Monday, August 10, 2009


This picture was taken somewhere in the country side in Panama sometime in January of 09. Here I am chilling with my bike Caesar. Riding a bike from Panama City, Panama to San Francisco wasn't a part of the plan when I left home back in November of 07.

Why did I take off and travel?
Why did I ride my bike 3,500 miles across Central America?
Why am I holding yet another event?

The simple answer...I because I was looking for a change. I was looking for inspiration. I was looking for a challenge.

The reaction- I found all of those things and now I want to give back. I want to help. I want to give the same opportunity that I have recieved to others. I want to at least provide an option to people who may not have that luxury. I set out to do something and now...I feel so close to making that happen.

I've told my story before on this blog but I think I'm going to tell it again...

Back in September of 2007 my life was going along at it's usual pace. I was the Director of Sales and Partner of a small real estate boutique in San Francisco. We were doing real estate finance. The market was starting to slow and some banks even started to go under. My business partner and I had hit some sucess but times were getting harder. We lost a bit of money, had to lay off some people and calculated that it was going to get worse before it got better. The writing was on the wall...the market was going to hell! On top of that, personally, I was losing interest and wasn't finding any motivation or inspiration in the work that I was doing.

I needed a change...

I decided to mix it up a bit. I saw an opportunity and so I decided to take it. I had a personal dream which was to "give it all up" and "travel the world". My job was winding down and I eventually found myself on the phone with American Airlines booking a one year open ended flight around the world.

The plan was to go to South East Asia, India, Eatern Europe, Northern Africa and finally Macchu Pichu in South America before heading back home to San Francisco. I got rid of my apartment, sold my car, put my stuff back into the attic at Mom's house in Oakland and took off. It was an amazing experience just to simplfy my life to a back pack. And then just after a going away party in San Francisco I found myself in the back seat of my buddies car headed for SFO International airport.

The journey itself was amazing. I had the best Vietnamese sandwich of my life from a street stall in Hoi Ann, Vietnam, I studied yoga in an Ashram in Kerela, India, I walked across Spain on the Camino de Santiago, I studied Spanish in a small school in Santiago de Chile. I met people from all corners of this amazing planet. I shared stories from San Francisco and heard others from villages in Nepla to shops in Marrakesh. The trip was everything I wanted it to be and more.

I chose to go to these countries for a few reasons. For one, these regions of the planet were cheap! I had to be on some kind of budget if I wasn't going to work for a year. But also because these places are developing countries and they don't speak English. I wanted to go to places like India, laos and Bolivia because they would provide a challenge. I hoped to see things from a different prospective...I wanted a different view of the world. And...I got it. It was an amazing learning experience.

At times it was very difficult...

In Mumbai my life was changed forever.

I went to Mumbai because my good friend Reggie wanted to meet me there. A few days before arriving in Mumbai my friend Reggie emailed me and the subject was "I need a vacation". He said that he wanted to meet me in Mumbai. At the time I was somewhere in the middle of India checking out this national park that I heard a lot about. So the plan for me was to go see the Taj in Agra, Head to Delhi for a night and fly to Mumbai. I got into Bollywood a few days before Reggie and I decided to check the town out. I think Reggie's motivation for meeting me in India was for 2 reasons. One, he did need a vacation and two he wanted to hang with a friend who was feeling a bit of home sickness. Just the week before I got Reggie's email I posted a blog about being home sick and a bit depressed.

So here I was in Mumbai. I was going to do a bit of sightseeing and I wanted to kind of figure out the city before my yupish friend Reggie arrived. HAHAHAH! I wanted to make sure things went smoothly for my buddy. My hotel was right in the middle of Mumbai near all the tourist attractions like The Taj Hotel, Victoria train station and the docks where you launch off to go to Elephant Island. I was walking down a main street coming back from a cool ex pat hang out. I was walking down the street when I noticed off to my left a wide gap between two massive buildings. I noticed two kids running through a hole in the fence. Sometype of advertisment slapped onto a board was hiding the hole in the fence but as the advertisment flapped in the wind I noticed a giant slum behind it. You can see these slums when flying into the city and you heard all sorts of stories about the things that happen there. This make shift town within a town was massive and sprawling all the way back to the next block. But, the sight of this slum wasn't the image that stuck with me. As I continued to walk down the street I noticed a women sitting by the hole in the fence. She was sitting crossed legged, in a torn and dirty purple and gold sari. Shes was filthy dirty and had a desperate look on her face. She sat crossed legged and with one hand she was holding out her hand begging for change. In her other hand, sprawld out across her lap, was her child. The babies arm's were hanging to the side with the head back and eyes rolled deeply back. The baby looked as if it were dead.

At that moment I felt completely helpless...completely powerless. I was a stranger in a strange land and I had no idea what to do. I felt like a coward when I walked away...but what was I supposed to do?

