18 July 2024 - Aug 2024 | Johannesburg to Cape Town
Long Ride To Freedom Logo | leaderless.co


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The Long Cycle To Freedom

When we take our last breath, we leave nothing more than the lessons we’ve learned (the wisdom of our journey) and the love we have created for ourselves in order to liberate others so they may free themselves. This is how I became Leaderless and this is what I want for others too.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” ~ Nelson Mandela

2001 – Round the world in nine months

It was on a grey and miserable walk back to the Underground station from my IT job at Regus in London when I finally drew the line and decided I was going to head back to South Africa. I knew I wanted to go back and make a difference in our country but at that stage, I had no idea how I would do it. We knew there was a lot of negativity in the country and back then, had started a website called Saffi (South Africans were known as Saffers in the UK) – a website of people who were making a positive difference in South Africa because we needed something uplifting. My brother Jacques and his now-wife Nina, built the website while my mom fed us articles from South Africa that she could find of people making a difference back home while I jumped on a bicycle to cycle around the world headed back to South Africa.

Eight years prior, when I first arrived in the UK, a British friend at the time said that we should buy motorbikes and travel through Africa. Back then, as a new traveler, nothing scared me more but after many years of travelling experience, I was about to embark on a journey that would bring me to this point in my life.

Towards the end of my travels in my twenties, I was meant to cycle with another friend on our way back to South Africa. He couldn’t make it so I decided I would do it alone anyway. Having traveled through most of Europe and the Middle East years before, I felt that the journey I was about to embark on was far safer.

Cycling Across Australia - James van der Hoven | Leaderless.coI bought my blue Gary Fisher mountain bike, fitted it with pannier bags, camping gear, slick tires, and set off with a round-the-world ticket that would take me across Canada, down the West Coast of the United States, North and South Islands of New Zealand, Perth to Sydney across Australia and eventually Johannesburg to Cape Town — a total of nine months.

The journey started from Niagara Falls. At the time, I was still smoking, had been doing a lot of drugs and was terribly unfit. Two weeks into the ride, my body was fit and rejected the cigarettes. Making my way from East to West across Canada, I slowly but surely started discarding the heavy weight in the pannier bags I was carrying with me and no longer needed. It was only much later that I came to understand the literal metaphor of letting go of the baggage one does not need in life.

As you sit on the bicycle for eight hours a day, one gets to think – a lot! I sat on that bike, peeling away layers of myself like an onion, digging deeper into my own thoughts, and reflecting on who I am and all I have done in my life. I did my times tables, I sang the loudest joyous songs I ever sang. I cried and punched the air when the headwinds almost killed me. I discovered that the line between sanity and insanity is a very fine line and just as I thought I would lose my mind, someone arrived or a book would be given to me at just the right time which helped me get up, dust off, and set off again.

This happened over and over. People crossed my path just as I needed them and at first, I thought nothing of it — a mere coincidence. Some of them have remained friends, others I crossed paths with again later in life but one thing is for sure, these were teachers helping me along my journey but it was only towards the end of the ride when a friend told me what I had experienced.

I made it across Canada, cycled down the West Coast of the USA, and bumped into more guides. Then flew off to New Zealand and cycled from Auckland to Christchurch. On my route down, I would meet with my good school friend Justin Crawford in Wellington and it is there that I told him something amazing was going to happen on my next leg of the journey across Australia.

911 Had happened and all flights were chaotic so instead of flying to Sydney to cycle cross country to Perth, I ended up cycling the opposite direction into the wind, where I would take off and head for Sydney.

It was December and the dead of summer. To make matters worse, I was about to jump onto Highway 1, the long stretch of highway where there is nothing but Kangaroos, Road Trains, heat, and plagues of crickets. I feared this part of the journey most but as I cycled onto the highway that day, I looked into my rearview mirror and saw another cyclist in the distance behind me.

I slowed down enough and eventually, a lone female cyclist caught up with me. It had been Maggy’s dream to cycle around Australia since she was 21 and now, just over 40, she was on the home stretch and joined me across the treacherous hell highway known as the Nullarbor Plain. At just the right time and just the right place, it happened again, like so many times before.

It was a few days after parting with Maggy once we had made it across the Nullarbor when what I believed would happen came to be. I would get up at 3 am to be on the road by 4 am because by 9 am it was so hot that I would need to take shelter from the searing heat. One morning, I arrived in a little dusty town and took shelter at a bus stop across the road from a little shop. By this point in the journey, I had had a lot of time to think and in the months of deep thinking and quiet surroundings, I was left with only one question as to what I needed to do to make a difference back in South Africa. “Do I become a politician or a teacher to bring about great change?”

