Welcome Home Matt!

A little more than three years ago, on a typical Tuesday afternoon, my friend and colleague Matt Kelly stopped in my office for our usual round of candy, gossip and youtubing 90 second scenes from R. Kelly’s critical masterpiece, Trapped in the Closet. 

 Only this time was different. Silent, he sat there in the chair with his eyes glazed over, staring at my bookshelf. After a moment, he shoved a piece of licorice in his mouth and announced, rather abruptly,

“I think I’m going to do something crazy.”
Matt was going to quit his job and travel from Alaska to Argentina.
On his bicycle.
Alone.
For nearly two years.
Whoa.
Fast forward three years later, to today. After riding for 22 months and 17,500 miles, Matt is back. I saw him on Monday and he looks so different. Yes, he is skinnier and tanner, but it’s more than that. It’s like he saw something. Something big.
Our local PBS station interviewed him yesterday, and as much as I love the show, you could tell Phil Ponce (the Interviewer-Slash-Kindly Latino Hotty) wanted to hear him complain about being mugged, or stranded, sleeping in the rain, or running out of food ….you know, something sensational. Something scary. Something made for TV.
But Matt didn’t bite.
He just told one story after another of total strangers taking him into their homes and communities, treating him as one of their own, and showing him the same kindness you or I might show a member of our own family. 
Look, I know am am bias here, and perhaps that isn’t a sensational story, but in my book, that’s pretty effing profound. Most days I turn on the news and see people suffering, starving…crazed dictators killing thousands in their wake…snookies showing their hooch to anyone who will watch. It’s not a pretty picture. It’s enough to make you second guess yourself and humanity in general.
But then there is Matt.
My friend, a guy who traveled to the furthest corners of the Earth, saw every sight and walk of life, only to return to report the simple truth: People are innately good. We are more alike than we are different. No barriers of race, language, or economics need stand in the way of connecting us to one another. The world is a huge place but it’s smaller than you ever imagined.
Whoa.

Click hereto watch Matt’s interview on WTTW.
Click here to read Matt’s blog.
Click here to see Matt’s amazing and extensive photographs from his trip.
Click here to see Matt’s amazing kite flown aerial photography from prior to his trip, that I thought he really should have taken on his trip but he said the kite took up too much room and I thought that was a poor excuse but now I see his bike loaded up like that gear and wonder, Damn, where was he going to fit the kite?

Oh well. Next time.

Welcome home Matt!

Comments

  1. says

    oh wow.
    this is something i’ve had pushing at the back of my mind for months. and this is now the third time in two days i’ve heard about someone doing it (well, one was a backpacker… but still, that’s odd, right?).
    i’m getting a little freaked out.
    but such an
    amazing story. i can’t wait to check out the blog and interview and photos.
    superlative endeavor, mr. matt.
    enviously,
    -shawnacy

  2. says

    I always assumed that being forced to watch Trapped in the Closet is what drove Matt to make the trip. Seriously, nice post, Aunt Peaches — there can never be too many reminders of what greatness a person can achieve if he or she is determined, patient, kind, and curious about the world. Oh, and it’s nice to know the world is not as twisted as R. Kelly would make it.

  3. says

    Now I want to travel so badly! Not with a bike, because I’m not much of a bicycle person. But backpacking or walking would suit me just fine. And there’s public transportation. I’ve always found it humbling to experience people’s generosity, especially in in environments where resources are not as readily available.
    Loved reading this on a cold and dreary Friday morning.

  4. says

    My friend Tyler did a solo bike ride from Vancouver to Colombia a year and a half ago and blew my mind. I was living in Mexico at the time and he came to visit me in my little town. It was absolutely amazing, and I imagine that he and Matt were cut from the same cloth. He no sooner got home and started planning a solo canoe trip to the arctic – a first for him, and made it home with brand new astonishing tales to tell. We are truly blessed to have such amazing friends like these two who remind us of what really is possible, and what really matters. I am going to send this post to Tyler so that he can read up on Matt’s adventures and maybe get some tips when planning his next one… and there will surely always be a next!

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