Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.
– Charles M. Schulz
Can you imagine bicycling around a country — with a backpack and not much else — for months on end? And what if that country is India? A few years ago, I met a wonderful person named Matt Brice in Amritsar who was, and is, doing just that. At the time, we chatted about our mutual ambitions to make videos connecting to our travels, his passion for cooking, and how incredible we found India. Everyone who met Matt seemed to really admire his choice to cycle, while locals felt drawn to a tourist who had chosen to connect with their country in such a visceral way.
Matt’s now back in India, bicycling around again — but this time he’s doing it to raise money. Matt created a charity, Cycle for Brighter Futures, which raises money to help underprivileged children in India in order to help them learn to read, write, and further their education in general. His snapshots from his experience are evidence of an unbelievable adventure in spreading wealth, in all senses of the term. Even though he’s literally on the road at the moment, Matt was able to take some down time to share his experiences with us, and what he’s learned about giving back.
K: What was the jumping off point for starting this epic journey to help others?
MB: In 2012, I came to India for the first time, arriving in Delhi with my bicycle. It was my first time in India, as well as my first time traveling long distances on a bicycle. Over a period of 5 months, I cycled close to 4000 km from Delhi! I went through Rajasthan, then followed the coast around Gujarat, then to Mumbai, along the coast of Maharashtra, and finally finishing in Goa.
I had such an amazing experience during this time: the food, the culture, the craziness… but, most of all, the Indian people! I just couldn’t believe how generous the people were there. Complete strangers often went out of their way to help me, without wanting anything in return.
It was seeing this generosity time and time again that inspired me to find a way in which I could give something back — to find a way that I could do something to help make a positive change for the poor people of India.
K: Can you explain to us what Cycle for Brighter Futures is?
MB: Cycle for Brighter Futures is my fundraising project that involves me bicycling over 4300 km solo around India over a period of 7 months. I’m cycling south from Goa to the most southern tip of India, then following the east coast up to Kolkata, and finally west to Varanasi.
So far, I have raised over $12,000 through fundraising and donations, all of which will directly go to the “Brighter Futures Study Center” in Delhi. This center teaches children from the slum literacy and numeracy skills, and classroom participation abilities. It also helps obtain birth certificates for the children in preparation for formal school enrollment.
K: What was the motivation behind traveling by bicycle? To me, this seems like it would be the most challenging way, but perhaps also the most rewarding way to see a place.
MB: In 2010, I was traveling by boat from China to Japan when I met a Japanese guy who was just returning home after a 12 month cycling journey through central Asia, South East Asia, and China. I was totally amazed and inspired by his journey.
I had always wanted to visit India and thought — why not give it a go on a bicycle? The worst that can happen is I don’t like it, in which case I’ll just ship my bike home, and continue backpacking.
I love how Matt’s own inspirational journey was originally motivated by seeing someone else’s. This is often the case for many of us: when we see somebody else doing something amazing, what might have previously seemed impossible suddenly becomes very real! Giving back is not only achievable, but incredibly rewarding, too.
K: How did you prepare, both physically and mentally, for this journey?
MB: Before my first trip, I regularly went to the gym, and did some longer distance rides, anywhere between 40-50 km. But even after this preparation, I found it really tough on the roads here in India. I learned quickly that I needed to take it really slowly at first, and just let my body adjust. So, that was the first trip.
Knowing this, I didn’t do any physical preparation leading up to the second trip (on which I started Cycle for Brighter Futures). Also, at the end of the first trip, I’d left my bike in India anyway, so I had no means of cycling in Australia. I just planned to take it really slowly, listen to my body, and gradually work up my fitness levels.
Sometimes we put off doing things because the preparation might seem overwhelming. Not so! We can manifest whatever we want, as long as we listen to our bodies, practice good self-care, and keep original intention in mind. I really appreciate that Matt isn’t setting out to race around the country: time isn’t even a real factor in his planning; rather, he is focusing on self-regulation in order to soak up the experience, and have enough energy to give back to those in need.
Thank you to Matt for taking the time during his cycling journey to share his insights with us! In Part 2, we’ll hear his firsthand experience with the water crisis in India, along with his most inspiring — and challenging — moments.
Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.
– H. G. Wells