“If a skinny girl like you is going, then I have to do this,” Jeff McKinnon says over beers.
I take it as an odd compliment. We both agree to start a strict regiment of push-ups for trip preparation. He scoots closer to me the crowded bar and we both trace our fingers across a digital map starting in the south of India.
“This route bonds us for life,” says Jeff as his fingers reach the target finish line somewhere in the northeast of India near Bangladesh. Carlos Alvarez-Aranyos smiles.
Carlos, Jeff and I are relative strangers bonded by the desire to interrupt our lives, hop in a motorized rickshaw and trek 3,000 miles of unknown road in the name of charity.
We are one of three American teams, and of nearly 50 teams total, participating in the rickshaw run put on April 4-20 by an unconventional organization called The Adventurists. The goal? To bring together nations in an effort to stir the pot, make life a little less predictable for those of us fortunate enough to operate in parts of the world where predictability is a factor, to gain practice (or fail miserably) in creative problem solving and to complete a race across an uncharted route to raise money for charity — part for Cool Earth rainforest advocacy organization and part for an Indian orphanage.
Three thousand miles of careening through windy country roads and crowded city streets while acclimating our first world stomachs to the water, and more frankly, the critters in the water, is just the crust of this unusual premise.
Carlos participated in the Mongol Rally last summer with the same organization, traversing more than 20 nation borders in a Smart car. His four passports came in handy avoiding tickets and throwing off curious authorities. “What exactly are you doing?” they would ask.
My family, and friends have asked me similar questions. The common reaction is of fear. But what if _____ (you fill in the horrific thing here) happens, the chorus cries in terrible melancholy.
While the potential danger is not to be taken lightly — we undoubtedly will face mechanical breakdowns, cultural shock and miscommunication, traffic jams due to dead camels (seriously, it happens), and a slew of capricious events — the best stories and spines are built in trying times.
We are asking for a donation to the orphanage we are raising money for through our fundraising website, Global Giving. The money goes toward supporting the Little Hearts orphanage, and, if we meet our goal, this facility will be able to support a group of 40 kids for a number of years, providing education, shelter, and health needs.