In Dan third year of graduate school, during his pursuit of a Ph.D. in theoretical mathematics, he felt unfulfilled. “I needed to do something more personally engaging…in a totally non-academic way,” he explained. In the summer of 2011, Dan started pedaling in Providence, RI. Sixty-nine days and 4,000 miles later he finished his ride cross country in Seattle. That ride changed his life. “I found the confidence to admit I was unhappy and to leave grad school – a terrifying, liberating and existentially unnerving decision,” he said.
While the ride gave him an incredible sense of accomplishment both physically and mentally, Dan described being immersed in the lives of 30 riders, day and night, and the close-knit group that formed, as the most valuable aspect of his ride.
“I rode with riders who were nothing like me, and during Bike & Build you’re stuck with each other. This allowed me to recognize the commonalities I had with others, even if the commonality was just an interest in discussing our differences. Bike & Build challenged my idea of who I thought of as a friend. In people I disagreed with fundamentally, I recognized traits that I respected immensely. That was my take away from the ride – to look for the best in people, to never write off a relationship and to make every friendship I develop into a personal challenge to better myself.”
Since June of 2013, Dan has served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the education sector in The Gambia, West Africa. He currently works with math and science teachers in grades 7-12 to improve teaching methods. Beyond teaching, Dan also educates students about bikes. He supports a local teacher’s bike rental program that eases school commutes. Students who previously walked 15km (over nine miles) a day to school can ride a bike, increasing access to education.
Interestingly, Dan has also discovered the secret to biking across the country. “Step one: start peddling. There is no step two. Except, perhaps, eat as much as you can! Those things in life that sound impossible or difficult just take a bit of commitment.”