Here is a short news clip about the Dalai Lama’s recent visit to Madison, Wisconsin. He was the guest of honor at the “Change your mind, change the world” panel discussion along with other visionaries and leaders in their field. I found the conference to be a relief that other people are thinking and working on the ideas and issues that I’ve been complaining about for years, such as people’s emotional health being the key to almost all our societal issues.
And it was the honor of a lifetime to be featured on the news. You will see a short snippet of my experience seeing the Dalai Lama. I was surprised and embarrassed to be overwhelmed with emotion, which is ironic because our society doesn’t teach us, as young students, what to do with emotions. The interview was much longer, of course. And it featured many things, including a short description of my bicycle ride through Tibet, and how I was prohibited to possess a picture of the Dalai Lama, or risk being fined, imprisoned or exiled from Tibet myself.
I also found the topic of “Change your mind, change the world” coincidental and personally profound because since the beginning of my website over a decade ago, I have said that my philosophy for traveling was: “If I could change myself, I could change the world.” As some of you who read my book know, I was quite ignorant and got myself into a lot of trouble, but I seemed to know one thing instinctively — that I must get my own feet on the ground first, before I could ever attempt to pretend to know or do anything of significance. Or as Ghandi said long ago:
Be the change you want to see in the world. ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Or as I like to remind myself: Change your self — change your world! And, I think I’d like to start by adopting the Dalai Lama’s playfulness and wearing a baseball cap to lighten the mood.
I love how Alterra Coffee shops give bicycles priority parking spaces. In spring, they install bicycle racks in their loading zone, blossoming like spring flowers. In the winter, they remove the bicycle coral because of the snow plows. We’re one more step towards my dream of being able to safely and conveniently ride a bicycle anywhere. ~ Scott
Below are two bicycle racks that I discovered in my wanderings. The first is a new coffee shop in Bay View, Wisconsin, which is not only beautiful, but a great way to save space. The other comb-shaped rack I found in Indianapolis. More about my attempts to help install artistic bicycle racks in Waukesha. ~ Scott
Fox Lake Correctional Institute. Photo courtesy of WI.gov
I had the honor to speak to the inmates of Wisconsin’s medium security prison, Fox Lake Correctional Institute. It was one of my more challenging presentations. I asked the chaplain who was organizing the event, “To be frank, why would the prisoners, who can’t go anywhere, want to hear about traveling the world on a bicycle? That sounds like a recipe for disaster.”
She said, “That is exactly what they need to hear? They need the hope! They need someone like you to show them what is possible.”
And so I spent quite a bit of extra time preparing a presentation that would: “create an atmosphere or climate which restores the dignity of the individual and provides optimum opportunity for positive behavioral changes.” More specifically I hoped to inspire them to with the inner passion to transform themselves right then and there. I may have needed my trip around the world to transform myself, and learn that I held the key to my own happiness, but travel isn’t required to learn these lessons.
Despite my worries, my audience was more polite and attentive than the norm. (I’ve run the gamut of ages from kids so young they can’t sit still because they have to go the bathroom, to elderly care centers where they have the same problem.) At one point, though, the inmates were literally rolling in their seats with laughter when I told them about my experience drinking coca tea in Bolivia, which I said, “Is made from the same plant as cocaine.” As they roared with laughter, I tried to clarify, which didn’t help, “No, it’s more like drinking a cup of coffee. It’s not like doing cocaine. Not that I would know…. Not that I’m judging anyone here if that’s what they choose to do….”
Like all great teaching experiences, I felt as if the students taught me even more. In particular, one man asked me what it was like to return home. He said that he had been incarcerated for 8 years until he had to go to Madison for a medical procedure. He said the lights and billboards, and everyone buzzing around in their cars and on their cellphones frightened him. That’s when I realized that when these men are released they are going to experience the same culture shock that I experienced when I returned home after 4 years. Coming home was like looking into a mirror and realizing that I was a different person, and that my reality was an invention of my own mind. A scary experience! I also sympathized with how lonely and isolated from society these men were. I know these two elements were my hardest obstacles. Reform—or should I say?—transformation is the most difficult journey anyone can take.
