When I designed the Caicos Challenge, I wanted the grueling five- day expedition to test my physical and mental endurance.
I would traverse eight of the Turks and Caicos’ main islands, propelled only by human power. Swimming, cycling, running, hiking, and kayaking, I accomplished an athletic feat never previously attempted, and proved my body’s capabilities in the face of harsh conditions.
Though Toronto is my home, as a native of the islands, I planned to showcase the beautiful and diverse landscape of the Turks and Caicos. I wanted to take a global audience — which I had built on my two-year walk through the African continent from Cape Town to Cairo — on another journey of sustainability and social impact. I am committed to giving back to my community. Sharing stories of people, places and possibilities motivates me to take on these difficult challenges.
While the Caicos adventure proved to be a test of physical abilities, my intent was to bring attention to the environmental impact of our actions. Throughout my life, my decisions have followed a path of sustainability. This is something I attribute to my birthplace. The Turks & Caicos are small islands, and sustainability is something we have always had to practise in order to survive. Ever since I was a kid, I was taught to throw back any fish I couldn't eat, and not to hunt certain animals during the off season. That’s just how we live.
With each of my expeditions, I want to shine a light on the beauty of the landscape and the people who inhabit it. Having lived and travelled in communities around the globe, my work is consistently about providing messages for a sustainable future.
The first leg of this expedition was perilous. Kayaking in the rough, open Atlantic ocean challenged me in body and mind. My personal limits were tested, but even as I was straining, I could see that I was already carving out a good stretch of completed distance. Somewhere along the way from Salt Cay to Grand Turk, I began to find my rhythm. Friendly dolphins breached the surface of the water for many kilometers of this journey, and proved to be reliable travel companions as I kept paddling along the Turks and Caicos Passage.
For these ocean-going pieces of the adventure, I relied on the teaching of my travel companion, Chev Dixon. The professional kayaker was born in Jamaica and raised in New York, and he was critical to the success of the expedition’s three separate kayaking trips. Dixon reassured me, coached me in technique and boosted my overall confidence as I pushed through the choppy seas. His companionship was invaluable, especially during the initial stages of the journey.
The following days became increasingly challenging. I had to fight through pitch black darkness while swimming across channels between islands. I had only the stars and moonlight to navigate by. I spent a lot of time on my own. The isolation, even though it was voluntary, added a psychological layer to the endurance. What I was doing defied the odds, and that knowledge weighed on me. But for me it was important to show my community that anything is possible with enough effort and perseverance.
I continued, trekking my way across the Islands. When I finally arrived on Providenciales, the most populous in the Turks and Caicos archipelago, I began to feel the stress and pressure mounting from the accumulated exertion. I cycled the length of Providenciales, half of which was off road.
My path eventually led me to the westernmost tip of the island. Another scary moment here, as I realized that I was suffering heatstroke. My alertness had wandered during the bike ride, and I must have underestimated my hydration needs. My body was in a critical state. It took some time, but after resting, cooling in the shade and pouring liquids down my parched throat, I was ready to take on the final part of the challenge.
The kayak traverse to West Caicos went relatively smoothly. An enormous weight fell off my shoulders as I neared the end of the expedition. I was relieved and humbled by the experience. I was honoured too, that as a native son, I had managed to become the first person in history to completely traverse the Turks and Caicos Islands using only human powered propulsion.
By successfully finishing the voyage, I hope to inspire youth, people of colour and others to continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible.
I want to remind them that the world is full of challenges, but perseverance can overcome all obstacles.
Seize opportunities when they come your way. Enjoy the journey and keep working toward your goals, regardless of what anyone says.
Next Question:The Mario Rigby edition
Q: The best book you've read?
A: Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari
Q: Must-listen podcast?
A: Joe Rogan
Q: Best advice you ever received?
A: 'Live life as if you have nothing to lose'
Q: If your life is a movie, what would it be called?
A: 'Enter the Game of Life
Q: Word or phrase you overuse?
Q: Skill you wish you had?
A: I wish I could play guitar
Q: Something no one would guess about you?
A: I speak German and my first job was website design
Q: What scares you?
A: Swarms of tiny spiders
Q: Who gets an invite to your ultimate influential dinner party?
A: My mom (Zemar), Elon Musk, Yuval Harari, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and a couple of great thinkers/artists
Q: What makes you cry, every time?
A: People overcoming tremendous challenges
Q: Next goal?
A: Lead more unbelievable expeditions
(Top image by Queenie Xu)