Write this date down: Tuesday June 15, 2021.
This is the day Austinite Joe Lindley will be walking out of the outer banks of North Carolina alone, just Joe and his bicycle. The 26-year-old is about to embark on a journey to change the world and bring people together. However, isolation was a big part of Joe’s initial journey.
“I had a lot of teachers and superiors along the way that told me I wasn’t going to be capable of certain things. And so a lot of this is proving them wrong,” Joe explained to me while meeting up on Mount Bonnell on a hot and humid Friday morning.
Joe is starting a 55-day journey from coast to coast, more than 2,700 miles. Through those valleys, the ups and downs, Joe will be sharing his high and lows. He plans to make stops along the way and talk to people about mental health.
“Mental health has been near and dear to me for my whole life. I had childhood depression, and a part of that was attributed to growing up with ADD,” Joe said. “We’re gonna tell a story about how much further we go together.”
We go further together is a lifestyle movement Joe and three of his friends started five years ago. They call it Fourwards Movement. The overall concept is moving forward, represented by the four cardinal directions, the four elements and the four seasons.
“One of our big mantras is our world, your story, which it’s all of our world, but it’s your story. You hold the pen, write your own story.”
In 2016, they took a similar cross country trip that changed their lives. Back then, 21-year-old Joe planned to fail out of college on purpose. He and his buddies took a road trip from College Station to San Francisco. Along the way they stopped at the Grand Canyon, because they were forced to. Their truck broke down, campsites were full and they ran out of water. Thirsty and under the moonlight, that’s when Joe saw a bright future, he was overcome with emotion and ready to make a change.
“We were out of water. We’ve been out of water for multiple miles, multiple hours,” said Joe. “They call it the genius loci, the spirit of the place, and I was just overcome with emotion.”
Joe and his friends managed to make it to the next day. And get this, as they were walking they found a random gallon of water.
“It’s the reason we made it out. Someone else’s water cache kept us from turning around.”
When they stopped in Santa Monica and walked to the pier, Joe got an email from his school. It alerted him that he was at risk of failing out of college. After his life changing experience in the Grand Canyon, he made a promise to himself to graduate and share this journey with as many people as possible. And that’s what he hopes to do during the next 55 days.
“I want to share this message, this allegory of my life, of all the highs and the lows, they’re gonna happen between the Outer Banks, and Santa Monica. I want to show everyone the contrast and how you react determines your journey. Because I know there’s going to be a lot of lows we’re going to have, God knows how many flat tires, who knows what else happens,” said an optimistic Joe.
“It’s going to be without a doubt the hardest thing I’ve ever done, there will be days that are really painful. There will be days when I want to quit. And I just have to remember the reason why we’re doing this in the first place.”
To reach his goal, each pedal, each wheel turn, every difficult hill or incline, every mile, will be fueled by his life experiences, the good and the bad, and the community of support he cultivated along the way.
“It was not great to be told that, you know, you’re never going to be able to focus, you’re never going to be able to do well. But I had two very specific mentors in my life, in high school, that really stepped up to the plate for me. One of them was my sculpture teacher who gave me a creative outlet for my ADD,” Joe told me it was crucial to have and he still uses it to this day. “And the other one was my math tutor, who really showed me what I was capable of, and believed in me. So that’s what I want to do for other people.”
Joe won’t be completely alone during his 55 day mission. One of his best friends, Patrick Campbell, will be driving a van that will be packed with the essentials, including a bed and food. His friend will be documenting his ride and stops that will be shown daily on TikTok and Instagram. Thanks to Mental Health of America, Joe will have stops in Nashville and Oklahoma City. There will be live music, and a chance to build a community of people who feel they’re alone during their own mental health struggles.
Unity is beautiful. The walls we think separate us are actually pretty thin. Those walls are breakable, nonexistent. We just have to take the risk, and make the effort to get to know each other. Then we’ll see how much we have in common. How much we really are just one.
“If you share your personal story, you can make a million plus people out there feel less alone, because they might not relate to your entire story, but they’ll relate to parts of it. And that’ll make them connect with you on a deeper level.”
Joe picked Mount Bonnell to do this interview because this was the first hill he picked to start his training. You might have seen him going up and down the hills leading up to the scenic views of Lake Austin. For now, this has been the hardest hill, we will have to wait and see two months from now how he conquered the ups and downs of this cross country bike ride.
Each day he plans to ride 50 miles and share his experiences daily on his social media accounts. You can follow his journey by clicking here. At the end of his two month bike ride, 2,700+miles, he plans to share his experiences, and stories of men and women he met along the way, in a documentary. There is also a GoFundMe account with a goal of $8,000 to pay for his expenses, but now that he reached that goal, every donation after will be shared with efforts to bring awareness to mental health.
“I’m doing it for the community, I’m doing it for the tribe, I’m doing it for the people that feel alone out there. Because I never want anybody to feel as alone as I felt before.”
Joe plans to start his bike ride alone when he walks out of the Atlantic Ocean along the outer banks of North Carolina. He has bigger plans for the day he splashes his way to the Pacific Ocean.
“Will we walk into the Pacific Ocean alone? I don’t think the answer to that is yes. I think we will have a lot of people that are with us to walk in the Pacific Ocean, that is the overall goal. Because this ride is not about me, this ride is about us. I want as many people there to join us. Because we do go further together,” Joe Lindley said.
Jose Torres is a morning news producer with KXAN. His blog will bring stories of hope and determination from others who have fought through their own health struggles and life challenges. He looks forward to sharing those conversations in future blogs.