On April 21st, 2019, one of our wonderful coaches, Lance, and his wife, Jo rode into the ‘The New Life Project’ home in Kanchanaburi and met the kids they fundraised for… and the best way to sum up the whole experience is ‘Life Changing’!
Jo and Lance were part of a group of 65 riders that had spent the last 5 days biking 500km across Thailand in 42-46-degree heat — it had been seriously challenging — and it was all instantly forgotten the moment they saw the children’s faces ♡♡♡
You would have noticed all of the fundraising efforts presented by Jo and Lance, and those of you who contributed may feel a personal connection to the cause. Check out what Lance had to say about this life-changing trip below:
I rode to fundraise for a little dude called Ice, who barely said a word – but our connection was instant. He was obviously a staunch little dude with his mates but then he was also one of the cutest, cuddliest and most incredibly affectionate kids. He didn’t care what his mates thought as he climbed into my lap or clung on for cuddles, and I felt so much appreciation and love from this tiny little 8-year-old that it completely melted my heart.
Like most of the children in the home, Ice’s backstory is pretty hard to read… His mother had AIDS and a serious drug problem both during and after the pregnancy, his father wasn’t in the picture at all, so Ice and his older brother lived with their absentee mother and their 89-year-old ailing and forgetful grandfather. They had to scavenge for food from restaurants, bus terminals and riverbanks. Often their grandfather would lock them in their room until eventually they got so hungry that they had to find a way to escape. It’s a miracle that they survived. They had another brother that didn’t – he drowned before they were adopted by the Project in 2015. Today, Ice (and his brother Ohm) have no living parents or grandparents. If we were actually allowed to bring him home, we would have.
The harsh contrast of living conditions had a massive impact! The realisation of just how lucky we are to have been born in NZ and to have the parents and upbringings that we did… We had no influence over that. And these kids had no choice in theirs. I really do ‘love my life’ and now appreciate everything we have on whole new level!
And we’re now proud to be sponsoring Ice directly and look forward to watching him grow up. He’s also a strong motivator to return to Thailand, do the ride again and visit him – we’ve already registered for the 2020 ride.
The ride: (500km through the middle of Thailand – from Ayutthaya to Kanchanaburi):
The best thing about the actual ride was definitely the comradery. 65 of the most generous and genuine people I’ve ever met all supporting each other on one very self-less mission. And between us the group raised $390,000 for Hands Across the Water.
Jo and I met and made some beautiful new friends – wonderful people we would never have gotten to know had it not been for this amazing (shared) experience. The below picture epitomises the spirit between riders – if someone was struggling, there was always someone there in support.
Other parts of the ride – the hills, unsealed roads and even sand – were just brutal!
Personally, the distance wasn’t really that big of a challenge… but I can’t begin to describe what it’s like to ride that far (or at all for that matter) in 46 degrees Celsius… nothing can prepare you for that!
We survived by filling snap lock bags with ice and putting them in the back pocket of our riding top (at the small of our back), filling two water bottles with ice – one on the bike, the other in a back pocket, and then wrapping ice in a scarf that we tied around our necks. And we re-loaded all of them every 20km because that was as long as they would last.
I’m immensely proud of Jo… I always knew she was determined but OMFG! It was the 3rd leg of day three when she physically hit the wall and literally couldn’t get off her bike or stand up by herself as she came into the stop. I’m relieved I was there to catch her as she pulled in calling out for help before she started hyperventilating. That was definitely scary! We’d seen others broken by the heat and the distance – but after a sit down, a lot of ice water (mostly over her head) and some food she seemed to have recovered and doggedly got back in the saddle for the next leg. Another 20 something kms in 45-degree heat. For large portions of that next leg I rode with Jo while she cried on the bike beside me – but she never stopped pedalling. She’d found her physical limit in the last leg and this one was obviously going to be her mental test!! The most I could do was encourage her. I managed to get her drafting behind me occasionally, poured water in her helmet to help keep her cool, and made sure she kept drinking – ‘cos I knew she wouldn’t give up. She didn’t! She got through that leg too and then as the temperature finally dropped a bit – to approx. 35 – the last leg of the day felt (relatively) easy. Knowing we were over half-way and had just smashed 120km in a day probably helped too.
My ‘rough’ day was day 5… I woke up feeling like @#$€, my tummy wasn’t happy with me and I did NOT want to get on the bike – but after having seen what so many others (including Jo) had pushed through, I knew my own complaints were pretty pathetic. So, I had my little sulk before giving myself a bit of a pep-talk – and then for reasons I still can’t fathom I decided to really go for it and empty the tank. It was the last day, and I figured this would either cure me or kill me! I also think the masochist in me kicked in because I was pissed at myself for being such a wuss.
The first half of the day definitely hurt – but it was one of those rewarding hurts (like when you’ve pushed it hard at the gym) as I rode with the front pack… and then on the last leg (before we regrouped to ride into the home) a few of us were in a group that was absolutely flying. I finished feeling fantastic. For the first time on the trip I even had enough energy to ride back several km’s – encouraging others, letting them know how close they were, and to find Jo so I could ride in with her.
