For the last three years, Matt W. Dawson of Logan, Utah, has been a high school principal in China. With two master’s degrees in education, he’s an educator, period. But he’s also an explorer, an adventurer, a writer, a speaker and now, for the first time in his life, a cyclist.
“I don’t sit still very well,” he said from a brightly lit office in Durango, Colorado. He was passing through the Southwest on 25,000-mile bicycle journey around South America. “What I’m trying to do is visit every country in the world. That’s about 200, depending on your political belief system.”
Dawson is well on his way. He’s already been to 80 nations,and has friends in all of them. A natural born wanderer, he began thinking of how he could slow down his travels. To see more, and do more. He considered hiking. “Insane,” he said. But bicycling seemed to fit.
“I’m a pretty average guy. This is something new for me.”
And that’s the magic word. Dawson is always looking for something new. This average guy has taught school in Asia, built houses in Costa Rica, worked in Tijuana, and now, this.
“The plan is to follow the Pacific Coast all the way to the southernmost tip of Argentina and then come back along the Atlantic coast.”
He plans on a lot of down time, exploring new places, seeing new things, allowing himself two years for the trip. And he’ll do it all living on $5 a day. Try that in you nearest Rocky Mountain ski town.
His steel frame bike teeters around 100 pounds, loaded with panniers – saddle bags for bikes – filled with his camp kit, cold weather wear, his kitchen and water. He’s using special double-thickness tires that can ride over anything, and he’s even packed a button down shirt – his “fancy clothes.”
Dawson bumps into trouble, but nothing he can’t handle; Eight days of rain around the Utah/Colorado desert boarder, and some mechanical issues slowed him down. There was the instance he forgot to pack anything to eat and pedaled two full days without food.
“That was a bit of a problem,” he said.
But there’s one thing he can’t help noticing on his adventures: kindness.
“I’m amazed at how kind people are,” he said. “I’m traveling roads, I’m stopping in towns. People are generally interested. They ask me a lot of questions and complete strangers offer me help.”
Tethered to the world by no more than a cellphone and a low cost computer, friends keep watch through his social media.
“I find a lot of enjoyment in the challenge of trying new things and pushing myself to new limits,” he said. And meeting new people. You can’t do something like this and not have that happen.”