His Cross-country cycling trip goes well beyond taking in the scenery
Ryan Martin to set out from Tofino, B.C. Monday with a goal of reaching St. John’s Newfoundland, with a few stops south of the border for good measure, in fundraiser for Canadian Mental Health Association
IT WAS NOT EASY for Ryan Martin to confront his mental health problems at first, and bring them out into the open. But now, the 23-year-old is speaking publicly about his journey, and is championing mental health awareness by embarking on a journey of another kind, a cross-country bike ride starting Monday.
The bike trip will take Martin coast to coast, from the small town of Tofino on the west side of Vancouver Island to St. John’s in the east. And in the process, Martin will be raising money for the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Martin has never tried anything on this scale before, but says he is excited to take on the challenge.
“I’m a big cyclist and I love cycling, but I’ve never taken on this big of a challenge before. So I’m so excited for it. Just the adventure and the awareness and everything,” he said.
Martin will be kicking off on his journey this Monday and arrive in St. John’s in Newfoundland sometime late August. He won’t be travelling straight through Canada, though. Instead he plans to take what he calls the “scenic route,” extending the trip to about 9,000 kilometres over three months as he winds his way through Canada and parts of the U.S., touching on most of the major cities in the country.
“I’m kind of doing an impractical route. A lot of people just beeline it across the country and finish in a month-and-a-half. I’m doing more of a scenic route, just because I want to see the country,” explained Martin.
He’ll be doing the trip mostly solo, though he has family members – his father, mother and sister – who will be joining him separately at different points for a few days. Martin will also be relying on the kindness of strangers, in a sense, by using the app Warm Showers, which opens the homes of individuals to cyclists for free who are passing through.
Along the trip, Martin will be camping in other spots as much as possible to save on hotel costs.
It’s an immense journey for anyone to undertake, but Martin believes it will help raise awareness and donations for his cause.
Martin himself has struggled with his own mental health difficulties, which is what motivated him to undertake his bike ride.
“One of the big parts is because I’ve gone through a pretty long journey figuring out and accepting my mental health challenges,” he said.
In high school, he says candidly, he suffered from anxiety which affected him off and on. But as he entered university, he found his mental health worsened.
“My depression, episodes of depression started coming in, in conjunction with the anxiety. So I’d have these weird episodes and mood swings. I was really confused why this was happening, when everything in my life was going pretty well how I wanted it to go. But I was having these [mood swings] up and down, for no reason.”
For a long while, Martin didn’t talk about it, but gradually started to open up to a social worker at the university which helped, for a time. However, the feeling didn’t last, so he returned to the social worker, and once again talking about his problem helped. But then, just as before, his depression and anxiety returned.
This went on for a few times, but it was only after he had an emotional breakdown that he was able to open up to his friends and family. He eventually was diagnosed as bipolar type-2.
“So right now I’m at this place where I’ve gone through this whole journey, I really want to help other people who are going through it,” said Martin. “And I want to help instill that courage in them to open up to someone and start talking about it and to just not give up on themselves and to keep working hard to find the tools that they can use in their toolbox to help manage their mental health challenges.”
Martin is a Guelph resident, but he has deep roots in Elmira. His family was the original owner of Elmira Pet Foods and Martin Mills. His grandfather, Don Martin, is enshrined in the Waterloo County Hall of Fame while his great-grandfather started the feed mill business in Elmira in 1923.
“I’m incredibly proud in a number of ways,” said Ryan’s father, Tim Martin, of his son’s efforts. “His ability to speak about it and to talk and to engage with a number of different people is certainly helping him and helping a lot of people. In that sense, I think it’s just incredible.”
The younger Martin will be heading off on his journey May 14, starting in B.C. Anyone who would like to learn more about him, or make a donation to his cause, can head over to his website www.mindcycle.ca. All donations will go towards the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Ryan Martin will be heading on a cross-country bicycle ride starting May 14 to raise funds and awareness for mental health.