From the tiny shop across the road, an elderly woman approached me and began asking me questions about my journey. I had told this story so many times by now that I gave her the shortened version of cycling across Australia only. As she left, she handed me a little booklet and told me to read it.

I flipped open the booklet and in it were the words, “Jesus chose teaching over politics!” I slammed shut that booklet and a wave of what I now know as consciousness hit me like a tsunami!

To be clear, I am by no means religious. In fact, the booklet was a Jehovah’s Witness booklet, and on my travels around the world in my twenties prior to this one, I have been to mosques, churches, synagogues, and temples and heard the plight of all religions but it was as if every sense in my body at that moment was fired up on every single drug I had ever taken all at the same time. All of the strange experiences, all of the teachers and books I thought of as mere coincidences, all of it made sense that there has always been something looking out for me.

Colours were brighter than my eyes could handle. Touch was electrifying. Taste was like trying a fruit you had never tried before and smell was so intense it felt like I could smell a mile off. And for the first time, I could truly hear something I never could hear before. These senses merged and created what can only be described as a sixth sense which allowed me to understand a much deeper meaning to life than ever before.

And with this wave, came the most profound peace I had ever experienced. Months and months and months of facing my own internal demons and working through the fears in my own mind that I did not know I had to face and here, at that moment in time, a sense of peace enveloped me and I truly understood what it means to love oneself and in so doing, one could love others because I understood that we’re all fighting our own internal battles on a daily basis.

Today, I believe in only three things. Fear and the absence of fear – love – and the time to get from one side to the other.

And all of it is in our minds and it is possible to let go of it every day to free ourselves by doing one small thing that scares us as we reach for our dreams.

Layers deep, at the core, this is the reason why Leaderless exists. To help set people’s minds free of the fears that limit their highest potential. The only way I know how to do that is to create time in order for people to think, the same way I had time on my own journey. The only way to create time is to help people get off the hamster wheel of greed and fear so that they have time to pursue their deepest passions. The only way I know how to get people off the hamster wheel is to create a platform of purpose and meaning that will educate them and show them how to take back their own power.

This is what it means to be Leaderless – to be free and take ownership.

The next leg of the journey – setting others free

Fast forward many years later. I fell off my fluffy cloud and hit the floor like a dart out of the sky. For a very long time, I could not understand why I was given this small window to see through only to be brought back to Earth with a thud.

It took years and a lot of additional soul searching to work through some more personal stuff I needed to unlearn and relearn but I knew what I saw and the pursuit to look out that window again and experience that sense of peace drives me every day.

The message of education never left me. Neither did the politics.

In 2015, at the height of all the problems in our country, I decided to step up and do something about it because that little voice at the back of my mind would not go away. I read Simon Sinek’s, “Start with Why” – ironic as this was a question I had asked thousands of times over on my own bike journey – “Why are we here?”

I didn’t want to be a teacher standing in front of a class and neither did I want to become a politician but knew I wanted to do something with education. I love mindmaps and put the word education at the center — all decisions I would make would always come back to education.

Then, things started happening. I had nobody helping me full time up until then and it was then that Paula arrived — the first perfect fit for the Leaderless team. I put her to the task of researching what we can do to help educate the youth of our country and research she did!

We took everything we loved; people, growth, design, marketing, crowdfunding, the internet, leadership, education, disruption, psychology, spirituality and combined it with everything we despise; lack of leadership, corruption, poor service delivery, distrust and started working on a platform that would become the most disruptive education platform to put the power back into the hands of the people.

When my brother Chris got wind of what we’re doing he suggested that we read The Fourth Industrial Revolution and The Blockchain Revolution. This was everything we needed to cement all of our thoughts and ideas together.

It was in my local library one day, where I was Googling for books on Revolutions because of the corruption that was going on in our country that I came across the book, The Leaderless Revolution – by Carne Ross. We loved the idea of how ordinary people will take power and change politics in the 21st century and approached Carne to work on an idea. As the ideas continued to flood our way, we eventually decided to create an education platform instead.

Our goal now is to show people how to channel their energy and learn how to use disruptive technologies so that they truly can have more control over their own destiny.

There is a lot of change on the horizon and it is here where we will begin to help lead people to let go of their limiting thoughts and old ways of doing things to live in decentrliased societies who are connected and collaboratively interdependent of one another so that they may manifest the life they want.

Join us on this journey as we educate people about the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and show them how to take ownership.

Join and prepare for the 4iR

Let’s use the technologies of the future to take ownership without having to wait for corrupt governments.

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