to make it clear that when I speak of the last six months, I'm including all the wonderful Canadians that I've met too. The generosity, kindness, curiosity and overwhelming love that has been extended to me is something I cannot possibly express in words. Without it, my trip would be nothing. So it was only fitting that I was brought to tears by it all in a few quiet moments of reflection, much to the bewilderment of a few elderly ladies walking past on the sidewalk.
If we look at the current state of affairs in the US, and in the world more generally, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that division is the flavour of the month. To many Americans I have met Trump is the very embodiment of this division — Paul had shirts for sale in his LA shop with a photo of Trump and a caption that read "Divider in Chief". On a global scale, the constant flow of vast rivers of refugees out of Syria, Myanmar and other parts of the world are an issue for the entire global population — not just their immediate neighbours. The way the government in my home country treats people who are fleeing this death and destruction is so shameful that it almost makes me physically sick. To me, the question here is this: what have we forgotten?
One thing I learnt in Year 11 Economics is that we look at the economy on two different levels. The macroeconomic level and the microeconomic level. Personally I always preferred macroeconomics, and when you're dealing with money and all that stuff it seems a lot more interesting. But does that interest translate when we're looking at human nature? I don't think so. When we look at the world (and all the humans in it) we have a tendency to think on a macro level — to always think big. But there's an inherent danger there and it often leads to feelings of helplessness and despair — the scale of it all threatening to overwhelm even the most optimistic of us. What happened to the micro level? Small and random acts of kindness aggregate to a vast wave of love in the world. The importance of these acts cannot be underestimated; they harness the power of the human spirit in a very unique and powerful way.
If I've learnt anything in the past six months it's that everyone has a story. Every human on this earth has a collection of experiences, emotions, opinions, beliefs and a unique perspective that should not be neglected. Their story may not align with exactly with yours, but if you peel back enough layers and really get under the skin of it all, you'll discover similarities that are much more powerful and profound. And who knows, maybe they'll help to change your mind about something? All you need to give them is a little of your time, and for them to give you a little of theirs. Because time is really one of our greatest luxuries. We spend our lives in pursuit of a myriad of needs, wants and desires and I think time is too often overlooked. At the end of the day it's really all we've got. Maybe that sounds a little rich coming from a young vagabond who's riding a bicycle for a few years but I don't believe it detracts from the truth of it.
It's safe to say that riding a bicycle long distances attracts a lot of attention and a LOT of generosity. Americans have proved that in spades. Ok, sure I've got a bike that's laden with all kinds of stuff (too much if you ask me) and I do look a little scruffy and, yes, there are heaps of holes in my shirt (but I can't retire it yet). On the other side of the coin, I'm simultaneously afforded the good fortune — through sheer luck of being who I am — of not attracting too much unwanted attention. I'm a white, twenty six year old male, and I believe I am fairly well-versed in the luxuries that provides. I didn't choose to be born this way, it's just who I am. It's what I do about that fact that counts and I'll try my best to take advantage of those luxuries to do something I believe in.
Many of you have been drawn to my journey by curiosity, some by chance and others by pure luck. You have made the last six months some of the most rewarding of my life and for that I am forever indebted to you and the world. What I wish to say is that we all must remember that everyone we come across has a story just as unique and fascinating as mine may appear to be.
To all the Americans & Canadians reading this, and to all of you generally, I would like to emphasise one thing. If we all take five minutes out of our day — even five minutes out of our week — to learn a little of the story of another, I believe the world would truly be better for it. People will surprise you with their honesty, inspire you with their excitement and leave you speechless through their humility. Your fellow human beings, given the chance, will remind you what it is to be human. We are not numbers and we are not statistics. We are stories. Every story has its place in the vast web of human history and each one is of equal importance.
The America that I've experienced is still United. The unconditional love I have received on this trip has come from all kinds of people — and not always the people you'd necessarily expect. This love has transcended all those things that some try to exploit in order to divide us; race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, age, beliefs etc. The categories of division are endless but the language of being united rests on the fact that we're all human. Through all the diverse and wide-ranging forms of story this fact can be recognised and — more importantly — embraced.
Finally, a huge and sincere thanks to all of you who've helped me in any way — the big and the small, the macro and the micro. You all know who you are and the fact that our paths have crossed has been, for me, an immense pleasure that I won't soon forget.