Joe Campbell

Grad takes up Canada cycling challenge

Joe Campbell bicycles across the nation after graduating from university in Newfoundland

Every April, thousands of students migrate from their ivory towers back to their respective hometowns, criss-crossing the country by plane, car, bus and train.

But when Joe Campbell graduated from Memorial University of Newfoundland’s music program last spring, he decided to make his final journey home to Vancouver Island one to remember.

“It took four months to the day,” Campbell says of the 8,500-kilometre cycling trip he completed last week from St. John’s to Victoria. “It was just really a small idea that grew and grew in my mind. It started with one conversation with a friend of mine several years back and I never really let it go.”

The 29-year-old didn’t make the punishing trip to raise money for charity or to bring awareness to a cause. He simply wanted to challenge himself and experience the vast distance between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans at a slower pace.

“I’d been around the West Coast and obviously to Newfoundland, but that was it,” he says. “I definitely learned a lot about B.C.”

Once Campbell stopped meticulously checking his GPS and other metrics, he began enjoying the ride for what it is, rather than getting frustrated by the end goal.

“You learn patience, and you learn how to maintain perspective, otherwise you get depressed because you feel like you’re not even moving,” he says.

Armed with his Surly Long Haul Trucker bicycle and a minimal pack of gear, Campbell departed St. John’s April 21, and was thankful to miss a whopping 54-centimetre snow dump that came just a few weeks later.

“I probably saw every type of weather other than snow,” he says.

He managed not to pay for accommodation for a single night of the journey, choosing instead to camp in rural areas and couch-surf with friends, relatives and generous people he met along the way.

Fellow cyclists were always willing to share their experiences as they passed along the barren highways of Northern Ontario, the Prairies and the epic climbs of the Rocky Mountains.

Campbell recalls a 71-year-old Japanese man who was making the cross-country trip, and another man who was walking from Thunder Bay to the Atlantic Ocean, a 4,000-km trip.

“It’s really easy, when something’s not going the right way, to concentrate on that, and it becomes almost like poison,” he says.

While he’s already planning his next touring ride through Southeast Asia next year, Campbell offers simple advice to anyone looking to accomplish a similar feat and get through the day-to-day physical grind.

“It’s just about attitude,” he says.

To view Campbell’s photos and blog entries from his journey, visit goflowjoe.wordpress.com.

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