WEEK #99 How are we doing? 99 weeks, a short recap.

It started in 2012. There was an idea, just a small one. Like a small seed just planted in fresh soil this idea started to grow. Slowly but steady, thoughts, dreams and imagination took over. Literally took over, I didn’t know what to do and sought for advice from the two people I love the most and who have always been there for me, my parents.
A simple and easy piece of advice was given: put your ideas on paper and see what happens. In February 2013 I started typing, and two weeks later the base of what is now 99%RIDE was in front of me.
With the help of two friends and partners in the foundation, 99%RIDE was kicked off officially in May 2013. From there the seed started growing in rapid tempo.

September 2013. After a quick and successful crowdfunding campaign the setting changes. I’m on the top of the world. It’s cold in Alaska and I’m sitting on a bicycle saddle on which I’ll be spending more time than actually walking the next 20 months.

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The route. September 1st 2013-May 1st 2015.

The weeks fly by. I lose my sense of time and am trapped in a new lifestyle, if I can even call it that. Almost everyday I don’t know where I’ll be sleeping, what’s going to happen or whom I’m going to meet. There are very few things that become routine, my life takes place outside, on the road and alone. This will have its consequences later on in the journey…

Throughout Canada and North America there are people who become supporters, but also good friends. Together they help 99%RIDE; awareness and funds are raised for the projects we support. 99%RIDE speaks to everyone who wants to hear more, elementary schools, high schools, universities, businesses, even in bars and restaurants the laptop opens up and 99%RIDE pitches its mission.
Leaving North America the foundation splits up. Two partners go back to The Netherlands and continue their work there. Together with good friends, family and a group of loyal supporters, fundraising events are set-up. People in Amsterdam get on the bicycle, witness a one-year-old beard being shaved off through a Skype connection and more funds continue to be raised.

Exactly one year after leaving everything behind I am in Panama, the gateway to South America. A few projects have already been supported and there are more to come. The poverty in several countries really gets to me, I see things a “regular” backpacker tourist doesn’t see. Opposite of what someone once asked me during cycling, this is not a holiday. This is real life, and it’s not always fun or easy. Rape, abuse, incest and violence is often seen.

My emotional state drastically changed. Even though there’s a lot of attention for what 99%RIDE does, there are moments of extreme loneliness; there is no love, no person who can throw an arm around me and feel what I feel. I want to ventilate my thoughts and my feelings, sometimes writing helps; sometimes just a few minutes of crying or screaming out loud on the bicycle will do the trick.
Mood swings of intense happiness and sadness are sometimes reached when achieving physical peaks; climbing high mountains or going further distances than before, pushing my body and mind harder and harder. “How far can I go?” Is a question I have often asked myself.
There are more triggers for these mood swings; reminiscing good times, leaving a project behind and saying good-bye, thoughts of family, friends, loved ones I have lost in the past. Even listening to a certain song can bring me to smiles and tears at the same time.
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My physical state has also changed. Arriving in La Paz, Bolivia I weigh just above 70kg, having lost more weight than ever before. The high altitudes in the Andes of Peru, the deadlines of visiting projects on time and a slim budget for food and drink get to me. A visit to the doctor tells me I have small infection in my lungs. This later turns out to be the only time I am actually “sick” in 20 months. Advice from the doctor: rest. And gain some weight.

Making a change isn’t always easy, but never impossible. I need to eat more, and drink more. “Take care of yourself first, then others.” A lesson I’ve been told many times, yet never really put into practice that much.

Visiting a project is a special experience. When I started I had no clue what to expect. You arrive, you meet the people behind the project and of course the children. That’s when you feel you heart is at the right place.
Listening to the stories of how some people give up a certain part of their life to do good for others is a very humble moment. Asking what they need at that single moment and being able to realize this for them feels even better. You see the hard work paying off. Directly. The laughter and smiles that follow are forever engraved in my memories.
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Cycling through South America goes by faster than I thought. Before I know it I am counting down weeks instead of months. Longer distances are crossed in a shorter amount of time. The long border between Chile and Argentina is crossed many times before I have the finish line in sight. Ushuaia is getting closer and closer. For the first time I feel some kind of unexplainable uncertainty. Looking back at the last 20 months of my life raises many questions and brings even more mixed feelings.

Which were the most positive? Which the negative? What have I learned? Have I changed? Then of course comes the main question: what will I do next? A million questions with but not enough answers.
The last week of cycling was special, even more than I ever thought possible. You can’t anticipate what you’re going to do or feel when you’ve been on the road, literally, for the past 20 months of your life.

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Above: August 2013. Below: April 2015.

The last day made it even more memorable. Everything came together that day, like it was there on purpose, a plan creatively devised by someone who knew I needed a certain closure, time to say good-bye to this life I had adopted the past year and a half. When I arrived at the final destination my mind was at peace and at rest, my heart beating strong and proud.

As I am typing this I am in the midst of some very good people. People, who have followed, supported and have stood by my side from the very beginning of 99%RIDE. These people no longer are a loyal supporters group, they are a part of the team, as is everyone else who has stood behind me, watched over me and helped me out when needed during this epic journey. I thank them for that.

My thanks, appreciation and gratitude to everyone who has contributed to 99%RIDE is great. Without any supporters 99%RIDE wouldn’t exist. We wouldn’t have helped so many children receive the education they deserve. A complete report on what we’ve achieved will be published on our website in the coming weeks, so keep following us!

So, what’s next for me? You might ask yourself. Well, I have found love, it has changed my life and it will continue to grow, just like the little seed in 2012, it will turn into something greater over time. Just like 99%RIDE.

Happy cycling,

Dirk Spits

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