In July 2009 Dan Harrison, left everything he knew; his job, his house, his friends and family to take on a huge traveling challenge which didn’t see him return for five years.

Why did he do his? To satisfy his wanderlust and his social conscience by creating something to be really proud of.

What was his goal? To give some of the world’s most disadvantaged children a better life through education.

Dan’s Trip – Cycling across 9 Countries

Dan peddled out of the UK in July 2009, riding his bike  through 30 countries. He covered a massive 24,000 km and supported 9 different causes along the way in Albania, Syria, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

better-life-cycle-map

This amazing adventure inspired us to get in touch with Dan to get his advice before we start our own challenge. He very kindly gave us some great insight for what is about to come:

Dan, can you tell us what the best moment of your trip was?

“I was grateful that I didn’t have to rush around – traveling for 5 years opened up plenty of opportunities to meet people and causes. If you go with too many preconceived plans you miss out on these opportunities.

I also asked myself ´who is this trip for´? At the beginning I thought that I was just trying to help other people but,  the act of helping others had a positive impact upon me, so ultimately everything I did improved my experience. 

My advice for other travelers is that if you tell everyone what you are doing before you go, you can put too much pressure on yourself and end up with too many commitments. Ultimately what was supposed to be a good experience can turn out to be more of a chore, which can take the spontaneity  and enjoyment out of your trip”.

Do you regret having quit a job/life to go traveling?

“Absolutely not. This trip has shaped my life. I’m glad I quite my job. Although I have to admit I was in quite a fortunate situation my situation as I was in a good place in my career and was financial stable. It was probably easier for me than it would be for other people in different situations. However, I would definitely encourage everyone to do something similar. This trip made me mature a lot”.

What was the price of taking on this challenge?

“There is always a price. In my case I would say that, even though this trip made me grow up a lot, when I saw the reality of people´s daily lives in the countries I visited, it was a lot worse than I thought.

When I started this trip I had an ideology of how to help charities in order to make an impact. I had a perception of humanity that I now consider too naive. I also saw how in many places in Africa there is a dependency on aid and in some cases it can make people rely on aid instead of trying to improve their own conditions”.

Bidna Capoeira Project – Damascus

One of the projects that Dan contributed to was Bidna Capoeira, an NGO from Damascus which is fascinating.

Dan planned to stay in Syria just for five days but he ended up staying for five months. He found Bidna Capoeira, an NGO whose goal is to change the lives of kids through capoeira. Bidna Capoeira was born in 2007 and has already given capoeira classes to more than 10,000 kids in Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan.

Capoeira is a dance developed 5 centuries ago in Brazil by Afro-Brazilian slaves to empower themselves towards their struggle to freedom. Bidna Capoeira changes kids´ lives. It is acclaimed by UNICEF and is a successful UK-registered charity.

Dan is an great example for us and also for what 180 Smiles aims to achieve. We wish him the best of the luck in his future projects.

If you want to find out more about Dan Harrison and this project, check out his site: Better Life Cycle.

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