The Ride to Read: A Young Woman's Solo Cycling Tour through Europe to Raise Money for World Literacy

 

On Tuesday, May 16th , my good friend Kasia Szewczyk began a cycling journey she will never forget. Departing from Barcelona, Spain,where she picked up her touring bicycle that is made from recycled parts, she commenced a 3,500-kilometre solo cycling odyssey through Europe that  will end  in Istanbul, Turkey. It is not every day that a 23- year-old forgoes regular showers, a comfortable bed, and a normal social life to set off alone across a continent; but Kasia is a woman on a mission. She has the goal of raising $10, 000 to help World Literacy Canada support women’s education and literacy programs in Uttar Praddesh, a Northern State in India where both poverty and population run high. As if her fundraising campaign is not enough, Kasia will also be giving presentations on permaculture, a system of ecological design for sustainability in all aspects of the human experience.      No stranger to traveling great distances, Kasia was born in Poland but emigrated as a 5 year old to the city of Calgary in Canada’s foothills. This past Christmas, she flew from Calgary  to Peru to  visit her older sister who had relocated to a small community in the  Sacred Valley years earlier. While in Peru, she ended up going to a naturopathic doctor who told her that she was holding on to a lot of stress. This was not surprising since in the past two years, both of Kasia’s parents have been ill with cancer. My friend was given an atypical remedy to relieve her of anxiety. She was told she needed to start enjoying her life, and that in the process, she should do something to give back to others. Since she is passionate about both reading and cycling,  Kasia came up with what she has coined The Ride to Read. Quickly, she started training at the not-so-ideal altitude of 3,500 meters above sea level. Though she originally thought of fundraising for various causes she cares about, such as urban sustainability or cancer research, she considered the fact that without knowing how to read, it is hard for an individual to advocate for any type of justice. As Kasia explains, she is cycling “for the fundamental right of everyone to improve communication and to have access to knowledge, to be able to read and write, and thus to discover their own inner voice and calling."   Cycling is certainly a calling for Kasia. As a student, she would bike back and forth between her family’s home in the suburbs and the University of Calgary on a daily basis. The weather was not always pleasant and the distances were long; but Kasia wasn’t about to let urban sprawl get in the way of her ride. After she completes the Ride to Read,  her old biking route to university will seem as easy as a light evening stroll. Cycling through Spain, France, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, and Romania  before finishing in Turkey will take at least two months. Except for brief periods when she will be joined by friends and supporters, Kasia will be making this journey alone. To keep costs down she will be camping as well as using two social networks for travelers - Couchsurfing and The Warm Showers Network.      My friend is an inspiration to all. Spending days with only her bike for company and at the mercy of the elements, Kasia’s Ride to Read will require not only physical strength but mental determination. That’s why it’s important that we all give her as much online love and support as we can.  Follow Kasia’s journey on her blog at http://ridetoread.wordpress.com/. There, she not only writes about her daily progress but posts pictures and videos for your viewing pleasure. You can also “like” the Ride to Read on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RideToRead. To make a tax-deductible donation to help Kasia in her goal of raising $10, 000 please visit http://www.worldlit.ca.  

 
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