Just a few months after graduating from UCSB, Daniel Connell and Quincy Lee pedaled through campus and toward the adventure of a lifetime — a self-supported bike tour from California to Colombia. Compelled by a thirst for exploration, they have traveled through eight countries, made hundreds of new friends, and raised several thousand dollars for a bike charity.
Their first day of riding, from Isla Vista to Malibu, was the farthest Lee had ever pedaled. But the pair quickly got into the rhythm of life on the road and now bike 8-10 hours a day. “You absolutely don’t need to be an amazing athlete to do this,” said Connell. “Just get on your bicycle and start pedaling, and everything else follows suit as the trip goes on.” Along the way they’ve been welcomed into fire stations, park recreation centers, and even family homes. “We have yet to pay for a place to stay.”
Experiencing new cultures has been a major appeal for both Connell and Lee, who say that cultural stereotypes have been replaced by their own firsthand experience. “Many of these countries have bad reputations, places like Honduras,” says Lee, “but exploring for ourselves we’ve met people who buy us dinner. The world is full of incredible people wherever you go.”
Connell said one of the more liberating aspects of the trip has been realizing how little they really need. “Sometimes we sleep on the side of the road, under bus-stop shelters, under a parked semi-truck,” he explained. “We went through six countries without doing laundry at all. We would find a river or ocean and just jump in to rinse off.” Still, the tough conditions make creature comforts all the more enjoyable, said Lee. “We’ll go a week sleeping on the floor, then we’re offered a bed, and it’s magical.”
The two decided to use their trip as an opportunity to raise money for World Bicycle Relief, an organization that empowers communities by enhancing mobility through bikes. “We’re using our bicycles to experience the most incredible things that life has to offer, and it’s clear to us that the bike is a tool that can really change lives,” said Connell. They’ve raised nearly $3,000 so far.
As they close in on Colombia, both Connell and Lee are already thinking about their next adventure. Possibilities include cycling from Colombia to Patagonia, or biking around the Middle East. Said Connell, “Once you do a trip like this, all you want is more.”