Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Four years by bike across the world
Looking into the mountains of Tajiskhatan and Afghanistan.
He's already cycled 60,000 kilometers - now Israeli adventurer Roei Sadan is in the final leg of his incredible journey across the planet.
Roei Sadan's mother worries about her son 24/7.
And who can blame her? Her irrepressible redheaded child, having survived three years in the artillery corps of the Israel Defense Forces, now is on the final leg of a four-year worldwide bicycle tour all by himself.
"I am hyperactive and always ready to do something else," Sadan tells ISRAEL21c on a phone interview from Adelaide, Australia. "I have always wanted to challenge myself."
For the first two years of his trek, people just assumed he was a little crazy. But then he got a lot of media attention from his 30 public talks in stops such as Barcelona, Madrid, Nairobi, Buenos Aires, Guatemala City, Quito, California, Beijing and Tashkent. He discovered a passion for telling folks of all persuasions -- in English, Hebrew or Spanish, and sometimes through an interpreter -- about what he's learned from his adventures.
For the past two years, Sadan has been an official spokesman for the Israeli bottled water company Mey Eden, which sponsors his travels and will help him stage a gala ending event at Jerusalem's Western Wall in September. First, he'll wrap up his travels in Sydney and perhaps bicycle along the route of the March of the Living in Poland.
At the end of May, he revealed that he was "working on a big logistical challenge. A 48-year-old blind woman from Israel wants to come and cycle with me on a tandem bike from Adelaide to Melbourne."
Living his dreams
Known to his friends as "Jinji," the Hebrew term for a carrot-top, Sadan early on learned to channel his aggression and high energy to the basketball court, the running track and other athletic pursuits, becoming a champion athlete. He used to ride his two-wheeler to school in Oranit, the town near Kfar Saba where his family moved from nearby Or Yehuda when he was in fourth grade and his brother Ido was in second grade.
Serious cycling didn't happen until after he returned from his post-army trip to the Himalayan mountains. He bought a bike with his first paycheck and started biking across Israel on his own. "After six months, I knew that I want to cycle around the world," he says.
Rolling through one country after another on Emuna (Faith), the name he gave his 27-gear Thorn bicycle ("I think that you have got to have faith when you're doing this kind of a journey"), he's been bitten by dogs, robbed by bandits and sideswiped by cars. He may be 29, but he's still giving his mom cause for concern.
Nevertheless, he says, his parents are proud of him. "They didn't bring me into this world to live their dreams. They are happy to let me live my own dreams, as long as I don't hurt anyone." His father took his first trip outside Israel when he came to visit his son in Turkey.
Sadan gets much satisfaction out of understanding the different ways people live. "There are many things that we don't know about our neighbors in the world and some things that look normal to us (electricity, running water and more) are not so normal to others," he writes on his website.
"I think that I can learn from everyone, from the simplest farmer in the Andes Mountains or in Africa to ambassadors of my country."
Leaving a mark on everyone he meets
Israeli embassies have been happy to facilitate lectures for Sadan in the various countries he visits. He tells audiences of the challenges and sacrifices he's faced over the past nearly four years, biking more than 60,000 kilometers (37,200 miles) so far.
"To do this and not share it is selfish," he says. "I leave a mark on every person who reads about me or meets me while cycling. I'm not saying everyone should do this. My message is to challenge yourself, to do something you love and to be the best at it."
As a side benefit, he is putting another face on Israel. "Most people think we run around with guns or praying all the time," he says. "The image I give is different. I sit with you over a beer and laugh."
A new Israeli school textbook will devote a page to Sadan, who places a strong value on travel yet always intended to come home afterward.
"You need to see the world," he says, preferably perched on a two-wheeler. "I have thought about living in other places. I am not an extreme Israeli. But I want to be in a place that is best for myself and my future children, and Israel is my home."
Once he settles back down in Oranit, where he'll bunk with a buddy and write a book about his travels, he wants to launch a career as a motivational speaker. "This is what I've been doing -- helping people to see their potential and accomplish their dreams. This is only the start of the journey."