In October 2019, Matthew Flinders Anglican College Year 11 student Kristian Kjaer achieved his goal to complete a 1,300km unsupported, off-road bike-packing journey to Sydney as a fundraiser for World Bicycle Relief. You can read more about his 13-day adventure here.
In this article below, Kristian shares his reflections of his journey. Perhaps his story will inspire others who are attempting challenges, big or small, that appear daunting and feel down-right uncomfortable.
Kristian has so far raised more than $3,500 of his $5,000 goal, which will help World Bicycle Relief provide up to 25 specially designed, locally assembled 'Buffalo Bicycles' to students in rural Africa; connecting them with education and healthcare. You can still donate to Kristian’s fundraising effort here and follow his daily diary, with photos, recorded while on his trip.
“TRY. OTHERWISE YOU’LL NEVER KNOW”
BY KRISTIAN KJAER
To say that riding to Sydney was always a personal challenge would be a lie because it had always been a crazy idea, rather than a goal. A “what if”, instead of a “what now”.
I have always been driven to tackle challenges that lie ahead. Whether I’m in a competition or not, I enjoy pushing myself physically and mentally. However, in my past challenges, I have always felt a sense of security and reassured myself by thinking: “I know I’ll finish” or “I might not do well, but I’ll get there”. And even in my toughest challenges, I have always been supported by those I trust. However, I had never attempted a challenge that felt so daunting I had no idea if it was possible.
So, inspired by one of my aims in life - to raise awareness and funds for those less fortunate than myself, I made a goal to ride to Sydney to help raise funds to donate bikes to families in developing countries. I decided to attempt this in the Term 3 school holidays, with only two weeks to prepare.
Before I set off I was overwhelmed by the prospect of doing all of this alone and unsupported, and for the first time in my life I felt like there was no way I could prepare myself for every possible scenario I would face.
Looking back, this couldn’t have been further from the truth. The first few days were amongst the hardest days of my life. Littered with setbacks, the days became long and making it to Sydney didn’t seem possible. After just Day 2 I was 80km behind schedule, tired, physically drained and off route. But there was no way I was stopping anytime soon.
At this point in the ride, I had never felt so alone, and outside of my comfort zone. But there was something there. I’m not sure what it was but no matter how bad I told myself things were, I couldn’t give up.
My situation reminded me of the famous quote by Martin Luther King Junior:
“If you can’t fly, then run.
If you can’t run, then walk.
If you can’t walk, then crawl, but by all means keep moving.”
As I continued further south, and the minutes turned to hours, and the hours turned to days, I was diving deeper and deeper outside my comfort zone.
However, upon entering into New South Wales, things began to change. It seemed as if things were only becoming more comfortable. Almost as if I'd extended my comfort zone and changed my idea of what was possible. By now, there was no schedule and no set route. Instead, I was making my way south, one day at a time, with one goal: to have FUN.
And so I did. Even when the days were long and my legs were hurting, I felt content. And it is safe to say I have never felt so much pure elation as I did riding through the countryside. It was unusual and something I just can’t explain. It was like an overwhelming, humbling sensation and appreciation of how great this country is.
Along the trip I met some incredible and down-to-earth people. Whether it was a farmer on the side of his property, or a fellow camper willing to share some food, I was grateful that I did not meet a single bad soul on my trip. Someone I met at Coffs Harbour even made the effort of later meeting me at the Opera House! (Nooks - you’re a legend). It just goes to show how many amazing people you can meet and friendships you can make in this amazing country.
To say I’m grateful for where I live and the things my bike has allowed me to do is an understatement. Along with this, being able to have such an impact on those less fortunate than me has been such a privilege and is definitely something I’ll never stop doing.
Overall, this journey has been nothing but amazing and it is safe to say that this won’t be the last crazy adventure for me. And, hopefully, I have been able to inspire a few people to face their challenges, big or small. Because you miss 100% of the opportunities you don’t take.
And what I have learned is that sometimes the most incredible, life-changing experiences occur when you are outside your comfort zone; going beyond what you ever thought was possible.