Cyclist hopes to share message of hope on a multi-year odyssey

Wherever he goes, wherever he stays, Arie Hoogerbrugge just wants to share a message of hope with the people he meets.

Hoogerbrugge, also known as Safari Arie, arrived in Victoria on Wednesday after completing a 13,000-kilometre cross-country cycling journey — much of it during the pandemic.

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He started his journey from the Terry Fox memorial in St John’s, N.L., on Nov. 12 last year. When on the road, he pedals 70 to 100 kilometres a day, though his record is 141 kilometres.

The Canadian part of his journey concluded this week at the Terry Fox statue at Mile 0 of the Trans-Canada Highway.

When asked how his journey is different from the close to 200 people who take the same trek across the country every year his answer was simple: “My hosts.”

With a social media presence and a blog that he regularly updates, he has built up a regular following, and his fans often offer him lodging or refer him to friends in the next city he is expected to visit.

“I just didn’t just follow the Trans-Canada to get here,” said Hoogerbrugge, who used to be a long-distance trucker. “I took the time, put in added kilometres to connect with people.”

He hopes to replicate the experience of support and hospitality when he embarks on the next phase of his journey, pedalling from Seattle to Argentina.

“I want to let people know that I meet that they have nothing to fear from each other — to show them that generosity is being human.”

He recognizes that the pandemic is swirling around him, but he isn’t concerned. That people invite him to stay, despite the threat of disease, is a validation of their trust in him — and his in them.

Hoogerbrugge says he has been assured that there are no restrictions on travel to the U.S., though he will have to fly in rather than cycling across the border. He plans to fly from Vancouver to Seattle in the coming week.

Born in Grimsby, Ont., with time in Hamilton, he considers Belize home after falling in love with the country in his 20s and buying property there. Most of his family resides on Prince Edward Island.

Hoogerbrugge is not raising money for a cause or charity, and his trip is funded through his own savings. He wants to leverage his experience into fulfilling a goal to plant a million trees, something he hopes a company or organization will help him do. “That’s my passion.”

His hope is that by the time he reaches Argentina sometime next year, the pandemic would have subsided enough that he can return to Canada to cycle from the Arctic Circle and end his journey in Calgary.

“I think it would be appropriate for me to end in Canada — but at this point it’s anybody’s guess.”

parrais@timescolonist.com

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