By Thortek Outdoors
While I had always been interested in the outdoors, it wasn’t until around eight years ago that I really understood its positive, transformative power. At that time, I had been living in Japan as an English teacher when a friend of mine came to visit my home in a medium sized town called Beppu in the southern island of Kyushu. My friend Matt who was also a teacher, had found himself placed in Hokkaido, the northernmost part of the country a few years earlier and I remember sitting there in awe as he talked to me about his many adventures in the remote region where he lived. After arriving, he just got a bicycle and began to ride whenever he could for both the exercise and the freedom. What he told me next was even more amazing. After his final year, he geared up and rode his bicycle down from the very north of Japan down the west coast, around the southernmost tip of Kyushu and then up the east coast until finally he reached Osaka before flying home. As he told me about his 3000 Kilometer adventure by bicycle, I remember entertaining for the first time in my life that if I chose to do so, I could do the same. I said goodbye to my long-time friend after a few days visiting with him, and I must have had a grin on my face with all of the new ideas I had floating in my mind. Something had changed inside of me and I knew that I would never be the same again.
In Japan, I had my first experiences with real cycle touring and loved all of the roadways and trails, wild-camping and the way it helped me become fitter physically and mentally. Not only was it great exercise, but the long hours on the bicycle offered a lot of time to think and reflect as well as become one with nature. From Beppu I started making longer trips to different places. I went over to Fukuoka, down to Kagoshima and around Yakushima, and then when I finished my time in Japan had the experience of cycling a big loop around much of Japan. I even began hiking more, getting the chance to climb some local mountains and the famous Mt. Fuji which is one of Japan’s iconic national symbols. At the same time, I gradually became acquainted with other like-minded people who enjoy cycling and even began to meet long-distance walkers such as my friend Ryan who walked from the southern tip of Japan to the northernmost edge of Hokkaido. From one adventure to another, my goals grew and I wanted to see and do more. It seems like every time we cross a horizon in life, we also catch sight of a new one up ahead.
In 2015, while living in Korea as an English teacher, I enjoyed beautiful rides through the picturesque landscape of the country which has a country-wide network of cycling pathways. As I traveled from Busan to Seoul, I remember carrying a mini cycling “passport” with me, stopping at various locations on the path, stamping my passport and moving onward to the next place. When I left Korea in early 2016, I left with my very own medal for cycling around the country which the tourist board gives for free. I had also picked up even more of the hiking bug. Many Koreans love hiking and it is a very popular pastime in South Korea. In this year, I was able to hike the three big mountains in Korea: Seorksan, Jirisan, and Hallasan, all of which I highly recommend. Now I had traveled two countries, and excited for doing a third – this time in my home territory.
In 2017, my dream came true. Now, finally back in Canada, I had arranged a solo cycle across the country for Victoria Hospice in honour of my father who sadly passed away in 2011. It was a great experience for me to ride my bike solo for a good cause. Often times the act of cycling would fill my spirit up so much, with the sunrises and sunsets, blue skies, and starry nights, that I nearly forgot what life off of the saddle was like. I cycled through the country and reached for my dreams . I did this for myself, and also in my father’s memory. After reaching my destination, I had an amazing epilogue from Halifax back to Vancouver. While on the trans-continental train, I met a great group of people. With almost no distractions, we spent a week together sharing stories, and playing music together. We all said goodbye with hugs, would come to call ourselves the “train squad” and keep in touch even sometimes even now. It was amazing! I returned home feeling refreshed and ready to work. Three months later, I was back in my hometown of Victoria getting ready for a second bachelor’s degree to be a public high school teacher.
Two years passed like a blur, and before I knew it, I was a certified teacher in Canada, itching for another big adventure. It was just at this time when my close friend, Tyler contacted me about going to Europe to visit him. Tyler had been living and working as and English teacher in Granada, Spain for some time and said I should go to visit him and walk the Camino de Santiago Del Norte. I said yes even without a means to pay for it at first, and put in the work that I needed to do as a teacher in order to start my next adventure.
In 2019 from May until August, I had the trek of my life hiking across several countries in Europe. After a short trip to the UK, I joined my friend and we spent a month hiking about 850 Kilometers (528 miles) across Spain, all the way to the westernmost point of Finisterre where we watched the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean. With only a 40L pack, on my back, I continued this three-month trek. From Spain, I took a cheap flight next to Switzerland where I did the Walker’s Haute Route from the small French town in the Alps, Chamonix, snaking my way through the mountains until reaching to Zermatt on the other side. This picturesque route through the deep alps covers eleven mountain passes hovering at around 3000 meters (9,800 ft.) in ten days, although it can be completed in more or less time. I continued on from there to visit Italy, hiking through the famous trail La Via Delgi Dei which stretches from Bologna to Florence, all the while meeting new friends and listening to the various perspectives, stories, tips, and adventures from fellow travelers like me. I left the country with a new inspiration to do and be more, and to make an even bigger commitment to follow my passions as well.
I still love teaching and I don’t think this part of me will ever change, but through the creation of Thortek Outdoors I am able to connect with, dream with, teach to, and learn from the diverse community of travelers online who do backpacking, caminos, hiking and trekking, and cycle touring. It truly is lucky for me to have the pleasure of searching for, sourcing, and offering products that I would want to take with me on my own journeys. With Thortek, I can help fellow travelers through sponsorship in ways that I wish I had on my own journeys, and build a sustainable business model which as an environmentally conscious person I feel more people should focus on.
I intend on continuing to learn and grow with new adventures and connections across the globe, and while I’m doing this Thortek Outdoors will grow too. While all of this is happening, I invite you to continue to learn and grow as well. May this website support you on your cycling, trekking and and camino journeys, and help you reach all of your dreams.
Do or do not, there is no tryYoda