Driven by the suicides of two close friends, Andrew Mortensen embarked on the adventure of a lifetime last August when he rode his bike 17,000 miles in eight months – from the United States to South America in the midst of a global pandemic. So far, he has raised over $ 11,000 for one of the biggest issues facing the LGBTQ community.
“Two of my closest friends have committed suicide in the past two years. I wanted to fundraise for The Trevor Project to support both my friends and anyone coming out,” the player said. 29 years at CNBC Make It. “I realized through my own coming out and meeting more and more people that this journey is not easy.”
Founded in 1998, The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to the LGBTQ community under the age of 25.
According to the organization’s 2021 National LGBTQ Youth Mental Health Survey, 42% seriously considered suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and non-binary youth.
The study also found that LGBTQ youth who underwent conversion therapy reported more than twice the rate of suicide attempts in the past year compared to those who did not.
Mortensen, who volunteers part-time at the Trevor Project to answer calls from young people who need to talk to someone, said he decided to take a long-distance commute after buying out his job as an analyst in a major airline in the midst of the pandemic.
“I lived at home in my parents’ basement, and for good reason. I repay my student loans and am financially responsible, but that didn’t help in the situation,” he says. “So I started to cycle more and more to get out – and I still have that feeling of freedom, fitness and movement.”
With an initial goal of traveling 4,400 miles across America – from Neah Bay, Washington to Yorktown, Virginia – Mortensen equipped himself with only a change of clothes, nutrition bars, and his cell phone to document his trip.
See Andrew’s entire trip tracked on GPS.
The day begins
After dipping his rear tires into the Pacific Ocean at Neah Bay (the most northwestern point in Washington state) on August 25, Mortensen drove off and never looked back – passing the beach from Cannon in Oregon, the summit of White Bird Hill in Idaho and Lolo Pass in Montana.
“People have helped me in many ways, just spontaneously,” Mortensen recalls. “I had a flat tire in Oregon and almost immediately a car pulled over, picked me up, and took me to the nearest bike store with no questions asked.”
Mortensen says he often drove seven to eight hours a day to get to a town and nothing was open.
“I had to knock on doors sometimes just to find dinner or I would go to a gas station and eat cookies for dinner,” he says. “Normally it wouldn’t be too difficult, but after riding for so long it was sometimes very difficult.”
On day 32, Mortensen’s family joined him in Carbondale, Ill., And completed the last 20 kilometers of his cycle route that day.
For accommodation, Mortensen says he slept in hostels, hotels, a tent, and even the homes of people he didn’t know.
“I stayed with complete strangers who offered me a place to stay,” he says.
Exactly 43 days after starting his journey, Andrew arrived in Yorktown, where he dipped his front tires into the Atlantic Ocean. By this point, he had reached his fundraising goal of one dollar for every mile driven: $ 4,400.
But it was not enough.
“When I got to the other side [of the U.S.], the reception and fundraising went so well that I decided to continue on to Key West, Florida. And the same thing happened there… I continued, ”he says.
The journey continues
Traveling up Florida and into the Bible Belt, Mortensen says his bright orange Trevor Project t-shirt sparked the conversation.
“Particularly in the South where I imagined that the reception would be a little more difficult, it was in fact quite the opposite”, he explains. “In gas stations, in ice cream shops, pretty much anywhere I would stop, I felt like people were coming to me and telling me their own stories.”
Mortensen says it was after he reached Texas that he decided to travel to Mexico.
“I made my trip step by step,” he says.
This journey continued in the rest of Central America: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.
“I never planned on going to South America until I got to Panama,” Mortensen says.
Next stop: Colombia, then Ecuador.
In Peru, “things turned upside down,” Mortensen remembers, after a truck knocked him off the road. “When I got to Lima, I took about a week to recover and really think about whether I wanted to continue. But ultimately, the fundraising and this commitment to see the end was something that allowed me to Carry on.”
Mortensen says that in places where quarantines were really tight and restaurants were closing before he could even enter town, he was surprised by the generosity of complete strangers.
“Moms would go out into the streets and offer me food or offer to cook me dinner,” he said, adding that he had used his savings and a few small gifts from close family to pay for the trip.
The journey ends
On April 24, 2021, Mortensen reached his final destination: the continent’s most southerly point – Chile’s Patagonia region – almost 17,000 miles from his starting point.
“On the last night, a boat captain invited me to stay on the ferry with the crew instead of sleeping outside in freezing weather,” he recalls. “The warmth and friendliness of the people throughout the trip was remarkable. The highlight of the trip for me was definitely the people, hands down.”
“We are very grateful for Andrew’s generous support and determination, which will help us ensure that we are there for every young person who needs us, 24/7 and for free,” Rob told CNBC Todaro, spokesperson for The Trevor Project. Do it.
Todaro says funds raised by Mortensen will help The Trevor Project “train a record number of crisis counselors and continue to provide all of our crisis services 24/7 – and free of charge – and expand our innovative programs. advocacy, research and education “.
Mortensen says his experience is that the world now seems a lot smaller to him.
“I’m looking at a map now and I have the impression that my neighbors are in Colombia or Mexico,” he says. “It made me realize that we are all connected. There are no borders. There are no enemies. We are all just one big bunch of people, and everyone matters. “
If you are in a crisis, there are options to help you cope.
- For LGBTQ youth who are thinking about suicide and need immediate support, call TrevorLifeline at 1-866-488-7386.
- For confidential 24/7 support for anyone in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Chris DiLella is a producer for CNBC’s Special Projects Unit.
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