Have you ever traveled 11 200 km? Perhaps you have.
But, have you ever traveled 11 200 km… on a bike?
That is what local woman, Naomi Devine, has been training towards since the idea first came to her last December. Having devoted her life to the topic of Sustainability, Devine’s passion has now manifested into a rather intense journey — one which consists of the Vancouverite riding her bike from Vancouver all the way to Rio De Janeiro in Brazil to attend the Rio+2- United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. Along the way, she will be collecting stories and creating a documentary to “unspool a new narrative around how we all might create a better world.”
Before she left, I was quite fortunate to be able to speak to Naomi regarding her mighty endeavour.
First off, how excited are you for Rio?
Very excited! As it gets closer, you know, I get a little bit more nervous too as it’s turning into a reality quite quickly. I’m really excited because I’m already getting messages from people– they’re excited by this or they’re inspired by the journey in of itself. They’re giving me the messages that I was looking for like what kind of future they want to create or see so it’s pretty full on [laughs] It’s going to require a lot from me but I think now is the time and I think I’m ready for a challenge of this size.
As mentioned on your blog, “the furthest you have ridden a bicycle in one stint is 120 kilometers,” This excursion is about 93x longer in distance! How have you physically and mentally prepared yourself for the upcoming challenge?
I’m somebody who regularly works out to begin with so when I came to Vancouver at the beginning of January, I decided to go to Crossfit Vancouver for general fitness and then I’ve been cycling each day as well.
I think you have to break it down to one day at a time. So I’ll start off going shorter distances as I build up to what it needs to be. It’s something I’ll have to manage as part of the challenge as I go along the way but I also LOVE being on my bike. I really love cycling and I love cycling long distances. I used to ride a minimum of 200 hours a week.
Also on your blog, you explained your reasons for riding 2 Rio, saying, “I would become an influential storyteller who helped paint a picture of how we get the society we want. One that is just and sustainable”. So I’m asking you, what does just and sustainable society look like to you?
I think it’s a notion of a quality of life that everybody would like to enjoy. It’s making sure that there’s affordable housing for everybody, that the jobs we create are jobs that are here for the long term and they’re not part of boom and bust cycles. It’s where we are actually in touch with growing our own food, that we protect the natural area around us as much as possible. We think wiser, in a more integrated fashion– taking into consideration the environmental, the social, and the economic perspective in the decisions we’re making instead of just the financial multiplying. It’s really about fairness for all– Canada’s inequality gap is rising pretty much faster than anywhere else and we can’t have such disparities. We’re a wealthy nation; we should be able to share effectively of what we have so that everybody has the opportunity to prosper.
In weaving your personal narrative into the fabric of the global village, what impression do you hope to leave on those that you meet on your journey?
I’m not an Olympian, you know, I’m a regular person whose decided to take this on and there’s people who do things like this that train for longer, prepare for longer but also generally they’re just looking at the physical adventure alongside of things. I hope the story that ‘I’m a regular person’ comes through. I think there’s an appeal to that, that instead of being seen as a special or outsider person doing something like this.
And what are three hopes you have for the challenge?
I hope the message gets out that sustainable development matters and we start to change the way we talk about that. Where people go, ‘I see myself as part of that story. That it’s just not something environmentalists do but it’s what I want for my children and their children.’ I hope to not have many bike breakdowns along the way. And I really hope to record as many stories that I can that I think will inspire– focusing on people that are doing this stuff (sustainable living) and decided that this is the way to go– key lessons that I hope I can shine a light on.
I wish you all the best on this grand adventure! I have one last question for you, how were you able to muster up the confidence in accepting something as grand scale as this? What was the determining factor that led you to do this?
Certainly my desire to be more adventurous. And I think living in Whistler at the time where people do epic things like this, was a really great space to be in that helped me start to consider this.
I met Ray Zahab in Whistler. He founded Impossible 2 Possible, an organization that takes youth on expeditions and teaches them that they can go beyond their perceived limits. He’s an ultra-marathoner; didn’t start till his mid thirties, he used to be a-pack-a-day smoker, and he’d never considered himself somebody as athletic or adventurous as he’s become. So when I heard his story, I thought, what am I waiting for?
You’ve only got one life and at some point, you start to get really serious about what it is you’d like to do or who you’d like to be. Ray’s story was a catalyst for me. I knew I wanted to combine the adventure I would go on with my passion, and with Rio coming up, this just seemed like an ample opportunity to do something out of the box, to do something that is totally going to push my boundary beyond anything I can ever imagine. I want to know that I can rise to the challenge. If I’m going to make a good contribution, doing something for people to take a look at, hopefully this will encourage them to take their big leap.