Biking across Europe is not for the faint of heart or those with weak legs – but tandem biking across Europe is another feat entirely.
Hannah Lammers from just outside of Kansas City, MO and Jean-Hugues Gooris from Bastogne, Belgium are finding out exactly what this experience entails as they go from Bastogne to Istanbul, Turkey, on their trusty tandem bicycle “Buzzz” raising money to aid Syrian refugees.
Their project is called “Moving in Tandem” and they describe themselves as “a traveling duo bent on discovering the world and the humanity that encompasses it.”
Lammers and Gooris both have the travel bug. Their last trip was a tandem bike trip to Morocco where they realized their passion for helping others while on the road.
While traveling in Morocco the couple ran out of water while biking in the Sahara Desert. They were helped by a school for nomadic children who they said welcomed them and gave them water and food.
In return for the school’s kindness, Lammers and Gooris asked what they could do to help the children. The teacher explained that many of the kids did not have light to complete their homework, lacked medicines or a pharmacy that was accessible, and needed extra bike parts for travel.
Lammers and Gooris wrote a Facebook post that was shared across their friends on social media. They took up supply and monetary donations and were able to finance 20 solar lamps for the school and many humanitarian packages with medicine, first aid materials and bicycle repair equipment.
“When we were traveling in Morocco we were sharing our trip, sharing our photo and video, and we kind of realized that we have power on social media,” said Gooris. “We wanted to give visibility to the people we met along the way that need it the most.”
Through their project in Morocco they realized how many people were willing to help them and how much of an impact they could have highlighting organizations over their travels.
This led them to create “Moving in Tandem” where they can raise money and awareness for groups during their adventures.
While biking across Europe they are raising money for Small Projects Istanbul. Their Go Fund Me page says, “we chose these organizations because they are small enough that you can see exactly where your money is going and the effect you will have, but large enough their reputation and efficiency in the work they do is clear.”
Their goal is to raise €5,000 to provide five months of psychological and integration therapy for 50 children.
“I felt this sort of guilt that I could travel everywhere I wanted for fun and there were people out there just like me, just as educated, that only wanted their travels to stop, and couldn’t,” said Lammers. “And that’s another reason that it is interesting to travel for them and try to raise money to help them.”
Gooris and Lammers both have a history working with refugees. Gooris worked in a refugee camp on the border between Bulgaria and Turkey.
“I realized that it was guys like me, I was 19 when I met them," he said. "A lot of people think that the Syrian refugees are poor, but one of my best friends from Syria, he was the owner of a big hotel and just lost everything. He had to separate from his wife and child because it was too difficult to come together in Europe.”
Lammers worked with refugee and immigration services in Kansas City, MO.
“It’s one thing to hear it on the news, it’s another entirely to meet people and befriend them and hear their personal struggles and stories one-on one," she said. "That’s one thing that made us so passionate about this issue in particular.”
Gooris and Lammers believe they have traveled through eight countries so and are in Montana, Bulgaria as of July 18.
“People are so much more welcoming than I’d ever imagined traveling by bicycle,” said Lammers. “And particularly, the most generous people I’ve ever met were the ones that were [in] the most ecologically poverty-stricken circumstances.”
When asked if they had plans for future travels, the duo said that after this journey they intend to rest and restock, but they’ve thrown around a few ideas.
"You have to think about where the money is going and who you want to help," Gooris said of their latest project.
"We are going to Istanbul, we are going to spend a lot of time with them, to do some volunteering. To know exactly where and why we are helping them."