Nov. 15, 2021

Facing Uncertainty

Meet Ben Riopelle, a Vet Tech from Colorado who is combining his love for animals and conservation with a long dreamed about first-time bike tour.

We are joined today by Ben Riopelle. Ben is a Vet Tech from Colorado who is combining his love for animals and conservation with a long dreamed about first-time bike tour.

Since graduating college, Ben has worked both as a veterinary technician and a teacher. In 2019, while working as a vet tech at a low-cost, high-volume veterinary clinic in Colorado, he was offered a spot on a trip to Panama to assist with an island spay/neuter campaign. Little did he know that his life would be forever changed, and the trip would become a catalyst for pursuing a bike tour that he had dreamed about for years.

When he returned from Panama, and almost nine years after first thinking about taking a bike tour, Ben decided the time was right. While spending his summer in Alaska, where he feels a deep connection, he began mentally and physically preparing to start pedaling. He recalls planning his trip, telling his family, figuring out what gear he needed (he knew he was overpacking), and finding sources of inspiration to motivate him. When he told his family about the trip, his oldest brother said he doubted that Ben could handle such a long tour. Ben challenged him to a bet, but his brother was too scared to place a wager!

Ben started his tour on Labor Day in Washington, and at the time of this recording, he was just over a month into his journey. He views his travels as less about a bike tour and more about interactions with locals, being outdoors, and, most importantly, wildlife rehabilitation and release. This first tour along the US West Coast should last about two months and is primarily for enjoyment, training, and ironing out the kinks before he takes on a more extended tour abroad.

The trip has been a roller coaster so far. Ben had a proper send-off with friends who came to wish him well, and the first couple of days were very exciting. After about four days, his motivation began to be tested when he realized that so much time would be spent deep in his own thoughts. But so far, the trip has been a fantastic experience. Ben has stayed with quite a few Warmshowers’ hosts along the way and is thankful for his experiences with each of them.

After this first tour is over, Ben will take a position as a volunteer Vet Tech with the Laos Conservation Trust for Wildlife starting in January. He fully intends on bringing his Surly along and has been told that there is no difference between a 3-day tour and a yearlong tour. The only difference is, you don’t turn around. Ben hopes to spend the next few years biking from one Vet Tech volunteer opportunity to the next across the globe.

You can follow Ben on Instagram at @Bennie.andthe.pets.

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