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Riding for awareness

Austin Andrew won’t be spending his holiday season by a warm fire or his New Year’s pondering a goal. Some might say, he’s living that goal at this very moment.

It’s a goal which he’d pondered for quite some time, yet was both brought to fruition as well as to light at the passing of his sister, Paige.

“I’ve always wanted to go to South America,” Andrew stated of his current trek which began in Baja, California in September of 2022 and is anticipated to conclude in Ushuaia, Argentina.

Andrew, however, is no longer pondering the idea of this goal he set for himself at the age of 18, he’s now living it by way of a bicycle, a tent, sleeping bag and other essentials as he rides 11,000 miles to honor his sister and raise awareness for grief and loss.

“I read a book on it that really inspired it, so I started talking about going on an adventure,” he said of the goal early on. “Then I lost my sister and that kind of threw me for a loop.”

The middle of three children, the Beyer High School alum said the timing of his current adventure, while not ideal in terms of training and preparation, has meaning and intention which were important to him.

Andrew’s sister Paige took her own life in October of 2019, just one month shy of turning 27. The adventurer himself turned 27 this year and felt it was the appropriate time to honor her memory as well as knowledge a birthday she was never able to see.

Three years post the passing of his older sister, Andrew shared much of the first two years were spent examining all the emotions which come with grief and trauma. Then on her birthday in 2021, he ventured off to take a hike. Raised in the outdoors by parents who mountain biked and were active with their children, it was a natural way for the then-26-year-old to get outside and connect with his sister.

“When I reconnected with that part of myself and that part of my sister, I realized I had things I wanted to do and I needed to continue living,” Andrew said of his ‘hike with Paige.’

“The one thing you have to do is realize, you have to keep going,” he added, recognizing that post the trauma of his loss, he was simply surviving and not living his life.

And so, the plan was put into place and with less time … and resources than he would have preferred, the outdoorsman set his sights on the 11,000-mile trek.

“A lot of the culture around death is not to talk about it,” Andrew said, noting that as he shared his plans more people began talking about it and sharing their own stories about it. “As they did, I asked the same question, what are you doing to live, not survive.”

From these early conversations, Andrew finally found a place for a phrase from a Clint Eastwood movie he had always planned to use on an adventure. “We shall continue with style,” is now the mantra behind the mountain biking adventure. Giving purpose to the trek, Andrew prints names of individuals which families have lost to honor them.

As this magazine issue went to press, Andrew had 37 “friends” (names) riding along with him.

“I’m overwhelmed by the support I’ve had,” Andrew said of communication via social media and emails during the journey. 

“Thirty-seven friends with me, thirty-seven traveling companions,” he said of the names on the bike, noting that not all were lost from suicide.

As he speaks of the names, his travels and the people he’s met during the journey, it becomes apparent that the names are more than just print on a bike. Andrew shared that he is always accepting names to honor those of lost loved ones. His only request is that the person submitting a name share their relationship to the person, as well as something good about them. On any given day, he may then prompt that the day ahead he may be riding with one individual, honoring them with every pedal stroke.

“With every pedal stroke you learn a little bit more about yourself and the trip,” he said of the adventure.

Being on the road for eight hours a day, he shared he travels approximately 80 miles each day. Taking advantage of daylight, as well as the kindness of strangers when night falls and it’s time for rest.

Along the journey, Andrew shared at the end of each day of riding he looks for a place to camp for the night, which typically tends to be someone’s property or land. On off days he’ll find a cheap hotel or hostel in order to recharge, replenish and reset for the next leg of travel.

“There’s some things you can’t know until you know,” Andrew said of traveling and the camping experience, sharing that for the most part people have been very kind and accommodating.

And riding, he said, has allowed him to experience life in an entirely new way.

“I love riding though, it does help, the physical aspect. I can work through emotions really well when I’m going up a hill,” Andrew explained. “I’m forced to process. Life on my bike, I’m not protected, the rain is going to come. I can sit down and wish I was anywhere else and wish things would change, but sometimes unless you get on the bike and pedal, they don’t change.”

As he continues his travels, strangers becoming friends, life being lived at its fullest as he had once dreamed, he does think of Paige.

“I wish Paige had met the person I am now,” he shared. “I think she would have gotten a kick out of the person I am now. I think she would have been proud of me.”

Austin Andrew has a website, as well as an Instagram page for those interested in keeping up with or contributing to his journey. Simply visit the website or follow weshallcontinuewithstyle