Leah's cycle tour tales

14th December 2011 by

A guest blog from the lovely Leah Kirby of Tartan Trail 2011. Find out what motivated Leah to join an Otesha adventure, and the impact it’s already having on her life just a few short months later.

Otesha had been a long time coming; during my years at university I had been involved and committed to a number of projects with the Permaculture Society and worked for the conservation charity the Fairyland Trust. Several friends had taken part in previous Otesha Tours and I was totally intrigued by the challenges of a cycle tour adventure, communal living and performing! In my daily life I enjoyed trips to the allotment, used my bicycle to wheel around the city and recycled at home. I even made my own draught excluder dog called Trev!

But for me what was integral to my motivation for coming on tour was the opportunity to facilitate educational outreach – to work with and mobilise young people to make them aware of the impacts their choices had on the world around them.

I was a bit overwhelmed by the thought of performing and leading workshops in the school, but by the end of the Training Week I not only found myself playing the lead role in the play, but also kitted out with lots of fantastic skills in workshop facilitation, consensus decision-making, conflict resolution, public speaking, essential bike maintenance and was updated with some sustainable know-how from the trusty Otesha Handbook and numerous discussions on anti-oppression, organic food and wind-turbines!

Before we knew it our Tartan team were wheeling into Edinburgh to start our mammoth journey across the Scottish hills and through the twinkling lights of the cities.  Indeed living 24/7 with twelve others can make for a bumpy ride, but by working together using consensus and open discussions we managed to work through the problems we encountered.

Running the workshops turned out to be LOADS of fun and the young people we worked with were delighted and engaged with both the play and workshops, the teachers would tell us how amazed they were that the children had been completely absorbed in the adventures of Gilly. It was also extremely rewarding to receive such high praise after the workshops with one child shouting out ‘It was fandabudosi!!!’

When I think about the impact tour has had on me, I realise how much confidence I have gained public speaking coupled with developing sensitivity to dealing with people. I am currently searching for work and I find myself far more confident when meeting new people or facing a nerve-racking interview. I have also noticed the difference in my physical fitness and how much more energy I have to complete daily tasks as well as continuing to enjoy cycling everyday! I also am trying my best to avoid big supermarkets opting for the local green grocer and finding seasonal and where I can organic produce, as well as getting my staple grains/tins from workers co-operative initiatives.

Being a tour member has inspired me to get the wheels rolling for my own project ideas, which I hope to make a reality – it now feels far more possible with the help and support that is available from the Otesha Team and Alumni Support.

I wish to work with a friend who specialises in textiles to run workshops to unravel and reveal the processes at play within the textile industry, developing a series of workshops that stand up against throwaway culture by re-conceptualising daily objects and utilising reclaimed fabrics and traditional craft processes.

I was directly inspired by the fashion workshop on tour and the need to share my love of making tetra-pak wallets! It was also a visit to Starter Packs community initiative in Glasgow, which had a profound effect on me. Sarah and her loyal team found practical approaches to recover the symptoms of social marginalisation ­– poverty and homelessness. By providing packs for individuals going into new homes, basic items that we generally regard as fundamental to a dignified standard of living.

So not only was the organisation a benefit to people, it was coupled with awareness to the environment as most of their furniture, fabrics and crockery had been donated, reclaimed and thus recycled. It was the textile studio at the back of their store that captured my imagination – the piles of beautifully textured/patterned reclaimed fabrics – which had me desperate to grab some scissors, a needle and thread and get crafting!

Without my two-wheeled Otesha journey and meeting so many inspirational people from many walks of life, what I might have thought of as just a dream has transformed into a feeling of empowerment – to recognise my ability to carve out my own path and help to create the more sustainable world I wish to see.

Summer 2012 Cycle Tour applications are now open – find out more and sign up here.

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