Guest post by Megan Skinner.
In January 2014, a small group of dusty cyclists rolled into The Vine resort near Kep, having just completed the PEPY Ride IX. I was one of them. In January 2015, a larger, and somehow even dustier, group of cyclists tipped up at the same place, having just completed the PEPY Ride X. Yep, you guessed it—I was one of them. So was it really that different?
From the word go, this year’s ride was shaping up to be something special. For starters, PEPY’s founder, Daniela, and long time ex-Managing Director Maryann, were on board. Not only that, but almost every participant had some kind of connection with PEPY, thus proving just how far the organization has been able to extend its impact over the years. We also had a bit of a dream team with the leaders: Anna, cool as a cucumber in any crisis (and to my delight, a lover of musical theater); Rithy, a grown man with the energy of a child who’s eaten all the sweets in the cupboard; and Lucky, cyclist extraordinaire and owner of Cambodia’s biggest grin. And so it was with great excitement, and I reckon a whole bag of nerves, that we set out on our challenging and beautiful journey.
To go into too much detail about every aspect of the trip here would be both unfathomably time-consuming and probably not such an interesting read—I’m pretty sure you don’t want to hear tales of flat tyres, sunburn, and copious amounts of rice—so I’m going to do my best to sum it up. Of course, every person on the team will be left with their own impressions and memories, but for now, I’ll let you in on my personal experience.
As you would expect to be the case with a 1,000-km bike ride, the discussion of various aches and pains was never too far from the table. Some members turned out to be quite the wordsmiths when it came to articulating their own special brand of discomfort. However, any pain was completely and utterly eclipsed by the elation of completing the day’s distance, whether it was 60, 90, or 140 km. There is something deeply satisfying about waking up in the morning (granted, dragging yourself out of bed before dawn takes some getting used to), getting on the bike, and simply riding to where you want to be.
By the end of the day, we’d all achieved exactly what we’d set out to do. As a gifted procrastinator, I have a new-found appreciation of setting myself little targets throughout the day which are absolutely achievable (make a cup of tea: done; eat a biscuit: easy!). Getting to the end of the day, legs intact, was a fantastic feeling both physically and mentally. Doing it with what came to be a temporary family is pretty much unbeatable.
As much as it goes against the British disdain for anything overly sentimental, I’m going to get a bit schmaltzy on you, so look away now if you’re not a fan of too many feelings. The PEPY Ride, both last year and this year, has changed my life. Yes, it’s a dramatic statement, but it has. It’s not changed things in a big, bold, drumroll way, but rather quietly and gently, in a way that is maybe not even detectable to anyone but me.
The group this year had an incredible wealth of professional experience, particularly in the world of aid and development, and I most definitely learned a lot from every person there. However, what I came to realize is that it was simply the people themselves, in all their funny, chaotic, and quiet glory, who taught me the most. To be open, fearless, humble, selfless, gentle, warm, inquisitive. To live with a full heart and to be your own champion. So thank you, PEPY Riders, for being some of the best teachers I’ve ever had. May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be safe, may you be free.