Images via 99% RIDE

As I scrolled through my Instagram feed while at Starbucks one morning, I came across a post by The Great Discontent quoting Jeff Veen in an interview, “ I am hesitant to say, “ Follow your passion,’ because I don’t believe in that. It has to be something that you are also good at and that the world finds valuable.” I read it and automatically brought to mind Dirk Spits, founder of the 99% Ride, a foundation based on raising funds and awareness to the children of the world and the necessity of education to further themselves to success. I recalled his appearance at my school to gain awareness for his foundation and journey, his inner drive to make a difference and the impact he has made on me, personally.

The 99% RIDE Foundation was officially established on May 30th, 2013 by Dirk Jan Spits, Samantha Sharon Soekhoe and Wouter Petrus van Eenbergen in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The 99% Ride does cycling expeditions around the world and has just finished their cycling from Alaska to Argentina, a daring 17,000 miles. Dirk and his team lived off of $6 dollars a day for 18 months and while on their journey in South America, they stopped at schools, organizations and charities to raise awareness and support for their mission, engaging their audiences in a idea that turned into a organization and urging others to do the same, to think of a dream and pursue it.

In May, Dirk and his team arrived back in the Netherlands. During that time, I’ve reconnected again with Dirk after a year. After sharing my progress with him of my college decision and writing successes he shared with me how his organization has changed him, the life-changing lessons he’s learned and what it truly means to be happy.

“What good is living the life you’ve been given if all you do is stand in one place?” – Lord Huron



01 | Acknowledging the fact that it has been a little more than a year since you visited James Logan High School, we have seen that you have been on a busy journey. Where are you currently and what are your goals in the location you are in?
 At the moment I am back in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. It’s been two weeks since I arrived in Ushuaia, Argentina. After solo-cycling 20 months long it’s very strange being back home. I notice details like never before. We are so rich here. Everything seems to be based on individuals and focused on what others think; clothing, hair, cars, all sorts of materialism. Pretty scary, too, there are cars riding around that are so expensive, only 1% of their selling price could fund one of the projects I’ve visited for a year. That’s an average of 80 children, three meals a day, school material and classes. Makes you think how people spend their money and on what…

02 | What has been one of the greatest challenges you have faced so far?
 There have been many challenges along the way; physically, mentally, emotionally. The first was the toughest in Peru and Bolivia. The Altiplano, going up to just over 16,500 feet, is no joke. A fully equipped tour bicycle weighing just over 100 lbs. (clothing, water, food, camping, spare materials etc.) is quite difficult to push up the mountains. At this altitude, oxygen is half of what we regularly breathe, making it more difficult.

Mentally it’s been a real challenge. “Can I do it?” is a question I asked myself many times, mostly when I started in Northern Alaska. You’re alone; you need to eat constantly to battle the incredible amount of calories you’re burning (between 6,000-10,000 per day) and you have to keep going. People are following you, counting on you and waiting for results, stories, you name it.

I started this challenge myself and, having 99%RIDE as my own “creation”, I was determined to finish the job.

The emotions change constantly. Crying, laughing, complete silence, I’ve had it all; extreme loneliness, happiness and everything in between. There’s nobody to help you, to love you and to really be there for you or even just physically put an arm around you to say it’s going to be OK. You miss that first and basic form of attention, which we as humans need. That can really get to you, especially when you’re in your tent at night, thinking of family, friends and loved ones. During those moments it’s really not fun anymore. But you get stronger and pull through it.

03 | How does life in South America differ from your own hometown as well as the United States?
 There are just too many differences between my hometown, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, North America and South-America. In every aspect of living life you can name something, how they treat family and friends, the food culture is incredible, manners, respect towards each other, priorities in life and music (just to name a few). All things in South-America are so different; they will change the way you look at life and how you’ve been living. I encourage everyone to visit this amazing continent and see, feel and taste this for yourself.

04 | Seeing how you have met many people along your journey, who was one person or organization that you feel taught you a lot and inspired you along your path?
 For me it isn’t just one person or organization, all the projects I’ve visited have people behind them, the founders, all dedicated and devoted to changing lives of others. Together they have taught me more than I could learn in 4 years of university. This has been an incredible journey with people along the way that have had an incredible impact on my life, giving me strength, motivation and trust and more self-esteem.

05 | What are your goals in the coming months? Goals after you finish your ride in South America?
 At the moment I am in Amsterdam, my hometown. I will be presenting supporters, donors and sponsors. I want to share this story with everybody that has followed it. There’s a lot to show, tell and of course share. It’s been a mission of 99%RIDE to bring people together, to think about how they spend money and how they can help out; sharing time, money or knowledge. This is a good moment to bring people together.

After the presentations I’ll be thinking what to do next, life is very unpredictable; I really don’t know yet how it’s going to look in the next weeks or months, but I’m sure I’ll think of something. A piece of paper, a pen and some good ideas go a long way. The last time I wrote my ideas down they took me from Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina.

06 | Has your mission changed since the beginning of your journey?
 The mission hasn’t changed. The determination and drive only got stronger along the way. Self-esteem, devotion, love and focus on what I wanted to achieve grew with every project I visited. Smiles of people and children are worth so much; their impact is everlasting.

07 | If you had to take one advice/ purpose out of your trip, something that you feel you solely learned with the 99% Ride, what would it be?
 Think about what you have. Not materialistic, those are always replaceable and often not necessary. Look at the people around you, your friends, family and other loved ones. What do they mean to you? Who are they? Do they make you happy? Do you know there are people on this earth that have nothing in life? Children without parents, a roof over their heads, no food or chances of an education? They don’t have what we see as “normal” and take for granted. Take a minute and think about it. How can you change this? There’s an answer for everything, especially when it comes to helping others. Make a difference in somebody else’s life and change it forever.

08 | Happiness is…
 To find what you love to do the most and have love to give to those around you. Those who give are the richest in mind and soul.

09 | If I had to tell the world one thing it would be…
 Let’s all take a step back, look around and ask ourselves the question: “What are we doing?” Start making this world a better place for all of us, why is one life more important than the other? In the end we are all the same; we eat and drink the same, we get sick, fall in love, get jealous, feel happy and sad. There are no differences, except in those who have greed. Sharing is really caring, let’s make a difference and change the world. It won’t happen overnight, but with baby steps we’ll get there.

Learn more about 99% RIDE
Connect via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

At Conscious, we are inspired by remarkable people and organizations, and so we set out to tell stories that highlight human-interests, global initiatives, innovation, community development, and social impact. You can read more stories like this when you subscribe.