Lessons from Cycling Cross-Country

By Emily Boyd, AmeriCorps Member at Rebuilding Together Greater Des Moines

I made the best and also the worst decision of my life last summer: to bicycle across America.

Knowing graduation was upon me back in December of 2011, I wanted to participate in one grand adventure before this real-world thing became a reality. So, I signed up to bike from San Diego to Myrtle Beach so people in Kenya could have access to clean water and HIV/AIDS treatment.

I could have never prepared myself physically enough to climb thousands of feet or mentally to bike 80 miles a day without completely losing my mind. I also never would have expected the clarity that comes from just pedaling for hours on end or the fabulous relationships that gave me transformational perspectives.

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The first day of June, I met eight individuals in San Diego and from there we pedaled our way across the southern part of the country and spoke at many water stops and any other opportunity we had available in order to meet our goal of raising $40,000. Besides learning how to dodge semis when crazy dogs were chasing me on the freeway, I learned professional skills I use to this day in my career:

You can’t control people. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I really came to terms with letting people be who they are without it affecting me. If it was affecting me, I spoke up. I realized it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Make a simple ask. I love Blood:Water Mission‘s statement that $1 can give one person in Africa clean water for a year. It’s specific, you know how the money affects a life and most people have that to give. What does a $5 donation do for your organization? Even if people can’t give a lot, they’ll feel more compelled to give when it’s specific and easy to understand.

Just do it. Far too often, people are unsure if their ideas should be voiced or if they should make the bold decision to apply for a position that’s “out of their league.” The fear of making decisions can be crippling at times, but can you imagine wondering “what if” years down the road?

If you find that a little adventure is just what you need to develop yourself more, check out Venture Expeditions, as they host many different trips annually that benefit different nonprofits across the nation. Biking worked out perfectly as an AmeriCorps position opened up at Rebuilding Together days after the tour ended. You can currently find me helping coordinate volunteer groups with home repair projects in the community and trying to find ways to make Des Moines a better place to live.

Ride on.

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