Sunday 23 November 2014

Cycle trip is a lesson in the oneness of humanity

Pedal the planet

Breifne Earley

Published 19/07/2014 | 23:59

Breifni Earley arrived in Malaysia earlier than expected.
Breifni Earley arrived in Malaysia earlier than expected.

I arrived at my target town in Malaysia a little earlier than planned and found a hotel beside the local cinema so I ventured out to get a taste of Hollywood for the evening. Having spent most of that day cycling through monkey colonies, I decided to see a showing of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Rather than the mindless two hours I was looking forward to, the film really got me thinking about my experience so far on this trip and the world in general.

In future years when I look back on this adventure, I’m certain the main memories will be the people, the places, the things I did off the bike and the cycling, in that order.

As well as the various species of animals I’ve encountered, I’ve been lucky enough to meet so many fantastic humans, both locals and travellers from virtually every corner of the globe, including the 16 countries I’ve cycled through.

The diversity of the religions along the route has been noticeable, from various Christian churches across Europe to where Islam makes an appearance, really for the first time, in Bulgaria before it’s everywhere in Turkey.

India brings with it a vast majority of Hindu followers, Thailand and its Buddhist temples, before Malaysia brings us back to a Muslim world during Ramadan.

While these temples, churches and mosques have changed in appearance, my experience is that the people who identity with these faiths tend to be the same, generous with their time and resources, and willing to help a stranger.

Offers of a night’s rest are plentiful, so too are food and water and all without expectation of payment or return.

It is for this reason that turning on the English speaking news has become a daily heartbreak for me. Watching the latest reports about Israel’s actions in Palestine, Russia moving into the Ukraine, a Muslim caliphate in Iraq sicken me.

Having spent the last month watching the World Cup where teams from 32 diverse nations across the globe fought it out for the greatest prize in world football, not one single commentator or fan discussed a player’s religion, creed or race. All that mattered was what that individual was capable of doing with the ball at his feet.

The Olympic Games, World Cup right down to our own local sports events can teach us so much about how we should treat other people. At the start of every sports event, everyone is equal and must rely on their own talent and ability to decide who will be the winner.

Race, religion, gender or sexuality play no part in this. It boils down simply to a combination of the fastest, strongest, most talented or quickest of mind who take home the gold medals.

As a human race, we can learn much from the world of sport. How to treat people with respect, dignity and, for the most part, to put the health and safety of each participant at the forefront of the entire event.

Maybe we should get Putin and the rest of the lads out for a 5k road race and see who wins.

Twitter: @pedaltheplanet

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