Trans Canadian Bike Rider Raises Funds for Mental Health

Have you ever dreamed of biking across something large?  Say China, or Russia?  What about Canada?  There are probably many of us who have been apart of a conversation where someone’s long distance bike trip came up.  We say a bit dreamily, “Yeah I’d love to do that one day, been thinking about it forever.”

Well Cameron Johnston is one of those who used to say that too, and then one day he got on his bike at the Pacific, started peddling and didn’t stop till he reached the Atlantic.  We got a chance to reach out to Cameron to learn a little more about his trip, his book and why he’s raising money for mental health.

 

Cameron on his bike before departing Vancouver
Ready to leave a rainy Vancouver in early May.

Cameron thanks for taking the time to chat with us.  Every summer and even during the rest of the year many people bike across Canada.  It’s not that unusual, however your story is a bit different in that you’ve decided to write a book about your ride and raise money for mental health with its sale.  Before we dive into your inception for that, can you explain why you got excited to ride across Canada in the first place?

article continues below

I had three main motivations for my adventure, which were consistent before, during, and after. I had hardly traveled to any provinces outside BC, so I wanted to explore the country by immersing myself in its spectacular natural beauty and countless unique cultures. I wanted to grasp the rare opportunity to branch out from a normal routine. And with many relatives and friends scattered across the country, this was a great opportunity to connect and re-connect with them.

 

Alberta's Icefields Parkway weaving between the Rocky Mountains.
Alberta’s Icefields Parkway weaving between the Rocky Mountains.

Going over your photos on the blog, I couldn’t help but notice your bike is not what you normally see on a trans Canada biking mission.  I have to say, it was quite refreshing to see that you didn’t buy into the concept of needing the lightest and most expensive everything in order to have an adventure.  Is there any reason why you chose the gear you did? Was it simply to make the journey cheaper, or a greater distaste of consumerism?

Saving money was important to me, as always. In the months leading up to departure, my approach on gear was to constantly ask myself: “How much will this enhance my experience, and does that justify the cost?”

I saved the most money on clothing, electronics, and camping gear, where I decided acceptable and/or good quality would satisfy me. Overall, I stayed away from the “nice to haves” and went with a couple “game changers”: A top touring bike, to minimize time spent on repairs and the risk of being halted by mechanical problems. And a leather saddle, since I’d be sitting in it for around 5 hours daily on average!

 

At what point on your trip did you decide you were going to write a book?

The idea occurred to me about a month into my trip, due to several people telling me how much they enjoyed my blog posts and couldn’t wait for the next one. As I continued eastbound, I focused on my writing more, knowing my blog posts would become the starting point for my book.

 

Camp setup in a friendly Saskatchewan farmer's field.
Camp setup in a friendly Saskatchewan farmer’s field.

Your book says it’s about the emotional journey, what exactly do you mean, and as a reader what are we going to learn about you?

A common rhythm I used in the book was to share an experience I had, and then transition into how it relates to a general aspect of life. Whether battling mother nature’s elements, having a lengthy conversation with a prairie town local, or enjoying a stunning view after climbing a long hill, each situation I found myself in provided a channel for reflection. Before the trip I was excited about hitting the road, but also nervous about the potential mishaps and what I’d miss at home. While traveling I found myself in unique situations which hardly occurred in my home life, leading to plenty of opportunity for self-discovery. I steadily became more comfortable living without luxuries and being alone with my thoughts. I came home and almost nothing was changed, but I was. I had become more versatile, less materialistic, and more relationship-focused. My hope is that everyone can relate to my journey as they make their way through their own.

 

Vast Atlantic viewpoint atop a Cape Breton Island hike.
Vast Atlantic viewpoint atop a Cape Breton Island hike.

Why did you decide to dedicate all the profit from the sale of your book to mental health?

Mental health, specifically depression and anxiety, is something I’d planned to contribute to in some way for a few years, but just didn’t know how. Lately there has been a lot of buzz on the subject, and in addition to the money raised I saw huge potential for a ripple effect as mental health issues become more widely accepted and validated. This journey was highly beneficial for my own mental health, and since it is something we can all improve on and help each other with, I framed my story in a way relevant to everyone’s mental health.

 

Cameron thanks for taking the time to speak with us.  We wish you luck on spreading the word and raising money with your book!

Thank you guys, it was my pleasure!

 

Reaching Cape Spear Lighthouse in St. John's, Newfoundland after exploring all 10 provinces.
Reaching Cape Spear Lighthouse in St. John’s, Newfoundland after exploring all 10 provinces.