Inspired by a turtle

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to meet Sylvia Halpern who is traveling across the United States on a trike. Sylvia began biking in her 40s after she underwent surgery to remove a benign brain tumor. She started small, taking 15-mile bike trips back and forth to her job, but dreamed of biking across vast landscapes and traveling through foreign countries. Even though biking caused her some discomfort she stuck with it and eventually transitioned to a trike, which allowed her to travel more comfortably.

At age 48, Sylvia quit her job and sold her house in order to follow her traveling dreams. She embarked on an adventure that has taken her down the Pacific Coast, through Mexico to Guatemala. Sylvia has also traveled by trike across New Zealand, Australia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. This year, she decided to travel across the United States from Portland, Ore., where she spends her summers, to visit her sister in Kentucky. Sylvia doesn't create a formal travel plan for her adventures. She allows her experiences to direct her trip. As she made her way back across the United States to Oregon, she was beckoned by the Trail of Tears, which she chose to travel on from Springfield to Arkansas.

Sylvia records her adventures through a journal that can be accessed at The blog documents her adventures with her trike, which she affectionately calls Myrtle the Turtle in honor of the slow pace she travels during her cross country trips. Even though her progress across the miles, which have topped 4,000 this year, are slow, Sylvia continues to follow her dream, enjoying every aspect of her travels.

As I interviewed Sylvia last week, I felt truely inspired. Although Sylvia utilizes a digital camera and computer to keep her blog followers up to date on her travels, the simplicity of her life with Myrtle has given her the freedom to enjoy nature and meet interesting people each and every day. She uses a GPS to keep herself on track as she travels, but she allows herself to decide her next destination without worrying about the weather or the time. It's fun to dream about getting away from it all, and that is precisely what Sylvia has been able to do with her life. She has left all her worries behind, hit the road and let her heart lead her.

Even though Sylvia's story of travels was inspirational, I found her personality and bright outlook even more motivational. "I will ride as long as it is fun," Sylvia told me during our chat. I could tell that it was still having a lot of fun. She beamed as she spoke of the people she had met during her trip across the United States over the last few months. She also smiled and laughed when she recounted some of her past trips, across Mexico and Vietnam. Her decision to begin traveling eight months out of each year has made her truly happy.

Happiness like Sylvia has found doesn't have to come from cross country adventures. I believe that Sylvia made a choice to be happy long before she closed the door on her old life and took off on her trike. Before she ever packed her camping gear and took to the road, she decided to see the best in the people she meets, and offer a smile to each stranger who crosses her path. I would like to challenge all of our readers to follow Sylvia's lead. It's easy to get caught up in the race we call life. Let's take time to slow down and enjoy living.

Lindsay Reed

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