Nine years ago, Grimsby’s Arie Hoogerbruge had an idea. What would it be like to cycle from the Great White North to the most southern point of South America? The moment he spoke those words aloud, every decision he made was about turning that dream into a reality.
Now, the Grimsby native is only days away from completing the first phase of his journey, he says the experience has been far beyond what he could ever have imagined.
Hoogerbruge was raised in Grimsby next to the old Westbrook Greenhouses on Main St West until he was 18. As a teen, he had a wholesale reptile business selling the animals to Ontario pet stores. He later opened the Reptile Store in Hamilton, the first of many businesses he has created.
Today, Hoogerbruge, 47, goes by the moniker Safari Arie. He began his once-in-a-lifetime ride across all 10 provinces on Nov. 12, 2019 at the Terry Fox Memorial in St. John’s, Newfoundland. He will soon be at the Terry Fox Memorial in Victoria, British Columbia, completing the first phase in his planned route, journeying across Canada on his bicycle.
Next stop: Seattle
From there, Hoogerbruge will head to Seattle to begin the second phase of the ride, zigzagging his way to the bottom of the world in Ushuaia, Argentina, with his love for travel and new experiences fuelling him. He aims to push himself outside of his comfort zone, and this journey is allowing him to overcome many personal barriers.
“I am not a people person really, and I could drive my car across the country 20 times and not speak to a single person, but that’s impossible when you’re on a bike. The experiences and conversations are mindboggling in the best way. There is no other way to have the connections that I’ve had than to be on a bicycle. There is no other scenario you can dream up that would facilitate that,” he said.
Currently in Nanaimo, BC, Hoogerbruge has had to make many changes to his plans with the global impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he is not letting that stop him. When the national COVID-19 shutdown began in March, he was well into his ride, having journeyed from the Atlantic over the winter and was staying with a relative in Kingston, Ontario. Originally, he expected to be there for a few days, but the virus had him there for months.
When he left Kingston at the end of May, it was a very different trip to how he had started. The campgrounds were closed, the washrooms were closed, the restaurants where he would charge his phone and write his blog were closed, but that didn’t mean giving up for the Grimsby native, it meant changing his plans.
Canadian generosity and kindness
The places Safari Arie has been to and the things he has seen have been amazing, but what he finds truly remarkable has been the generosity and kindness of Canadians during his ride. When he began in Atlantic Canada, he was blown away by the locals and their determination to help, offering food and lodging to keep his journey going.
When COVID-19 came into play, he expected a different attitude from those he came across, but the willingness to help never wavered. So far on his journey, he has had 53 hosts helping him, with hundreds of stories about a stranger recognizing his efforts and offering kindness in some capacity.
“I’ve learned on this ride that I can’t get upset with what doesn’t go as planned. I can go on for hours about the generosity of the people I’ve come across. Every day the stories get more amazing. In this time where we are literally being conditioned to fear each other, but then you come to my timeline, it’s just one amazing story after another. My hope is that, when crossing the border, things will go as amazing as they have been, and people will see that we are all the same and going through the same things,” he explained.
Reaching the end of this first phase will be an unforgettable moment for Safari Arie. Although he did not initially plan the trip as a tribute to Terry Fox, he has been inspired by that journey while on his own. In a highlight of the last 11 months, he visited Fox’s grave in Coquitlam, BC, and helped to clean the tombstone, paying homage to the late Canadian icon and the route they had shared.
This outstanding ride has been a life-altering experience for Safari Arie, and although he has already crossed Canada on his bicycle, he still has a long way to go, with two to three more years on the road.
When asked why he was so motivated to persevere through all the barriers that 2020 has put in front of him, he says he is always looking to better himself, and completing this journey that he has planned for almost a decade is the best way to do that.
“I always ask, how do I become a better version of myself? How do I grow? I’m getting older now, and I don’t want my greatest days behind me. Nothing epic happens on your couch,” he concluded.
To learn more and stay up-to-date with Safari Arie’s journey, check out his website.