Biking from New Jersey to Portland, Oregon for charity was never something I thought I would be able to do.
Yet the past two months of my life have been dedicated to the incredible feat of pedaling 3,500 miles across the United States, and raising over $3,500 for Elijah’s Promise soup kitchen in New Brunswick. The experience has been incredible, and I couldn’t be more thankful to the people who helped me achieve it.
Each day of the trip consisted of rising at the crack of dawn, packing the emergency vans with our luggage, pumping tires and lubing the chains on our bikes, and then biking for an average of 8 hours until we reached our destination. Coming from a life where I could always count on having a comfy bed to sleep on each night, this nomadic lifestyle took some time to adjust to. It took a great deal of flexibility and desire for adventure to come to a point where I could enjoy biking 60-80 miles during the day and comfortably sleep on a cold hard floor at night, but within just a few weeks I had adjusted to the unpredictable and exhausting lifestyle I had committed to, and I was truly enjoying it as well.
Once I was able to appreciate the beauty of sleeping on everything from church basements to trampolines and to eating nothing but granola bars and peanut butter sandwiches every day, I not only realized how much I had taken for granted my whole life, but also how much I had to gain from giving up these luxuries. Flexibility and adaptability are two innately human qualities, yet we get so consumed by our daily routines that we forget to welcome new experiences into our lives. These experiences give us knowledge that allows us to better our relationships, habits, and more; flexibility and adaptability can only come to our benefit. In my journey across America, I was able to experience a diverse array of lifestyles and routines, and have picked up several new habits that I will keep with me for the rest of my life.
For example, a family I stayed with on a farm in Wisconsin grows almost all of their own food, and tries their best to maintain a strong relationship with everything they consume. With the milk they produce from their cattle, they make fresh yogurt and butter, and thanks to the maple syrup they draw from a neighboring farm, they always have a jar of fresh granola ready to go for breakfast in the mornings. I was so inspired by how much thought and effort they put into the food they eat, and immediately resolved to pay more attention to what I’m putting into my body — whether that means cooking more at home, or making my own yogurt and granola.
But what I loved most about this trip was the reason why we did it. Myself and ten other students from Rutgers University endeavored to raise $3,500 each for a local food pantry in New Brunswick — called Elijah’s Promise — in order to improve food security in the area. The kitchen provides three meals a day to the homeless and underprivileged, provides culinary classes to the public, and keeps a community vegetable garden. Throughout our biking journey, we would stop in major cities and volunteer at local soup kitchens to learn about food insecurity as an issue across the United States, and of course to give back as much as we could. I already had a clear understanding of the importance of fighting hunger before I embarked on this journey, but I now had another perspective to add. The nutrients that we feed our body are vital to our well being, and when there are so many people that are not receiving those nutrients, it should be the community’s responsibility to provide for its citizens what they are unable to provide for themselves.
Fresh, healthy meals are a human right, and my teammates and I are determined to do what we can to help solve this issue.