For the last eight years, National Geographic has combed the globe to find Adventurers of the Year, each selected for his or her extraordinary achievement in exploration, conservation, humanitarianism or adventure sports. This year, our founder, Shannon Galpin, was named one of 2013’s Adventurers of the Year.
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ADVENTURE INTERVIEW
Adventure: While most know you as an activist, two-wheeled vehicles never seem far away from the conversation. You’re known to ride a motorcycle around Kabul. You bring your mountain bike on many of your trips. Does your passion for biking overlap with activism?
Shannon Galpin: I launched Mountain2Mountain the same time I became a mountain biker. I think there is something very different about embracing a sport that you know wholeheartedly is going to make you bloody. You know you are going to crash when you mountain bike. There is no way to get better if you don’t crash. I think there is a synergy in it. When women first started using the bike in the 1800s, it was literally a vehicle for their empowerment. They broke barriers on women’s suffrage and embracing their own freedom of transportation.
A: In 2009, you did some riding around villages and got the idea to ride across the Panjshir Valley to the summit of the 14,000-foot Anjuman Pass. In 2010 you made that traverse happen in part for adventure, in part for fundraising. You had a support team, but still, was that dangerous?
SG: That trip was meant to be three days, balls to the walls, right through, because we didn’t know if it was safe. It was on a road, so it would have been easy for someone to follow us. Easy to kidnap us. Drivers could go past us and go to the next village and warn them. It was much more risky, much more public. We pedaled hard for two days. We passed the last village. We were in no man’s land. There were reports that there were gunrunners on top of the pass. We had to call it quits, but still we rode across the valley.
A: You’ve been open about the fact that you were raped as a young woman. Has that very violent, terrible moment become a motivator?
SG: My particular experience with violence is not the story. It’s just one of the catalysts. I wanted to take something very dark and use it for good, use it as a source of strength for the work I want to do. It’s not why I rode my mountain bike across Afghanistan. It is one of the reasons why I founded Mountain2Mountain. It sounds corny but I wanted the world to be a better place for my daughter. Read the full interview here….
We’re proud and humbled to see Shannon’s efforts in Afghanistan and her adventurous spirit and love of two wheels be recognized by National Geographic Adventure.
There is a People’s Choice award, please give your vote for Shannon and vote daily through January (just keep your browser open and its an easy daily click) to show that humanitarians can use adventure for activism and to help showcase the work that Shannon and Mountain2Mountain strives to do.