Of course, there were many highlights to the trip: the fantastic scenery, the amazing food, the cycling, the sunshine, etc. But what really made it was the people. The people we travelled with, but also the people we met along the way.
Our group was composed of over 30 individuals ranging between 20 and 66 years old. Over the 12 day trip, I got to spend time with each and every one of them, from the cycling to the water stops via the dinners and sightseeing tours. A mini social experiment of sorts, in which I learnt a lot about myself, others and the human ability to connect.
I realized half way through our trip that I hadn’t been in similar social conditions since high school or university: a group of strangers coming together to spend every waking second in each others company. And what a group it was. A bunch of extremely positive, upbeat, happy people that were brought together with the common objective of giving their time, money and energy to help others. Each and every person had a different background, a different story, and a different reason for engaging in the adventure. Old, young, female, male, gay, straight, etc. All of us came together as a unit and formed great bonds throughout the trip.
Over the first few days, we slowly began to meet each other, and started to connect between ourselves. People started to open up, to share their experiences, backgrounds and opinions with the group. Throughout the 12 days, we discovered more and more about every single person, our personalities, behaviors and perceptions.
I quickly learnt to lose any expectation or judgement about anyone. When we meet someone, we instantly form a script, a picture and an idea of what that person is like, about their life and who they are. However every single person on the trip blew me away. People surprised me in many ways, and I learnt that each individual is special in their own unique way. As one person wrote upon his return to the UK: “Thank You to all of you for rejuvenating my belief in humankind.. You are all outstanding people.”
However the human connections we developed were not simply between ourselves. Through our cycling, we met hundreds if not thousands of people along the way. Children gathered at the sides of the roads, screaming Hello, shouting and smiling at us passing by. Their parents by their sides would smile, beaming genuine love and interest. Many people stopped to take pictures of the people, the children, and to interact with them, despite everyones limited knowledge of the others’ language.
Simply by making eye contact, smiling and saying hello, we were able to connect with other human beings along the way. We were able to feel a bond, a connection, a similar human spirit. And we were able to send and receive genuine love without using words.
I strongly believe that everyone of us is dying to connect with others. When we walk on the street, all of us have the urge to reach out to those around us. It is natural. It is what we are designed to do. However in our society and our big city lives we have forgotten this. How many of us look at the ground, avoid the gaze of others as much as possible? When was the last time you met anyone on the tube? People are lacking that feeling of connectedness and love. A simple smile and eye contact is enough to change that.
This trip has opened my eyes in many ways. I have understood how easy it is to connect with others once you release any expectation or pre-conceived opinions on people. I have realized how important it is to me to connect with everyone I meet, and to allow all kinds of people into my life. I have reinforced my belief that everyone is special, and has something unique and wonderful to offer the world. And above all, I have discovered the importance of a smile, the importance of making eye contact, and the importance of saying hello.
Will Pike – November 2012