Athlete traveling from pole to pole on $10 per day

MEEKER I Aart Huijg is an inspired athlete with a dream and a rare determination to reach his goal. He is traveling from Prudhoe Bay, the northern tip of Alaska, to Ushuaia, Chile, in South America, the southernmost city in the world. The journey covers more than 19,000 miles and is expected to take 500 days.
The trip offers less “luxury” than most people require for survival and more challenges than most would be willing to endure.
Huijg aims to ride 60 miles a day, with 100 miles being an exceptionally good day. His daily budget is $10. He depends on “the kindness of strangers” for many necessities, including basic hygiene. When he needs a shower or to wash his clothes he knocks on a door and simply asks.
“They either say yes or no — either way no harm no foul,” Huijg said. “You never know what someone’s reasons are. Maybe they just killed their husband and the house is a mess,” he joked.
With a Ph.D. in economics, this 31-year-old from Amsterdam, Netherlands, was a successful businessman when he realized sitting behind a computer, wearing a tie every day and disliking the people he saw on his bike ride to work was not his life’s dream. He started “peeling the banana.” When the process was finished, the “banana,” the part of his life that makes Huijg “cry-of-joy proud,” was a daily challenge involving taking risks, seeing more, risking with less fear and taking the initiative. A lot of bystanders were negative, Huijg pointed out: bears, bad weather, steep terrain, etc. What came as a welcome surprise was the number of connections and sponsors that came to his support once his plan became public.
To prepare, Huijg toured the Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Iran and several European nations. For his inspiration he said, “Ride five miles to start whatever — just start.”
“People are the same everywhere, hospitable,” Huijg said of his interaction with strangers along the way. In Iran, he said, less exposure to foreigners made the people more open and ready to open their doors to someone like him.
Huijg’s friend Gerrit Visser joined the adventure in Calgary, Canada. He intends to ride as far as the Mexican border with Huijg. A man of few words, it seems Visser helped his friend address his competitive nature. Visser believes that stems from his being an identical twin who was constantly encouraged by his parents to excel at being an individual.
Has Huijg thought about the end of the journey? He says he has not.
“If I start thinking of the end it is the beginning of the end.”
His trip is divided into eight regions: bear region, Rocky Mountain region, desert region, volcano region, Caribbean sea, Amazon rain forest, Andes mountains and Patagonia.
Huijg says four out of five days “suck,” listing hunger, cold, heat, rain, snow, sore muscles, exhaustion and repetition as his main downers. However, the good times are “cry-with-joy proud, authentic” times that make the bad times worth it.
Along the way Huijg has planned presentations for schools, towns and other groups as an inspirational speaker. He feels it’s important for young people who are choosing their life’s path to consider “peeling the banana” to find their authentic self before making a decision.
More details about Huijg’s adventure are posted on his website and blog at www.today-you-can.com.