People all over North America have banded together to support a man with a mission to bike across Canada, all in support of bettering himself and others along the way.
Chris Aubichon, an Indigenous man from Nanaimo, British Columbia, decided to undertake the challenge of biking across Canada after dealing with addiction and mental health issues all his life. Many of those stemming from his time in foster care, and then living on the streets.
“After I turned 18, I was living in New Brunswick. Predictably, after I was kicked out, I developed many issues that lasted for around 20 years. I stuggled with addiction, mental health issues, homelessness, unemployment and incarceration,” he said.
“But then I found out that British Columbia was offering free schooling for former youth in care, and that was something I wanted to take advantage of. “
Aubichon decided to move back west for the opportunity but wanted to do it in a way that would help him.
“However, I knew that with my mental health issues, I was probably setting myself up for failure if I just jumped on a flight and went west,” he said.
“I figured that the best way to give myself an opportunity for success was to fast track my recovery, both physically and mentally, by jumping on a bike and pedalling across the country.”
He is currently on track to pass through Calgary on August 2, with already locals planning to meet with him. Writing on Reddit, users have cheered on Aubichon with hundreds of messages of encouragement to help him on his journey.
Writing in response to one user, he said, “If I’ve learned anything this trip it’s to not say no to offers people make. It fills their bucket, and mine.”
That continued support, he said, was something that has helped him to want to do bigger things, like addressing the issues that others like him faced while living in foster care.
“My goal is to hold them accountable. They opened the door here, and I’m going to kick it wide open. There should also be funding for mental health and addiction support, general life skills coaching, etcetera,” he said.
Aubichon said that for himself, cross-country cycling has improved his mental wellbeing and his physical health.
“So far, I am leaps and bounds ahead of where I thought I would be. This journey has evolved me, and seeing the amount of support I’m getting has taught me a lot about myself,” he said.
“The first couple of weeks were really slow going. I was only going about 15-20 kilometres a day, because I was so big and out of shape. I started this journey at 325 pounds, and now I’m below 270.”
He also said that his diabetes, which caused dizzy spells, no longer does so. His back and knee issues have also greatly improved.
Aubichon started out in New Brunswick nearly three months ago, with a plan to go across Quebec and into Ottawa. However, before leaving the province, he was facing financial troubles.
His sister started a GoFundMe for his expenses, allowing him to complete the journey with less stress.
“When I left Moncton, I left very quietly, not telling anyone. Embarrassment was a big part of it, along with the stigma of men’s mental health. When I told her what I was doing, I had to convince her it was for the right reasons,” said Aubichon.
“She promised that she would help support me, but I had to share what I was doing with the rest of the world. She was convinced that people would care, but I wasn’t.
“She was absolutely right.”
“I left on May 11th, and it didn’t take long for people to get behind what I was doing. Over the last almost three months, there have been thousands of people from all corners of the world sharing motivational messages and telling me how I inspired them to get off the couch,” he said.
“It’s been humbling. This couldn’t have happened without everyone’s support, and it’s renewed my faith in people.”
That faith wasn’t shaken. Not even when Aubichon had his bike stolen in Winnipeg.
“After it was taken, a big burst of donations and support came through. I was able to get a new bike and keep me going through the rest of my trip,” he said.
“People have been so generous, both emotionally and financially.”
Across Alberta towards home
On July 30, Chris entered Alberta, and is staying in Medicine Hat. He expects to be able to keep his August 2 date for Calgary.
The finale of the trip, entering Nanaimo by August 11, would be exactly 3 months after his departure from Moncton.
“These past months have been life-changing, and it’s shown me how kind the world is,” he said.
Aubichon wants his story to inspire those with addiction and mental health issues. He wants them to take charge of their lives, the same way he did.
“What worked for me was finding purpose. I was sitting on a couch and blaming the world, feeling sorry for myself, and that didn’t help,” he said.
“As soon as I took ownership of my mental health, my life changed.”
He said that means settling goals, no matter how small—they don’t have to be as big as a life-changing cross-country journey.
“I think those who struggle with depression, much like myself, need to set goals. It doesn’t matter how mundane that goal is. If you need to do laundry, go do laundry,” Aubichon said.
“People think that changes like these don’t do anything, but they do. Once you complete those goals, and change your life, you’re going to feel like a million bucks.”