I was grateful for the chaplain’s dedication to helping the inmates. She had to go to a lot of extra steps to organize the event, especially since during my first visit the prison was locked-down due to fog and the show was canceled. But she truly values making a difference in their lives; and I think she did, since the inmates were lined up to shake my hand at the end (hugging was not allowed according to my list of rules), and tell me how much they loved the show, and thanked me for volunteering my time. And there is a long waiting list for the book I donated to the prison library.
One more funny side note: Instead of emailing an update to my family, I accidentally emailed my dear friends Dick and Ingrid, who inspired me when I met them a long time ago when they had just retired and were cycling across the USA to celebrate, and told them: “I have to go to prison today.” They, of course, emailed me back right away to say the were sorry to hear that and asked if they could help in any way.
I wasn’t allowed to bring a camera, so to give you a flavor of the experience, here is a great video of Johnny Cash singing a song just for the San Quentin inmates.
For those of you visiting my site from another country, Halloween in the United States has grown into one of our biggest excuses to eat, drink and be merry, not to mention having some fun with cultural stereotypes. This Halloween, my friend and I went as patriotic pundits. I was a combination of Captain America and Uncle Sam, and my friend was Aunt Samette. We also conducted a vote, and were surprised that “It doesn’t make a difference” won by one vote over “Barack Obama”. I was proud of designing the Barack Obama and Mitt Romney bra, and am very surprised that we lost the costume contest to a couple of generic zombies.
I had a great time at the 170th year of the Waukesha County Fair, including: all-you-can-drink chocolate milk for a dollar. Here I am feeding a Bengal Tiger a small piece of beef. This is a female which is about the same size as me at 200 lbs. The male tigers weighs 3 times as much and it is all muscle and teeth! Coincidentally I wore my tiger-stripped shirt from Rajasthan, India.
It is estimated that there are only 3500 tigers left in the wild and they will go extinct in 10-30 years. I don’t like zoos or circuses, but they may be the ones responsible for saving the tigers, just as the American beef farmers were responsible for saving the bison. For anyone who has read my book, you know that I am one of the few people alive that has seen a wild tiger. It was the most exciting 5 seconds of my life. Previous to seeing the tiger, it saw me as I scared one away from it’s breakfast. A deer that it had killed just a few hundred meters away from my cabin. Seeing the kill and the fresh footprints put a scare into the locals. Luckily I wasn’t second breakfast :)
I also won a giant stuffed parrot in the BB machine gun game. I had to obliterate the star in the middle of the paper. And then I gave it the prize to a pretty lady. It made me feel like a man. Is there a guy who hasn’t had this dream?
Who knew my homeland could be so fun and adventurous?
Watch my segment with Outdoor Wisconsin on Milwaukee Public Television. It begins at minute 9:00, and the crew did a great job filming, interviewing and editing. Thanks!
It was almost a year ago, the crew filmed me riding around Kohler-Andrae State Park for 3 hours. I was getting tired as I was still wearing my winter coat, and was running low on blood sugar. (A “winter coat” is what us Wisconsinites call those 10-20 extra pounds we gain over the holidays.) The interview only lasted about 15 minutes.
Since this filmed I have also ridden a bicycle across Wisconsin, from coast to coast, the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan.
The Making of “Cayendo Hacia Arriba: El Secreto De La Vida”
Here is the fifth and final and my favorite video from my trip to Argentina as the Cultural Ambassador. Here we have the real Ambassador to Argentina, Vilma Martinez, and the Deputy Ambassador, Jefferson Brown, along with the women who made it all happen, Shannon Farrell, Press Attaché, distributing the books to all the kids in 12 schools. The embassy gave away about 2000 books to kids that have never owned a book.
I love minute 1:44. I would have never imagined that my cultural exchange program would involve cheeseheads. The Argentina children called me: “the man with the head of cheese”. Also notable is minute 0:24 which shows the books coming off the printing press.
