Do you ever remember when you were a small child and you used to draw pictures of what you wanted to be when you grew up? Remember the dreams you had? Perhaps your dream was to become a marine biologist, or a fireman or a president? Our dreams and possibilities were endless as a child, we had no limits.
Andrew Collien is a man with a dream, and a man with no limits. Through his current project Drawdreaming, Andrew has dedicated the year to cycling around the world encouraging children and young adults to draw their dreams, with the hope to inspire them to reach for the sky. 3 months and 4000 kilometres into his worldwide tour he has so far reached over 1000 Drawdreamers, spreading the message “Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams”.
I was lucky enough to meet for an interview with Andrew while in Kathmandu. Here is his story –
What was the inspiration behind the Drawdreaming project?
When we were children we used to have many dreams, I remember I did. As children we have no limits, we’re not afraid. Then, as we grow older, society begins to give us obstacles and all of a sudden the dreams we had have limitations. Society tells us what we can and can’t do.
I remember a quote I heard from world traveller Jonathan Quiñonez (founder of the ‘Mom I’m Fine’ movement) that said “We mostly regret the things we never did not what we did”. This quote stuck with me as I planned this journey to encourage and inspire others to follow their dreams. The idea of drawing our dreams reminds us that anything is possible and I want to share this with the students I meet along the way.
You’re from Jakarta, a place where many people have limitations to stepping outside the social norm. How did your friends and family feel when you told them you were cycling around the world to encourage people to follow their dreams?
In Indonesian culture it is very common for us to listen to our family so we make our parents happy, but in this particular circumstance I had to put myself first. Sometimes you have to be selfish because it’s your own life not anyone else’s.
At first my parents tried to discourage me from going on this journey. They would say “It’s dangerous” “What is the benefit of this?” I had to explain to them this is my dream, my personal goal in life. I explained that it was for a social project, not for me but for the people. I said that if I can make this project successful it would reflect well on my personal profile.
I know they still don’t 100% agree with my decision but in the end they supported me and asked how they could help. That moment made me so appreciative and made me respect them so much.
What has been a stand out experience for you on this journey?
While I was in Luang Prabang I met a 72 year old British veteran. He runs a workshop called the Laos Childrens Workshop for students from a nearby orphanage who want to develop their skills in computers, animation, graphic design and web development. When I asked him why he started the workshops he answered “8 years ago I saw some boys playing close to the river. I asked them what they were doing and they answered “Nothing”. “We have nothing to do” Nothing is a normal answer here for kids in Laos so I decided to find a way they could use their time to become educated in computers”.
He started with only 4 computers and now there are around 20 computers. So many children have become computer literate, and even gained employment from their skills. Some can even make websites, I saw this with my own eyes. These young boys can work computers better than I could at that age. It was so inspiring to see this man give so much opportunity to the children just through simple education and workshops.
What have been some of the challenges of cycling around the world?
One of the biggest challenges is the uphill cycling. It can be so exhausting especially because I have a road bike. Once I finished the mountains in China I was so happy. I think having a road bike is hard because you have to keep your luggage light. I haven’t seen anyone in the mountains with a road bike. Many people suggested to sell the bike and replace it with a mountain bike but my budget is small and in the end I got through, although with a lot of cursing along the way.
One of the other challenges for me has been the visas. Some countries are easier for me to enter than others. If there a visa complications I have to slightly alter my route and I’m sure over the course of this journey I expect that to happen more than once.
How do you connect with locals and schools in the places you visit?
I mostly use Facebook groups because I believe almost every community has a Facebook group (I have found this to be true in most countries and cities). I also use Couchsurfing and post my public trip because in countries like Laos & China not many people used Facebook.
I always try to find platforms that connect locals with travellers and this is generally easy. However, in China it was a little more difficult but I ended up meeting a drawing teacher who introduced me to a community of artists where I found many of my connections.
How are you funding this journey? Is it challenging?
It has been a little challenging. I saved for 6 months before my trip but am still on a pretty tight budget. I try to save money by using Couchsurfing but I’m not the biggest fan because I like to have the time to myself to work on the project. One of my favourite platforms is Warm Showers, similar to Couchsurfing but for cyclists. I have stayed with a few people on the platform and it has been a great help.
What would you say to people who don’t know what their dreams are?
In my opinion, and in my analysis, everyone knows what their dreams are, they’re just afraid to show or admit it. They’re afraid of failure so they prepare themselves for the worst. The fear of failure is what stops so many people following their dreams, that and the pressures of society. Take those few things away and more people will know the true dream inside their heart.
Finally, you encourage so many others to follow their dreams, what is your dream?
Firstly, my short term dream is to finish this project. I have a 20,000 kilometre milestone for this project. The Earth’s circumference is roughly 40,000 kilometres so I want to ride half of that in 1 year and visit 50 cities, encouraging as many as possible to draw their dreams.
Every 5 years I try to set myself a new dream. When I am 35 my dream is to not have to work and to be able to do what I love. When I am 40 my dream is to be a movie director. This is one of the dreams that I already lost when I was young. My mum told me that university wasn’t a good place and that the students were bad and the environment was no place for someone like me. At that time I just followed what my parents told me. I don’t blame them, it’s my fault because I listened to them, but it taught me a lesson. Now I have the confidence to tell them what I want to do. Maybe at that time I didn’t have the courage to follow my dreams but I do now. I want to create a story that everyone can get lost in, a great movie that will stand the test of time and people will be still talking about it for years to come. One of those movies that takes you in and makes you forget about everything around you. That would be a dream come true.
While interviewing Andrew I almost feel as though I am watching his movie, and getting lost in his inspirational story. A boy from Jakarta who defied so many odds and set off on a journey to inspire others to believe in themselves and follow their dreams.
Andrew hopes his next destinations will be Africa and the USA. If you know anyone in those areas who would be interested in having Andrew visit their school please get in touch with him via social media.