A UBC Okanagan student spent his summer on a solo bike trip from the Canada-U.S. border near Osoyoos all the way north to Tuktoyaktuk.
Mikey Friedland, a fourth-year international relations student, did the solo trip to raise awareness and money for the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Ride Don’t Hide initiative. Friedland managed to raise more than $27,000 for the charity, but the stories he can now tell are priceless.
“When I started, I took a photo of myself at the Welcome to BC sign in Osoyoos. When I saw the same sign from the opposite side, crossing into the Yukon, it was absolutely the coolest thing in my entire life.”
Friedland was supposed to spend last year on an exchange program but COVID-19 put an end to that. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, Friedland shifted gears, literally, spending his winter skiing in Revelstoke.
In the spring Friedman describes feeling lonely and depressed for no particular reason.
“Having a goal is very important to me,” he says. “When I’m working toward something, that’s when I’m at my happiest and best. So, I found a goal, riding my bike as far north as I physically can before going back to school.”
Friedland has now created a series of films chronicling his adventures, all told, his route surpassed 4,000 kilometres, including nearly 25,000 metres of vertical climbs.
“This hasn’t been an easy journey, but it has certainly been an amazing experience,” he says, describing riding sometimes until midnight and then setting up camp. “Every day I’m in a new area, and every few hours, a new ecosystem.”
During his journey, Friedland experienced life in northern B.C., taking part in the community fish camp in Fort McPherson, and shown the process of cleaning and drying Koni and Whitefish. He’s been offered places to sleep, showers, food, water, friendships and of course money.
“I’m realizing more and more that mental health is a part of my life and something I need to personally think about every day,” he says. “I am committed to making more of a conscious effort to check in with myself and be honest. Because everybody has times when they are doing well and times when they are not.”
Friedland intends to divide the money he is raising between three CMHA branches: Shuswap/Revelstoke, Northern BC, and the Yukon, he hopes a local approach will allow funds to be allocated to the programs that are most needed in each community.
“I’m really hoping my ride helps bring mental health out in the open. It’s been important to me because mental health has been tucked away for so long — and that has real consequences. Since I started this journey, the number of messages and feedback from people has been inspiring and heartwarming. It has let me know I’m on the right path.”
According to the CHMA, one in five Canadians will have a mental health crisis this year. But Friedland reminds everyone that five out of five Canadians have mental health.