think of bicycles as rideable art that can just about save the world.
Where I was…
While taking abnormal psychology in college, I had been assigned to write a paper typing what I wanted to do with my life…what I felt my purpose was. My response was concise. “I care about improving the quality of life for the people around me, even if it’s for a moment.”
I found myself lucky enough to be playing music for a good part of a decade after college, and of course the stereotypical jobs that come with being a musician, but I recognized that it all came back to doing what I love.
I love doing things on my own terms.
I love to help.
I love being outside.
I love the opportunity to escape into the comfort of being lost in a new place.
I love being on a bike because I even when I ride fast, I still feel like time has slowed down for me to observe my surroundings in a way that isn’t otherwise possible.
How I got here...
I’m first generation Greek, and ever since I was kid…way before I knew what love was….I knew that my heart was with that place…ingrained in every molecule that makes Greece what it is. Maybe not the politics but that’s unrelated. My best and closest friend since childhood, with who I have my longest standing friendship, is also Greek and shares the same feelings I do.
Back in 2016, we were talking about the economic crisis that Greece was facing for (at the time) the 6th consecutive year and we came across an article about Anna Korakaki, the Olympic gold and bronze medal winner in 10 and 25 meter shooting. She had gained quite a bit of notoriety following her win when she very publicly criticized the Greek government for exploiting her success by using (without her consent) an image of her and proclaiming her as a champion. She made an extremely potent statement condemning this exploitation, and stating that she didn’t want anybody from the government coming to the homecoming party that was being thrown in her hometown of Drama.
As one would expect when a woman speaks her mind and makes valid, sensible points, there was quite a backlash. “She’s so ungrateful.” “She’s such a millennial.” “Just another typical woman.” She followed up with another statement, and explained how until she had become a champion, she only had the support of some friends and her family…no one else and certainly not the government. The government had no idea who she was; that she didn’t have an official team uniform to compete with and that she’d sew the flag on to blue clothes she’d buy herself in order to represent the country she loved. She talked about how the mayor of her hometown had shut down her training facility in order to cut back on costs, and that she was practically training in a chicken coup. More drama ensued, including her exclusion from the official welcome home ceremony in Greece for the returning athletes. Personally I found her resilience and her transparency to be inspiring…to stand your ground when you believe in something….to never stray from who you are, and to push for what you believe in. I loved that in a way, this young woman told an entire government to go fuck itself.
It was Andreas who, in response to the entire situation, exclaimed “We gotta do something to help them…” and it just came to me: “Why don’t I just bike across the US as a fundraiser and lets get donations directly into the hands of the Greek athletes completing for the 2020 Olympic games?” Ok, full disclosure…Andreas and I had absolutely been enjoying some “tsikouthia,” a beautiful and puissant grape moonshine from Crete that he had brought back with him. Anyway, Andreas had recently expanded his Cretan family’s honey business into the United States, so I suggested using Cretan Honey as a sponsor, allowing us to advertise it at the same time. I shared the idea with an old basketball coach of mine who has found a great deal of success in business, and the excitement in his eyes grew as I told him more. He exclaimed, “Georgie…I’m going to write an email to a buddy of mine in Greece…he’s putting together a business right now…..that’s going to be perfect for what you wanna do.”
True to his word, an email got sent out and his buddy in Greece, Makis, was at the time building a platform for coaches, athletes, and sports teams to do fundraising. He told me he was really moved that a “kid” living in the US thought about Greece and wanted to do something to try and help out. He offered to put my ride up on the platform, and to help advertise it. Long story short, pieces were starting to fall into place. And that’s when I realized that I should probably just make a non-profit of my own so that I can organize fundraising rides to contribute to any number of causes. Because what? I’m going to ride across the US and then….stop? There was so much going on in the world I could try to help with. This bring us to….
Where I'm going...
There are opportunities to help everywhere, in any number of ways. After having completed the cross country ride in the United States (which you can read about here), the plan was to continue with another cross country ride throughout Greece, starting in the northern city of Thessaloniki and ultimately finishing in Nafplio. One of the daily shows in Greece wanted to follow along but as the Covid 19 pandemic worsened, all plans for such an excursion were put on hold. However, the plan remains with goals focused on empowerment, equality, and providing opportunities for people.
In the meantime, I'm also focusing on creating content to showcase the opportunities for cycling that exist in Greece, starting with Athens. I have felt for a long time that Greece is a country that should be recognized for cycling in the same way that Italy, France and Spain are. While we don't have the tallest mountains, only in this country is someone able to literally cycle through ancient history, more recent history, and mythology. Beyond that, the idea that you can be riding next to the sea, at sea level, and within an hour be up in the mountains is a unique dynamic.