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The Kung Fu Nuns are on a mission

· adventure,Inspiration

Why are 500 Tibetan Buddhist nuns cycling across the Himalayas?

The New York Times knows why:

"On a mission to raise awareness about human trafficking, and with their radical athletic prowess, these Buddhist nuns are perfect purveyors of their sect’s teachings on gender equality."

"Since the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal in April of last year, killing thousands and tipping the country into chaos, the porous border between Nepal and India has become a hotbed for human trafficking. In the span of just three months following the disaster, 725 people were smuggled into India, where they were sold into forced labor and prostitution. Women and girls are especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation, and the strained Nepalese government has, for the most part, been unable to protect them.

"Enter 500 bicycle-riding, kung-fu-fighting nuns.

"The nuns are cycling across the Himalayas to promote gender equality and address the region’s growing human trafficking crisis. During stopovers in remote villages, the nuns lead prayers and impart teachings of peace and respect.

"Foremost on the nuns’ agenda is the promotion of female empowerment.

"Though women and girls in the region became particularly susceptible to violence after the Nepal earthquake — with economically devastated families often handing their daughters over to traffickers who promise a better life abroad — gender inequality has long been a pervasive problem among the countries that envelop the Himalayas. India, Nepal, and Pakistan — all of which are destinations for the bicycling nuns — consistently rank on the bottom tier of indices measuring women’s access to education, political empowerment, and health.

“We are spreading these messages: girls also have power, they are not weak,” said Yeshe Lhamo, a 27-year-old nun who is participating in the yatra. “In these regions, they listen to and respect religious teachings, so for a religious person to say that diversity and equality is important, maybe people can make this their spiritual practice too.”

This story could change your life. The whole article is waiting for you right here.

This reminds me of another amazing human. Her name is Dervla Murphy; she was born in Ireland in 1931. She writes:

"For my tenth birthday my parents gave me a second-hand bicycle and Pappa [her grandfather] sent me a second-hand atlas. Already I was an enthusiastic cyclist, though I had never before owned a bicycle, and soon after my birthday I resolved to cycle to India one day. I have never forgotten the exact spot, on a steep hill near Lismore, where this decision was made. Half-way up I rather proudly looked at my legs, slowly pushing the pedals around, and the thought came 'If I went on doing this for long enough I could get to India.'"

But that little girl dreaming that dream was growing up in rural Ireland. This sort of trip was unheard of, especially for a woman.

So she (wisely) kept her plans to herself.

Dervla had to leave school at age 14 to take care of her disabled mother. She spent most of her early life taking care of her family.

By 1962, both of her parents had passed.

She was 31 years old. She was free. And she gave herself permission to do the hard thing.

So damn if she didn't strip the gears from her bicycle, strap a gun to her leg, and take the ferry over to France to start her 3,000-mile adventure. And that was only the beginning.

You can read all about it here, and learn about her work with Tibetan refugees here.

Here's a bonus essay, via the wonderful Trail Mavens, about choosing your own milestones.

Each and every one of us has something that makes us tick: rivers we want to raft, mountains we hope to climb, roads we need to bike.

I'll say.

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