The image of that woman sittting there in her purple sari stayed with me as I continued my travels. I look back from time to time in my personal journal and I notice that I mention how I felt about that day. I can remember how I traveled through this beautiful world how I felt a growing urge to help and give back. I felt powerless and I hated it. As I traveled I wanted to do give back. But what?

After about a year from the time I left San Francisco I found myself in South America. I can remember the day when I was in Buenos Aires, Argentina when my plane left for Peru. I was two weeks away from going home but I knew that it wasn't my time to get back. So, I didn't get on the plane instead I traveled through Argentine and finally made my way to Santiago. It was there in Santiago that I decided to do somehting to give back. My first idea was to volunteer in an orphange somewhere in Latin America. I had met many people that did this all over the world and their stories and photos were very inspiring. I can speciafically remember trekking through Morocco with my great buddy James. He told me a ton of stories about his time volunteering with children in an orphange in Nepla. His black and white photos from his time there were amazing. Eventually, I did some research and found that most of the placements cost money up front and per month. In most cases that money was sent off to a third party or a broker somewhere in the US, England or wherever. That didn't sit well with me.

Eventually I decided to use my time, money and resources and create my own grassroots charitable project. I found Plan USA and I believed that their mission of finding solutions for children in developing countries fit with my own mission. To raise money and awareness for this cause I would do an inspirational event. I would ride a bike from Panama City, Panama to San Francisco, CA and make special stops at Plan offices and to Plan sponsored communties to learn about the problems and issues but more importantly the solutions in regards to children living in poverty. The ride would span 3,500 miles and cross 8 countries including El Salvador which is one of the most dangerou countries in the world. Hopefully by doing this I would be able to draw attention to a cause that I truly believed in. Maybe a few people would listen to a guy that had never been on a rode bike before talk about raising money for kids in Central America.

The goal specifically is to raise $15,000 for a school construction project in a small community near Jalapa, Guatemala. The money would build 2 new classrooms for the 400+ children of the community. The school would provide a space for the children to help realize their dream of a better education. Hopefully this would provide the community an opportunity to help lift themselves out of poverty.

I was even able to make a special stop to this community in Guatemala. The people put on a great show and celebration for the stranger. I was most impressed by a little kid of the community who came up and talked to his fellow classmates. He was wearing a blue plaid shirt with a big ol belt buckle and cowboy boots. He told his classmates to live each day to its fullest, to work hard and to study. He was very courageous!

The bike ride was one of the hardest and most challenging things I have ever done. The first day of the ride was 35 kilometers. I'll never forget the ride out of Panama City on the nic named "Cobra Road". It took around 4 hours to go the 35 kilometes. By the ened of the trip I was racking up 160 kilometer days. I even rode from La Paz, Baja, Mexico to San Diego, California in 12 days. Thats 900 miles in 12 days of pain, push, agongy, and pure beauty. This planet is truly an amazing place. was the most challenging thig I have ever done...physically, emotionally and spiritually but in the end it was one of the most rewarding projects I have ever completed.

On April 25th I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. It was an amazing experience and something that I will never forget. By the time April 26th rolled around the Last Hill Team raised about $11,000. When I say Team I mean all the friends that volunteered their time and energy to help out with the cause. Like Cyn Garcia who drew up a press release, or Mike Ward who met me in Panama and supported me every step or Erin Alonso who helped throw the party in SF or my good college buddy Evan Thomas who threw another fundraiser in LA. And so many more people!

Now as I write this and reflect back I can see the goal. It's within reach!

Were throwing one last event in San Francisco. A one day special photography exhibit benefit and auction at 111 Minna Gallery on Saturday, September 19th from noon to 6pm. The photography on auction is a collection of 7 photographers who I met on my travels around the world. There work is beautiful, inspiring and thought provoking. By no means are we professionals (or maybe I should speak for myself) but we are passionate about photography and we all care about the cause.

I feel so lucky I can't even begin to explain. I have been extremely fortuante in my life. I have a loving family, supportive friends and have been raised in the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area. Mostly I have had the opportunity to attend school and I've had the opportunity to get a proper education. traveling has made me appreciate all the beautiful things in life especially opportunities likes these. Travelling has taught me that life is fragile and that there is a totally different reality out there.

I'm doing this because I want to give the same opportunity of education to these children. I'm doing this to hopefully inspire others to help make a positive change in this beautiful and amazing planet that we live in. I'm doing this for the woman in the purple sari who was sitting on the street in Mumbai but I'm also doing this because I wanted to see if a dream can become possible. What I have seen, what I have learned and what I believe is that making a change, having a dream and persuing it with hard work and passion can bring opporunity to those who need it most.

The Last Hill Team is throwing one last event because it is a follow through on a promise made back in January of 09. I made a promise and set a goal of $15,000 to go to building a school for the children of Jalapa, Guatemala. With bit of luck and a ton of hard work we hope to raise the remaining money needed to see this project to the end. If you are reading this I hope you can make it out to the final event of the Last Hill project. It's going to be fun, entertaining and hopefully inspiring.

Peace, Power and Pedal


No comments: