In September 2016, Yuan Jianglei set off on a 16,000-kilometer journey from the west African country of Benin, where he was a volunteer, all the way back to his hometown in China’s Zhejiang Province…all on a bicycle. After sharing his story and raising money back in China, this young man will return to Benin to help the community where he used to live.
The journey crossed 16 countries and took him almost one year to complete.
“I want to see the world and tell my own stories,” Yuan said during an interview with CGTN’s The Point.
There were several times on the road when he questioned what he was doing, especially when cycling through rough terrain.
When he was cycling in Mauritania, he had only three days left before his visa expired. So he had no option but to take the world’s longest train and stay overnight in the open air.
The second day when he woke up and realized his face was covered with dust, he wondered what he was doing.
“But, to be honest, this thought just lasted for ten seconds…When I recalled that memory of staying under the stars, the experience was quite unique,” he recalled.
Yuan said during his journey countless local people helped him along the way. Even though sometimes they didn’t speak French or English, there was no problem communicating with smiles or simple greetings.
“When I was cycling in Burkina Faso, I got really serious malaria. The locals helped me and drove me with a motorcycle to the hospital. That’s how I recovered in just four hours’ time.”
In Yuan Jianglei’s eyes, Africa is a land of hope. They have abundant resources and compared with some parts of China, people there live a happier life despite a comparatively disadvantaged economy.
Yuan plans to return to Benin after the Spring Festival to bring back the donations he raised. With the money, he is planning to help install solar power stations and water wells for local communities.
“Life is a river. There is a beginning, and there is an end. And there are thousands of different ways in between. So for me, I just want to fulfill the path of the way with different stories,” Yuan said.
The Point with Liu Xin is a 30-minute current affairs program on CGTN. It airs weekdays at 9.30 p.m. BJT (1330GMT), with rebroadcasts at 5.30 a.m. (2130GMT) and 10.30 a.m. (0230GMT).