Cyclists Yana Melamed and Vyacheslav (Slav) Stoyanov, who hail from Bulgaria, will call North and South America home for the next two years as they make an exceptional journey from Alaska to Argentina. Slav originally conceptualized their campaign, Cycle 4 Recycle, to highlight the impact humans have on the Earth. The pair will travel 60,000-kilometers (38,000 miles) by bicycle through 26 countries in (they hope) 731 days. On their way, they will experience climates ranging from the bitter cold of the mountains to the damp heat of the rainforests.
Yana and Slav started their trek in Deadhorse, Alaska, in May 2015 and biked their way through Canada, Minnesota, and Wisconsin before stopping in Chicago. On October 15, 141 days into their trip, Yana and Slav paid The Field Museum a visit. They gave a talk about their experiences so far, just as they have in previous cities, and described what they hope to see and learn as their trek continues.
Their presentation included stunning photos of scenic beauty, as well as expressive illustrations created by Yana with just a pack of colored pens. The two spoke about how humans often forget they are of nature and how we must all work to live in harmony. They humbly explained their efforts to change their own personal habits so they can be prime examples in the future of the recycling, conservation-minded people we should all strive to be.
Yana and Slav were eager to share their experiences thus far. Because of their excitement, it was difficult to believe they had been cycling for more than four months and still have a year and a half ahead of them. Regardless of their spirit, they had already encountered some difficult situations—flooding that held them up for almost a week and frozen bikes they had to thaw in order to ride. Then there were numerous times they crossed paths with bears.
Yana and Slav plan to learn about the measures different cities are taking to make less of an impact on our Earth. Along their way the cyclists pick up discarded items and use them to supplement their light baggage. Yana displayed photos of useful objects Slav created, like as fishing poles and a connector for phone chargers, all from “trash” found along the road. In addition to the road litter, they expressed their shock of what people in North America actively throw away; displaying photos of their encounters with large landfills and an enormous pile of second-hand bikes. They questioned the need to discard useful objects when they are both riding second-hand bikes themselves—Yana’s is more than 35 years old.
Yana and Slav hope to inspire others to change their behavior and describe their ultimate goal as hoping to “accomplish much more than just an ecological revolution. We want to awaken a process of self-awareness in people in order for everyone to understand that they are an important and an integral part of the future of the planet.”
Alyssa Schroer is a Digital Content Intern in Communications at The Field Museum