In 2009, Nathan Winters rode his bicycle across the USA on an epic journey to explore the current state of agriculture in America and document the connections between people, landscapes, and food.
Nathan is now living in Vermont, completing a book about his experience and continuing to advocate for small farms, healthy food, and a cultural identity that preserves reverence for the land.
Common Voice asked Nathan if he had advice for Sterling students and other individuals who want to pursue big dreams and make a real and lasting difference in the world. He responded with the following post. For more, please visit Nathan’s website: http://follownathan.org.
Leave your fear at the door.
Leaving fear behind is by far the most important step you need to take in order to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.
How many times have you heard someone talk about an amazing travel excursion that they have always wanted to experience, quickly followed by a handful of excuses as to why it hasn’t become a reality?
“I don’t have enough time, money, flexibility at my job or a traveling partner” – these are just a handful of the common excuses that get tossed around, some of which are the same excuses I pondered for a number of years.
The bottom line is this: Unless you are willing to be lost in a pipedream a decade from now, get rid of the excuses. It doesn’t matter if you are young, old, single or a parent to 3 children. If you approach travel as an opportunity and not a risk, your confidence will do all of the heavy lifting.
Travel with a purpose.
With your fear far behind you, start looking at your upcoming adventure as an opportunity to do something meaningful.
Personally, I have a passion for agriculture and its relationship to the natural world. Movies such Food Inc and books by Michael Pollan made me aware of what is going on with our food system and health.
Within my plan to ride a bicycle from coast to coast I saw an opportunity to meet with farmers and community organizers from all over the country and get information about agriculture straight from the horse’s mouth. This direct experience had a far greater impact on me than any book or film. During my journey I would meet with organic, conventional, urban and even Amish farmers.
If you don’t ask you don’t receive.
You will need support for a fearless, purposeful adventure. And the only way to get what you need is to ask.
To prepare for my trip, I sat down and created a list of everything that I needed. My list was a mile long and started with obvious things like money, a new bike, camping equipment, a camera and a laptop. The list went on and on, and I started to feel overwhelmed. I needed to get resourceful.
I quickly created a simple website explaining the purpose for my journey and the things I would need to be successful. Help arrived quickly with donations from friends and family that enabled me to buy a new camera and a lightweight laptop. Things got interesting when REI found me on Twitter and gave me a 33% discount which saved me $1,000.
Finally, after reading an article about a methane digester I contacted Greenopolis.com in hopes of a sponsorship. They took a shine to my query and agreed. Suddenly, I had more than enough funds and support to make my journey a reality.
Some people find it difficult to ask for things. I suggest keeping an open mind. For most people, the act of providing help for another person inspires a feeling of benevolence and goodwill. When you accept help you are giving an intangible gift in return.
Share the experience.
These days, sharing your travel experiences is easy. Websites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube make updating and sharing experiences in real time a cinch. If you are like me and travel with an iPhone people can live vicariously through your travels in real time. These tools also helped me get what I needed during my journey.
On many occasions I posted a Twitter and Facebook update explaining that I was entering a new town with no place to stay. With the help of my social networks I always found a place to stay and a good time, too.
In terms of my research project, these social media tools were priceless. For example, by the time I got to Vermont my YouTube videos from Maine had circulated on Twitter and Facebook, which got the folks in the Green Mountains excited about my journey. I was swiftly connected with some tremendous farmers and community leaders such as George Schenk, founder of American Flatbread, Meghan Sheridan, Executive Director of the Vermont Fresh Network and organic vegetable farmer Mimi Anstien, just to name a few.
Welcome the “new you”.
If you are lucky enough to experience a journey of a lifetime you will undoubtedly be surrounded by a plethora of new and golden opportunities. You will see the world in a new light, gain real life experience that you can’t find in a text book and meet new friends and supporters.
Personally, I enjoy writing and have decided to write a book about my experiences of traveling from farm to farm for 5 months on a bicycle. Because I involved so many people in my adventures I now have an audience ready to read my material. If all goes well they will enjoy my stories and encounters and share my book within their social circles, creating yet another new opportunity.
Just because your travels are over and you have returned home doesn’t mean the journey stops there. Every day is a new page in the book of life.
Those who know me will verify that I am always quick to remind people that you can do anything you put your mind to. If that wasn’t true I wouldn’t be sharing this with you today.
Best of luck!
For more, please visit Nathan’s website: http://follownathan.org.