February 8, 2013

Cutting Loose: Biking from Iraq to Cambodia.


In a world where our every moment is an unspeakable grace, it is a treat to introduce you to my friend Tim.

Maybe the point of Tim’s story is that wherever you are, a full 180 into your dreams (and then past them) is entirely possible.

Tim Durrin is not your run of the mill, drug chugging, Oprah confessing/Hedging hybrid bike racer. I met Tim, well I knew him casually for a long time, but met met him at a sweat lodge we were having for him. He was taking off to serve in Iraq. We were about 10 guys, all into healing and recovery. We were sad to see him go, made aspirations for him, and sweated together.

As a soldier, he saw up close what active duty means. Then simply picked up and left Iraq one day, quite unannounced, got his head together, and went around the world to make a difference in his own, very original style.

Tim and I have a mutual friend named Mikey. One day I heard Mikey say something wise. He said, “I’m returning to my originality.”

I loved hearing that.

When Tim left Iraq to explore foreign relations one person at a time, he was returning to his originality.

What does a former hired thug, I’m sorry, I mean former soldier, do to find peace with himself?

Tim jumped on his bike and headed for Southeast Asia. (There was a plane ride involved.) He picked Cambodia, because it is a place where residual damage from U.S. forces lingers. Tim made a six-month trip there to see what he could do to be of benefit.

“This trip changed my life and the way I saw the world. I learned the true meaning of the word ‘compassion’ and ‘humility.’ Traveling by bicycle, I rode through Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and finally Indonesia. I came in close contact with poverty, sickness, death, disease, hunger and sadness. I also saw the most beautiful acts of compassion, selflessness, love and kindness.”

Tim went to Siem Riep and the lost city of Angkor Wat, where he explored and interacted with people one on one, simply bringing love and appreciation to those he met. It worked wonders.

He met a man named Laim and decided to focus his financial gifting right there. Laim was studying medicine, creating free rural health care, and had helped to open a village school. The BBC told that part of Tim’s story here, and did a better job of it than I am.

The point of it for me is an idea for us. When shit is going south, there is the option of going AWOL.

Leaving. Cutting loose. Starting anew.

Tim arguably was stuck; he was, as a soldier in Iraq, as stuck as you can be, wouldn’t you say? And it felt wrong for him to stay there. But lots of us are stuck, and at the thought of unsticking, fear arises. What was different for him? In answering his heart, Tim had to go against the power and momentum of a multibillion-dollar complex. He found a way.

I asked him what went through his head, what gave him the courage. He told me he didn’t remember thinking too much. He simply packed his shit and took off.

There is genuine wisdom in that. I think we think too much.

What is holding me back, what belief freezes me, the refusal of which would open new doors?

When Tim decided he would take off to Thailand to be of service to others for six months, he had about 35 dollars in his pocket. The pathway from there to buying a laptop for Laim and sponsoring his education and efforts started in Tim’s head.

It is a universal process. We are all, somewhere, stuck. Our true enemy is our own resignation.

Clueless and confident, Tim threw his vision out in front of him and walked toward it, no map, no compass. He threw a going away party. His friends all chipped in random gifts from everywhere and auctioned them off. It funded the whole trip, and philanthropy besides.

He is now a winning bike racer, riding for JAM Fund elite squad next year, and hey, guess what? At press time, today, in fact, Tim got a massive envelope from Smith College. He has been awarded a full scholarship for his graduate studies next year—in social work, of course.

It comes to this: instead of taking bullets in the desert, Tim was taking teacher training in Bali.

What is your desert? What’s your Bali? What are the odds of Tim achieving all this from a tent in the desert? My guess is that his goals would have shrunk to fit the size of his situation had he stayed where he was supposed to stay.

Think what you want about your big old brain: we are the product of our environment. We are defined by our actions.

The sky’s the limit.



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All photos courtesy of Tim Durrin
Ed: Brianna Bemel

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