Sometimes traveling is war. Delays, sleepless nights, waiting in lines, navigating an unfamiliar land, lost baggage, language barriers, the list goes on. In the past two weeks I have flown over 14,000 miles and, as I sit in this hotel on a rainy day in London, I am counting down the hours until my flight home to Chicago tomorrow. Just prior to this, I was in the Middle East on a tour called “Bikes Over Baghdad” whose main mission is to assemble BMX riders to go boost morale for the troops out fighting a real war.
The Middle East is an interesting place. While there is a lot of turmoil, it’s always amazing to me how many calm, peaceful people you meet along the way. Bringing BMX closer to the front lines of these conflicts is something we’ve been doing every year since 2009 and is something we enjoy doing. The sacrifice we make by bringing ourselves into this seemingly dangerous situation is something we do on a daily basis riding BMX anyways so, in a way, it’s a logical combination since the troops over there have a similar mindset.
I think that mindset, however, is misunderstood. BMXers, much like the vast majority of troops and Middle Eastern people we have met along the way, aren’t just blood thirsty adrenaline junkies. We are just normal people who have the same desire for excitement and happiness as everyone else around the world. Throughout these journeys and travels I have come to find that 99.9% of people are good. People, in general, usually have the best intentions and are willing to help out. This mindset can be seen in something as small as helping you pick up a quarter you dropped out of your pocket, or as big as helping another country get back on their feet after a hardship. The majority of troops we have met fit this mold. They are normal people from all different backgrounds who happen to do an abnormal job. I’m fortunate to have seen this firsthand.
Even though I wish war didn’t exist, I am more than happy to join with my friends to make others smile, laugh and enjoy life. Even if this moment of entertainment is a finite period of time, the feeling resonates for much longer. The feeling of helping others is always just as rewarding as when others help you in times of need. You don’t need to go to travel to the Middle East to achieve this (but if you have the chance to check out this or any foreign land, I would suggest it). This can be achieved everyday at home. Open a door for a stranger, help someone with their luggage, give someone a couple of your french fries at lunch, or just simply smile. If we all did, then the world would be a better and more peaceful place. These small things will add up to big changes.
- Brian Kachinsky