UAlbany student Dan Patterson is an avid cyclist who's biked across South Africa, England, Scotland, France, Spain and much of the U.S.
His next trip: Central Asia. After graduation, he and another recent UAlbany grad -- Marta Grzegorek will spend six months biking from Istanbul to Shanghi, that's about 5,000 miles.
But this time, cycling just didn't seem to be enough.
So Dan and Marta will be stopping in towns along the way in an attempt to help people solve social and environmental problems.
Why wasn't just taking a vacation enough this time?
There's a lot of time to meditate on a bike. Last year on my bike trip through Spain to France, England and Scotland, I spent day and night by myself and I started thinking. I was inspired by a cyclist I met who, with his brother, raised $30,000 for Indian orphans by creating Orphan ride 2. I just kept thinking about it. Marta and I were living in the same city in Spain and we decided to plan a bike trip to China. I did some research and just let my mind wander, and I just popped out bed at 2 o'clock in the morning and the plan just came together.
Why Central Asia?
Because we think the area is sub-represented and an area in dire need of help. Water is disappearing there and nuclear waste is a big problem and economies are dying. We're hoping to call more attention to social and environmental problems in that area of the world.
In Uzbekistan, the Aral Sea was once one of the largest lakes in the world -- now it's a toxic sea. It's polluted by all sorts of things, including residue from the Russians testing biochemical warfare on it. It's in the south western regain of Kazakhstan and northwestern region of Uzbekistan.
Mailuu-suu is one of the most polluted places in the world . According to a 2006 report by The Blacksmith Institute, it's one of the ten most polluted sites in the world. It's a seismically active, mudslide prone area so mudslides could cover all of these radioactive waste. It needs aid, attention and documentation.
So how will this work?
First we're raising $12,500 for Global Greengrants. We have set a goal to raise 2, 500 before we leave in July, and we plan to raise $10,000 while we're en route by connecting with international organizations. That's not for us -- we're paying for our own trips. Not a single penny of that goes to us -- we don't even see the money. 100% of the proceeds do go to Central Asia.
On our trip, we'll be talking to journalists, activists and local leaders about what the problems are, why they're problems, and what can be done to alleviate those problems. We'll also be sharing information about the Global Greengrants fund -- what they do and how they operate.
So what do you need?
As cyclists, we don't really need anything-- we've got everything set in place. We've already collected about $1,000, but we still need people to make contributions. There's a donation page on our website and we've got some fund raising events coming up -- three bike races and a charity dinner party at The Midtown Tap and Tea Room.
Why bike? What's so great about biking?
It's a form of meditation. I begged my parents for my first bike when I was five years old and today I feel more comfortable on two wheels than I do on my own two feet. It's my passion. It's my hobby. It's my life.
What's different about seeing the world from a bike?
You definitely see it slower -- you see it more clearly you see it from ground view. And people are usually very happy to see cyclists around -- people are quick to open their arms toward you. It kind of has a humble approach to it... people are accepting of cyclists.
You're graduating from UAlbany just before your trip. There's been a lot of publicity lately about UAlbany students...
Yeah... I really hope to definitely overturn that perception. I think the majority of UAlbany students are smart, academic students who like to get things done.
Lots of people talk about doing things like this -- biking through a new part of the world, or raising money to help solve problems, but they don't follow through. What made you take it from an idea to a reality?
You just gotta do it -- just get it done. Whatever the conditions are, just figure it out and
get it done. I've always lived by those rules.
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