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“Then, I got company… People told me it gave them hope”: Forrest Gump-style Journey of Hope ends after 31 days, 7 countries and a string of followers

From paper to reality, the Journey of Hope came to life last month and ended after 2500km and 31 days on the road for our four tour leaders, Feridun Ekmekci, Adnan Cangir, Aysel Atas and Meliha Kaya. The team had more than doubled in size when it arrived in Vienna on Saturday 17 September to a public reception.


The event concept that started last year as NowWeBike took on a new dimension when it was selected as an official European Week of Sport event this year. The Forrest Gump-style tour invited anyone with an interest in cycling short or long distances to join the team and ride with them as long as they wished.


And just like Forrest Gump, the team “got company”. And then it “got even more company”. Around 50 followers left with the team from Copenhagen to Roskilde in Denmark, and ISCA President Mogens Kirkeby and Head of Projects Saska Benedicic Tomat joined them all the way to Aarhus. ISCA member and partner DGI ensured a smooth trip through the country and more followers along the way, including DGI staff and the Rødekro Cycling Club.


In Berlin, Aysel and Meliha helped local volunteers who organise workshops teaching immigrant women how to ride a bicycle. It was a rare private moment on the tour where the team got behind the scenes of a grassroots initiative for hard-to-reach members of the community. For some of the participants, cultural barriers make it difficult for them to ride a bike freely in public, so this visit was a discreet and very worthwhile one.

The next main event on the Journey of Hope calendar, Kilometres of Positive Energy in Wroclaw, Poland, was a more visible celebration of cycling for all. The team joined ISCA member V4Sport and local partners WCRS and Wrocław Miasto Spotkań for a day of activities with the locals, including bike simulators that captured the imagination of participants young and old.


“More company” arrived to meet the team in Krakow, all the way from Romania (a 1000km trip) with Mihai Androhovici, Vice President of the Romanian Federation Sport for All and three organisers from the Skirts on Bikes event in Suceava.


“Our small team has had the pleasure to meet ISCA bike team in Krakow, Poland,” Mihai says. “But to enter into the ‘cycling atmosphere’ we had to start on the road on Rarau Radical-MTB Race, Campulung Moldovenesc, Bucovina Region. The next day we cycled through Cluj Napoca city. The third day we drove the car in the rain up in Krakow, Poland by crossing Hungary and Slovakia. When we arrived we found a city that is welcoming and respectful of cyclists, with areas designated for them and bike rental shops… In the evening we had the pleasure to meet our colleagues from Turkey again. We exchanged our travel stories, differences between pedalling inside and outside the city, and ideas for future actions to involve more young people, particularly in events like Skirts on Bikes.”


That was the first of three epic journeys made to meet the team. The next came from Croatia, with the medical team from the Institute of Public Health County of Međimurje arriving in Kosice, Slovakia, on 10 September to join the team for a ride around the city and the EU Commissioner for Education, Culture Youth and Sport, Tibor Navricsics, on the stage at a special Journey of Hope reception.


In Slovakia, the team gained three more members from Turkey, a group of friends and cycling partners from Izmir, who followed them to the end of the tour. The next stop for the new-look team was Budapest and a feature event welcomed them on Heroes Square in the city. Then on to Bratislava for a combined European Week of Sport and Mobility Week event, where the team braved some daredevil stunts.


To round out the tour, the team re-gained its loyal “honorary” member Saska Benedicic Tomat, who travelled from Slovenia to finish the last leg of the Journey of Hope. So a team that started out as four finished as 10 and gained at least 90 more followers at different stages along the way.


And we are just as humble and grateful as Forrest to see so many people support the journey along the way.


To see more photos, stories and videos from the Journey of Hope, check Flickr, ISCA, NowWeMOVE and Muğla ENVERÇEVKO’s Facebook pages, ISCA and NowWeMOVE on Twitter, and the NowWeMOVE blog.
The Journey of Hope is co-funded by the European Commission’s Erasmus+ Sport programme and promotes the #BeActive message.