Meet Daeung Sunim, a 42-year-old Korean Buddhist monk currently on a 20,000 mile bicycle journey through the Americas. Starting from Vancouver, British Columbia, last April, by the time Sunim’s voyage ends he’ll have biked to the eastern tip of Canada, down the east coast of the U.S., west to California, and finally south through Latin and South America to the southernmost tip of Argentina.
Sunim has limited English skills, no Spanish skills, no set itinerary and knows almost no one in the Americas. This trip marks the first time that Sunim has ridden a bicycle, and it is already wearing down from hard use. He is unable to carry as much cookware and food as he needs to ensure he can last through the exhausting days. Since he began pedaling in April, he’s taken only four days of rest.
Sunim’s odyssey sounds formidable; indeed, he embarked upon it, he says, to “test his spirit.” But the intrepid monk has been blessed with a flourishing of contacts throughout the Americas, helped along by Adam Tebbe of Sweeping Zen as well as Dave Pope, a former skeleton racer who discovered Sunim when the monk blew a flat alongside a Canadian highway late one night.
Pope, who met Sunim entirely by accident but still fed and housed him while he passed through Vernon, British Columbia, was so moved by Sunim’s strength of spirit that he began a Facebook page for him the next day, hoping to set up a support network that could help the monk move through his trip safely. So far Sunim has made it halfway through Canada, but he still has a long way to go! He is especially in need of people who can house him and feed him, but there are lots of other ways that you can help.
As Sunim wrote on his blog after he had learned of Dave Pope’s kindness, “Water doesn’t stagnate when it flows. In the same way, humans should move so they will find their relationships with others. If you take a test you’ll know how well you’ve studied. If you overcome a limitation you will know your heart; tears are opening my heart. My pilgrimage is not only my path, but also a journey to connect with the lives of others.”
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
2. Offer your home, a hot meal, or a cold drink to Sunim by messaging Dave Pope on the Facebook page with your address and contact info or emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Tell your friends and family about Sunim’s adventure. Dave Pope and Adam Tebbe’s goal is to set up 150 hosts for Sunim over the course of his trip (1 host for every 200 km). They’ve had 35 offers thus far—that’s 115 hosts that Sunim still needs! There are especial concerns for setting up hosts in Latin and South America. If you speak Spanish, please help Pope and Tebbe reach out to people who live in these areas.
4. If you have any of these skills—bicycle repair/maintenance services, Korean-English translation abilities (spoken and written), or English-Korean written translation abilities—please email in.
5. You can also make a donation to help Sunim buy a new bike, since his breaking down.
Sign up for Tricycle’s newsletters
Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.