The Orphan Ride


Local barber Andrew Leese, left, and his younger brother Randall are leaving town at the end of March on a two-year-long bike trip around the world to raise money for an orphanage in India.


For nearly seven years, Andrew Leese has been cutting hair at The Barber Shop at Fairhaven. In that time he has attended Western Washington University, studied abroad in Italy, and spent countless days exploring Bellingham’s mountain biking trails.

He has also grown restless. His travels to Italy and Southeast Asia only whet his desire to see the world. So later this month, the 29-year-old Leese and his younger brother Randall, 21, are leaving to ride their bikes around the world.

“It’s been on the back burner for several years, but I started thinking seriously about it six months ago,” Leese said. “And I decided to do something useful along with it.”

The trip is not just for sightseeing, Leese said, though he will be stopping in more than 25 countries. The goal of the trip is raise money for the Servi Domini Orphanage in India, which is in the process of building a new facility.

Thus far, Leese has raised more than $5,000 for the cause and all of the money will be going to the orphanage.

“We didn’t want it to be a ‘please finance our vacation’ kind of cause, so 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the orphanage,” he said, adding that he and his brother are financing their bike tour themselves. Leese has been saving for a long time now and is now selling off most of his worldly possessions. “I’m not going to own much beyond what I’m carrying on the trip.”

The itinerary thus far will lead the brothers down through the Southern United States and up the Eastern seaboard.

“It’s better to cross the Southeast in the spring before it gets too hot,” he said. “If we have time we’ll head up to New England, but everything is pretty open-ended. Mainly, we’re planning around the seasons. Our first goal is to be in France in July for the Tour de France.”

After France, it’s on to Italy and Greece and through Turkey down to Egypt. From there, they will backtrack up to Turkey again and keep heading north through the Caucasus and into Kazakhstan before turning south toward India. This is definitely not a beeline around the world, but more of a meandering road.

Preparations for the trip have kept Leese busy lately. He is setting up the non-profit’s headquarters in Seattle so that it can continue to raise money while the brothers are pedaling their way to India.

“I’ve got too much work to be nervous,” he said. “I’m more overwhelmed than nervous.”

So what will Leese miss most while he’s away?

“I won’t miss the rain and the grey skies, but I will miss the people and the trails,” he said.


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