Battling headwinds, sandstorms and weighed down with 48 kilos of gear strapped to his bicycle, Michael Schratter has spent the last year cycling solo around the world to fulfill his 14-year-old dream.
A part-time journalist and fifth-grade teacher, Schratter took a year off work to cycle around the world while raising awareness for mental illnesses for the Ride Don’t Hide campaign with the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Diagnosed with bipolar disorder 10 years ago, Schratter has first-hand experience of the stigma mental-health patients face.
“I can’t think about another human affliction that is still so misunderstood and has so much anxiety around it,” he says. “The kind of prejudice against people that have gone through it can be more harming than the actual illness itself. The silence is what’s deadly.”
Cycling through rough terrain and unpredictable weather, Schratter says the most difficult aspect of his year-long journey was the isolation he faced.
“I’d get really upset if at the end of the day I couldn’t get onto Wi-Fi — that was my connection to the world,” he says. “From the mass emails that I received, I know that I touched a button here and giving up wasn’t an option.”
Six continents and 30 countries later, Schratter now has 8,000 km left to go on his 40,000-km journey, making his Canadian milestone stop in Toronto yesterday. With his trip coming to an end in November, Schratter says he’s getting a bit anxious.
“There’s this growing anxiety that’s building as I head towards Vancouver. I’ve been dreaming about this since ’96. I’m going to be proud, obviously, but I’m going to have to find something to fill the hole.”