March 27, 2018
It was exactly 2 years ago today that the first seed for Searching For Sero was planted. We didn’t know it at the time as we were all riding an emotional rollercoaster.
I had waken up to a phone call from my mom. It wasn’t good. She was crying and I could barely understand her. Part of it was from her broken speech between the tears, and part of it was because I just did not want to believe what she was saying.
“Your father has passed away. He ended his own life.”
I dropped my phone, grabbed my keys and made the 3 and a half hour drive from Ottawa ON to Lindsay ON. My car was still packed with bikes and stinky gear from the weekend of riding at Mont Tremblant.
Nothing really went through my mind during that drive except for how far and long it was. Back in 2009 I drove from Vancouver to Thunder Bay in 27 hours non-stop. This 300km drive felt longer.
The following days were spent grieving with family in Lindsay. It wasn’t easy. Throwing a tennis ball for RainDog started to become therapy, a way to get out and think in fresh air. It was great, until RainDog started to get tired and stopped bringing the ball back. Anyone that has ever played fetch with her knows that she never actually stops playing, but that just shows how many times I threw that ball.
When Rain was too tired for fetch, I needed to find something else to clear my mind. I got in my car to drive into town and after several hot August days, the car smelled terrible from my stinky bike gear from the previous weekend.
I had my bike and gear! That was just what I needed. I headed for my old local trails in Ken Ried Conservation Area for a ride.
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That ride changed everything. During the ride I realized I wanted to do a project about mental health and suicide prevention. That evening, during a walk along the river, I told Tracy I wanted to do some kind of personal project, but didn’t know what yet.
The next few months I really struggled with finding the idea. I kept asking myself;
“How do you photograph suicide? You just can’t do that?”
While still trying to find an idea, we got a second call. This time from Tracy’s mom. Her aunt had also committed suicide. Just as we thought the rollercoaster ride was almost over, we had to go through a second lap.
That winter was tough for both Tracy and I. We struggled to get out and do the things we loved. We just existed each day, until my friend Theo invited us out to Big White for a ski trip. We put all our Areoplan miles down on flights and headed west.
The 3 weeks I spent skiing with Theo changed everything. I felt back like my old self. I was getting up early, stoked to get out and just wanted to shred. It was that point when I realized how important outdoor adventure was to me. How good it made me feel.
I got back to Ottawa after that trip and started chatting with Tracy about it.
“I don’t know why, but when I get out and ski, I just feel so good. All the heaviness goes away. I just ski. I feel connected. I feel like me and you can’t wipe the smile off my face!”
Tracy being the nerd that she is, had to research why. Something I never asked myself. After 30 minutes at the computer she said;
“Hey John, coming check this out… SEROtonin may be the reason you feel so good after you ski.”
That seed, the seed that was unknowingly planted on August 11, 2014 just sprouted.
“Searching For Sero” I said, “That’s it”
From that point on, which was somewhere around mid March, 2015 my focus became working on getting the project off the ground. Neither of us had any idea what it would grow into. We just worked for the biggest and best thing we could.
All of a sudden we had a Westfalia, which started the plan and made things even bigger. We launched our crowdfunding campaign which you all helped making it a huge success and before we knew it, we were leaving Ottawa on route to Newfoundland to officially start the project.
August 11, 2014 was hard. We went through something that no one should have to go through, but it’s something we hear far too much these days. We just hope with Searching For Sero we can prevent one, just one person from having to go through the same.
So please make time for yourself. Get outside and do the things you love. Do what makes you happy. If you, friends or family are struggling, feel down, anxious, please reach out. Help out. We can get through anything if we work together, and if you don’t believe it, check out some of our Sero Stories for proof.