There was a LOT of ’emotion’ and hugs amongst the group at this penultimate stop. I was actually holding it together pretty well, right up until ‘big’ Steve gave me a hug. He’d been one of my riding buddies for a lot of the trip so we’d already been through most of the emotions together… he’d already had his moment and could see I was holding everything in, and he just held me until I finally let go. It was a weird combination of exhaustion and elation at the realisation of what we’d all accomplished – and a sense of sorrow that it was nearly over. I was going to miss these people!
And then we all rode the last few k’s into the home together – where the emotions were completely overwhelming!
I said at the start of this post that the experience had been life changing – and it really has; but not at all how I expected…
The most profound impact has been the change in my ‘internal dialogue – which is already manifesting in exciting ways since we’ve been home. It’s not one specific thing I can pinpoint, but the culmination of so many factors – none of which by themselves could have had the same impact.
Where do I start!?
Committing to doing something completely foreign and outside our comfort zones… I hadn’t ridden a bike for about 8 years, but it was the prospect of fund-raising that stressed me out more. Yet, the support we received for this was overwhelming and humbling!
Riding the whole 500km in that heat – physically (and mentally) overcoming something so challenging and pushing through boundaries (with support) that would have made it easy to give up.
Seeing the extreme poverty in Thailand first-hand with a visit to the slums… Hearing the tragic backstories of so many of the kids who were born without any influence or choice about their situation. Then seeing just how happy so many of them still were.
Learning about some of the history of the country – particularly the construction of Hell Fire Pass during WWII. Realising the extreme conditions endured during that time and the massive loss of life.
The size, scale, reach and impact of Hands Across The Water today. Especially after how and why it started – with just a few people seeing a need and wanting to make a difference.
The emotional connections and deep, authentic conversations shared with so many amazing people. Vulnerabilities exposed and shared that were only ever met with complete acceptance and support.
How could that list NOT change my outlook and perspective on life and what’s possible!???
Since being home, I have had a wonderful sense of ‘calm’ – which is HUGE (and new) for me!
And it seems impossible given everything that’s going on in our world… Jo and I run two companies – my coaching practice and our outsourcing business with 15 staff… plus we’re growing two online businesses. We’re in the midst of a $500k renovation to split our house into two dwellings – living in a construction site and dealing with all the decisions on what is essentially two new builds. I’m chasing a Code-Of-Compliance Certificate (2 years in) on another property we own. We’re just finishing a massive restructure and consolidation of our properties and companies into a new trust. I’m currently trying to understand how to invest in Crypto-Assets. We’re actively looking for a new premises for our team to work from. We need to recruit again. And we have 2 boys (5 & 7) who are amazing and full-on – who we’re actively trying to educate and set a good example for… and even after writing that list I feel like I’m missed things off.
Something I’ve only ever shared with a few people is the level of anxiety that I’ve lived with since I can remember. I’m grateful it’s never been debilitating – but there are so many days and times when I’ve felt physically sick and/or wanted nothing more than to either run away or lash out (which I know amounts to self-sabotage). Self-doubt, fear of failure, negative self-talk etc. has often been incredibly loud (in my head) and what makes it all worse for me is I feel like I should ‘know better’ and be able to turn it off (or at least down). And then the fact that I couldn’t ever seem to do that was just another reason to beat myself up. It’s an amazing spiral – and doubly frustrating that I could always see it and not stop it.
Fortunately something stronger inside of me always forces me to at least ‘show up’ because when I’m there I ‘have to’ turn on… and I usually do. And because I’ve managed to keep ‘showing up’ I feel like I’ve been reasonably successful – but I carry my ‘stress’ in my stomach (I figure I don’t need to explain that any further!?) so to add to all my other fears, I’ve often worried about what that is doing to my body. Even just writing this ‘cycle’ out I can see the rabbit holes and spirals that I’ve often found myself in caught in. For me, all that noise in my head was a constant – just something I’d learned to live with.
And suddenly it’s quiet!
It’s not entirely gone – because otherwise I wouldn’t be worried that it might all come back… but OMG it feels amazing not to have that constant chatter going on in my head. The amount of effort that it took to combat that every day was incredible.
Even with that list going on, I’ve been taking down time during the day, and we went to the movies the other night… I’ve been able to help the builders on site – and feel a part of my own project… I’ve personally bought on 2 new clients in the last month… We’ve got a 3rd coach who’s joined our coaching business and is doing really well… I’ve just started on a cool ‘digital’ business product with a Wellington icon… I’ve finally bought my first crypto… And even before finishing the current house project, the bank has said yes to another $1M of lending – which seemed absolutely ridiculous before I asked.
I feel relaxed and excited and confident. I want to show up!
And I want to push the boundaries – it’s fun to just try and see what’s possible.
I invite you to share and learn with me on my journey via the ‘Meet Lance Jensen’ Private Facebook Group.