The farther I get into my journey down the coast this summer, the more I realize that I had no idea what I was getting myself into as I filled out my Pedal the Pacific application in October. My team is lucky enough to have the knowledge and experience of 6 summers worth of Pedal alumni providing us with their advice and support. Despite this, I have found myself surprised again and again with every aspect of this journey. The beauty of the ride has continually left me in awe, and I had no idea the feeling of accomplishment that would come with completing each challenging hill and the last mile of every ride. What I didn’t anticipate is where I pull my motivation from in the depths of the ride, when my head is down and I’m wounding how I ended up biking up this mountain in cold and rainy Oregon.
During launch weekend, we had the opportunity to speak with Lisa O’Dell from REST of Seattle. She told us moving stories of the individuals behind the sex trafficking statistics we were all familiar with. Though I had heard stories from individuals who had left “the life” during our meetings throughout the year, I hadn’t yet truly seen the impact that Pedal the Pacific was making in the anti-trafficking movement. In hearing Lisa speak to us about the individuals she works alongside, I was able to see the breadth of the work that Pedal the Pacific helps to make possible in local communities. The work that large organizations do, like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, is so impactful and crucial in the fight against sex trafficking. However, it is such an honor to have the opportunity to contribute to the work that organizations like REST do, because the work they do is so specific to local communities. Lisa’s story was the story of Seattle, and I understood deeply that Pedal the Pacific is part of that story.
Yesterday, the team met with Esther from Safety Compass. She talked about her work with sex trafficking survivors, and how she saw a need for bringing knowledge of sex trafficking into local communities. The reality is, sex trafficking is happening in our communities and our towns, on small and large scales- and right under our noses. This is what I remember when the ride gets tough.
Every pedal stroke leads to another conversation and sheds more light onto the stories of survivors.
With each town we reach, we have the opportunity to make individuals more aware of how this issue affects them and the places and people they care about. Throughout this ride, I have been able to see how deeply Pedal affects the anti-sex trafficking movement. Pedal the Pacific has given me the opportunity to be a part of tangible change, in my own communities, down the west coast, and in our country. As the physical challenges of the ride continue, the knowledge that I am doing this for something greater than myself pulls me through.