The Making of “Cayendo Hacia Arriba: El Secreto De La Vida”
I had the time of my life in Argentina as the Cultural Ambassador with the US Department of State. We worked with 12 schools to create the Spanish edition of “Falling Uphill: The Secret of Life”. I visited some underprivileged schools, an orphanage for HIV+ children, bicycled through Buenos Aires in their city “bicicleteada” with the Secretary of Transportation, and much more. Rather than write 10,000 words to describe this honor, perhaps it is easier to just watch the movies of my trip below.
The first video is about my trip the Chaco and Corrientes, back where I got stuck in the mud so long ago. The second video is about the making of the book at a school for deaf children. The third video was one of my favorite days at an extremely poor community know as “Fort Apache”. The fourth video is about the “bicicleteada”. And the last video is a TV interview partially in English.
Here I am sharing my story with an elementary school in Corrientes, Argentina, the same place I got stuck in the mud for 5 days. This is Escuela Bernardino Rivadavia, just one of 14 schools I visited. Read the before and after story in the Diario Epoca.
Scott’s Fall News
Cultural Ambassador to Argentina
By the time most of you receive this news, I’ll be on the plane to Argentina. I have one of my biggest opportunities ever—while traveling during a time of war I always thought of myself as the bicycling ambassador, and now I’ve been honored by the US Embassy in Argentina as the Cultural Ambassador for the 2011-2012 school year.
I’ll be working with the embassy’s Outreach Program and Argentine school children to produce the Spanish edition of my children’s book, Falling Uphill: The Secret of Life, which is especially exciting since Buenos Aires has been chosen as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) 2011 World Book Capital. See Argentina’s celebratory sculpture The Tower of Babel. I think/hope my book is in there somewhere.
I’m told every place that I will be visiting is very special. I’ll be traveling to at-risk neighborhoods where kids are extremely poor, as well as a foster home for HIV positive orphans (pictured above is one of many orphanages I saw in Africa), a school for deaf kids, and the two poorest provinces in Argentina. The embassy will be donating 2000-4000 books to children who have never ever owned a book.
It is truly an honor, and I’m very hopeful to inspire so many young adventurers of life with my hard-earned wisdom and a few good laughs. And I’m excited to see the new cultural perspective they bring to the illustrations of “Cayendo Hacia Arriba”.
I also get to meet the Buenos Aires city government to talk about bicycling as a way of life and their “Mejor en bici” project (of course bicycles are the cure to all the evil in the world) and participate in their “bicicleteada” this weekend. So, thanks to Argentina itself. As my friend, who coincidentally just left for an embassy posting in Finland, said: this is a rare opportunity because not all countries would welcome a Cultural Ambassador.
Follow The Adventure
Classroom video phone calls
I plan to make as many updates as possible on my website. Also, teachers please contact me to arrange a Skype video phone call from Buenos Aires, Argentina.
This summer I did a mini bicycle trip from coast to coast in Wisconsin, which means from the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan. With more than 15,000 lakes, it’s an interesting fact that Wisconsin’s has more coastline than most states, including California. Wisconsin also has the largest bicycle industry, the first rails-to-trails conservation project and some of the nicest bike trails in the world, and I mean that literally. And lo and behold, I discovered another interesting fact: apparently, according to this sign pictured below, Kermit the Frog is an indigenous species of Wisconsin. Wow!
Once again I have applied to be a roommate at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. Above you see what would be my bedroom. I also imagine my bicycle, the bicycle that went around the world, occupying a very important corner, along with some maps and photos. I considered my journey as an empirical study of the meaning of life. I had theory: If life means something, I should be able to find it somehow somewhere.
I can’t express how much a dream it would be to live day and night for a month in the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, and explore and report on all the amazing science, and, of course, being part of the experiment to see how this experience changes me and everyone I meet. I imagine it would be a great inspiration to people, just as my trip has already inspired so many people to live their dreams, like an 88 year old woman that decided to fly to Bhutan after reading my book.
Below is my application video. I didn’t have time to make a new video to emphasize my love for science. But the Chicago Sun Times liked this video enough to showcase it on their website during the last round.