It’s Day 12 over here in Newport, OR. The gals are packed inside our sweet host’s tiny river home watching Mamma Mia and waiting for them to tell us spaghetti is ready - we’re soaking up the rest day, needless to say.
On the verge of being able to say “two weeks down,” a lot of things have changed since the beginning of this. Every single one of us has admitted it’s harder than we imagined in some form or fashion. We’ve been pushed to the limits physically, mentally, and especially emotionally. But every hill we complete only makes me prouder, and the downhills are so rewarding.
I roll around the idea of this little team I’m on a lot. 12 days ago I barely knew them - only pleasantries and small talk. Today I have the privilege of saying I’ve walked through one of the most unique, spectacular, difficult experiences with them -- and it’s only Day 12. We’ve seen the worst of each other already, (and we all know it only gets harder from here) but we’ve all found ways to be encouraging for the other when they can’t be, or simply keep our mouths shut when everybody needs it. I’ve expanded my diet to that of a 16 year old boy, no longer even flinch at the sight of almost any type of bug, and was even recently caught calling a communal campground shower “nice.”
I see myself growing everyday. Believing in dreams I didn’t even know I had, daring to go more and more out of my comfort zone when this whole journey is over, and challenging truths I’ve limited myself to for as long as I can remember. I’m seeing a different part of the country up close in real time, just a passer-through on her little bicycle. I’m meeting people who hear about what we’re doing and pull twenties out on the spot, not giving it a second thought.
I’m spending my days doing something important. Dreaming of the change that our stories will ignite in the hearts of people we tell them to. And of the change that our money will provide for survivors of trafficking who have never had a chance. I’m seeing first hand why this is important and getting to re-explain my passion for this cause daily: One week ago a few of my team members and I ran a errand in small town Washington to send some letters and extra luggage home. Right next to the Fed-Ex store was a “Foot Massage” Parlor with blacked out windows and a sign that read “open til 10pm.” As we’ve been advocating for and learning more about our cause, red flags went up in our minds. The team sat in our SAG car and felt our hearts sink as we watched male customer after male customer come and go from inside the building.
It was right there in front of our faces - the very reason we’re getting up and back on those cursed bicycles every morning. Right there in broad daylight, a brothel on a busy American city street. Something that a few months ago, I probably would’ve been blind to. Something happening right under our noses, a lot closer to home than we’d like to imagine.
I don’t think a day has gone by that I don’t realize how dang hard this is. I don’t think one goes by that I don’t think about how much harder it is for the girls we’re doing it for. I also don’t think a day has passed that I don’t laugh so hard my insides hurt. This is the hardest, most important thing I’ve ever been a part of. And I must keep going. Because there’s people who have never even heard that trafficking exists - for some, they don’t realize it occurs right next door to their local FedEx. And there are people who are being trafficked every single day, who have lost all hope and truly believe that no one cares. And the only remedy for any of that is to keep going. Keep thinking. Keep growing. To keep fighting. So we have to. And we will.