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Sustainable Triking Through Southeast Asia

Most adults can relate to the inevitable burst of nostalgia that arises upon catching a child laughing so hard that their cheeks turn bright red, grinning ear to ear, while playing a game or riding a bicycle. We view it with a sense of nostalgia, but it is possible to channel that joy into adulthood.

That’s just what Chiang Mai resident Breno Lobo is planning to do, embarking upon a journey across Southeast Asia with his bicycle. He will be living an adventure that many of us might only have dreamed of as children, travelling through Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Malaysia. I discussed this journey with Lobo over vegan burritos at Ole’s Mexican Food. Hailing from Brazil with an Italian-Portuguese background and having grown up in mountainous terrains, Lobo decided to embark upon this journey in order to raise awareness about the many ways you can give back to people; by biking towards a satisfaction of freedom and happiness. This happiness will be attained by helping local people during his journey.

Before arrived in Chiang Mai, Breno’s love of the ocean led him to the Caribbean Islands, where he worked as a scuba diving instructor. After spending a few years there suffering from a back injury incurred when he transitioned to free-diving, he headed to Ecuador to become a kite-surfing instructor, and later found himself in Southern Thailand sailing a boat . After months of island hopping by sail boat, Lobo was ready for a break from the water. With fond memories of a childhood in the terrains of Brazil, Breno decided to leave the ocean and head to Northern Thailand to ride a bicycle. Not just any bike, but a bamboo bicycle.

One of the fastest growing renewable plants, bamboo releases 30% more oxygen into the atmosphere than most other plants, and absorbs more carbon dioxide than any other plant. This sustainability seemed like the perfect fit for Lobo’s mission to live an eco-friendly life. Although bamboo bicycles had been created before, there was no blueprint for the type of bicycle Breno wanted to build. He wanted to build a bamboo bike that leaves no carbon footprints and is 100% sustainable, but there was no existing model for such a bike; since tires leave carbon footprints and pieces of the bike also use aluminum parts. So, Lobo found himself travelling to Chiang Mai — known as Northern Thailand’s’ hub for skill-sharing and community-building — to collaborate with an expert on building bamboo bikes using material that is less hazardous to the environment.

Lobo met Mr. Oat, a Chiang Mai resident known for his expertise in building environmentally friendly bikes and immediately welcomed by Mr. Oat, who was open to collaborating and building this one-of-a-kind bamboo bike. The difference between other bamboo bikes and Lobo’s own design was the integration of all-natural fiber which leaves less of a carbon footprint than aluminum. After four months of long hours, hard-work and skill-sharing to create this bike, Lobo and Mr. Oat were ready to test it out, which they did. They successfully accomplished what they had sought out to do: building a bamboo bike that lightens carbon footprints and lessens the need for the usage of buses, scooters, and cars. So now what?

Now the rest of the journey continues: Lobo’s trike trip, through which he will strive to spread awareness about eco-friendly travel and volunteering across Southeast Asia. The bamboo bike trip began on March 5th, with two of Breno’s companions to join him. The trip is scheduled to take two and a half months. The three trikers will take a train to Vientiane, Laos, going south through the Mekong River, then riding through Siem Reap Cambodia, back to Pattaya, Thailand, Phuket, and finally ending in Malaysia for the completion of the journey. Breno plans to spread love, inspiration, sustainability and to give his helping hands to whoever needs it by planting trees and volunteering. He hopes that this eco-friendly travel model will inspire others to eliminate their carbon footprints and to create sustainability everywhere.

Throughout their journey, the trio will plant one tree a day. Beginning with jackfruit tree seeds, and other donated seeds from local farms and villages, trees will be planted in the hope of promoting awareness about, and care for the environment. Lobo states, “I am showing people (locals and travellers) how to live their lives, and want them to join me in this trek of awareness towards fulfillment.”

Lobo encourages others to join in the Bamboo Bike’s mission. He and his companions are asking for people to join along the way, and to give a helping hand with any schools or NGOs that they come across. Their plan is to volunteer at local non-governmental organisations which are strewed across the areas of the bike journey. All they want to know is: “How can we help, and be of service?” They plan on assisting the communities they travel through by offering physical labour or community involvement with children. Resources are only their hands, and what’s been donated to them along the way.

No money was raised for the two-month long journey, but if you take a look at the website www.benomadik.com, there is an option to donate anywhere from $1 to $100. Every single dollar will go towards areas of conservation and human development. I asked Breno what the main part of the trip is. He said it’s a journey of self-discovery. “They will carry that with them the rest of their lives, and it’s not about the tricycle. The tricycle is just the vehicle that’s carrying the message.” The message is to realise the importance of your dreams by going after what you love and helping people along the way. If you would like to join them along the way whether it’s for a day, or to stay updated with their journeys, check their Facebook pages. They will be using a GPS locator to track their locations, homestays, volunteering and tree-planting. Look out for the 3,000km bike adventure, and wave hello to the team as they ride through Southeast Asia.