Meet Rachel Irvine: 2016 Outdoor Leadership, Young Adult Bike Travel Scholar

July 27, 2016

Rachel Irvine, one of our two Young Adult Bike Travel Scholarship Outdoor Leadership winners recently returned from her Leadership Training Course in Oregon where she learned about the philosophies of leading self-supported bicycle tours.

Rachel already had a few miles under her belt when she applied for the scholarship:

I went on a self-contained bicycle tour for eight months with my partner, beginning in Budapest, Hungary, through southeastern Europe into Turkey, then we flew to Thailand for two months in southeast Asia, before flying back to Los Angeles and cycling down the coast to San Diego and across the southern tier of the U.S. back to my hometown of Bloomington, IN. It was the most incredible cultural immersion experience of my life thus far.

Rachel currently lives in Minneapolis, MN where she has a Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship through New Sector Alliance and AmeriCorps. The fellowship provides professional development and mentorship in the social impact sector, non-profit, and business management professional development. She currently works at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota in their Metro Youth and Family Services department. How does Rachel plan to combine her passion for bike travel and social work? 

In the future, I would love to continue working with youth from underserved and/or trauma-influenced backgrounds, providing them support, education, and leadership opportunities, from the seat of a bicycle rather than through more traditional methods. I have felt in my own life the transformative power of physical movement, reflection, nature, and the act of “pilgrimage” of various sorts, and know that leading outdoor bicycle travel could be an incredible opportunity for healing, empowerment, and growth for youth participants.

We caught up with Rachel to ask her a few question about her Leadership Training Course in Eugene.

What two words best describe your touring experience?

Intentional wanderings. Which may seem dichotomous from one another, but which are, to me, the root of bicycle adventure travel.

How would you describe the group you cycled with?

Welcoming! Folks came from all across the country, and from overseas, too. We were a multigenerational group with varying experiences, both professionally as well as in regards to bicycle travel. It was wonderful to share the experience with such a wide range of experiences and perspectives.

Tell me about one (or more) great interactions/experiences.

People were so kind! (which seems to be a common denominator among people I’ve met who are part of this global bicycle-travel-community).

What first comes to mind actually occurred before meeting any of the group. I knew I needed a way to get from the airport to the state park where the course was being held, and within an hour of sending out an email message, not just one, but multiple people had responded saying they would happily give me a lift. While it may have seemed like not much to them, it was a huge relief to have transportation logistics sorted out so quickly and easily.

Another great experience happened about halfway through day two of the course when myself and another participant realized that we had crossed paths last winter while we were both cycling across the southern tier of the U.S. We both had vaguely recognized each other, but didn’t put two and two together at first — such a delight to reconnect, and such an unexpected surprise!

Also, it was wonderful to hear from other participants about their lives, as well as why they chose to do an LTC course. I always appreciate hearing how people’s career paths have evolved, and it was so fun to hear stories from people who see the value in adventure as part of their lives.

What is one skill you learned on the trip?

How to cook (and grocery shop) for 14 people. I love to cook, but I’ve never made a meal for 14 before. I cooked with my cooking team the first night, and I have to say it was quite fun. A dose of healthy competition between cooking teams resulted in some pretty great meals overall, if I do say so myself.

What is something you learned about yourself on the trip?

I was reminded how important it is to be compassionate towards everyone, but also that it is not my job to necessarily fix problems for someone else. The mantra, “Allow people the dignity of their own suffering,” was a helpful way to remember this.

What did you learn about group dynamics that surprised you?

What may seem like a simple problem, when it’s just one person involved, is actually quite complex when applied in a group setting. The consensus-based, decision-making approach and the various role-play activities we did at the training highlighted how diverse people can be in their perspectives, wants, and needs, and responses in challenging situations. A key takeaway for me was that anything really challenging that comes up for the group is best addressed first with food. “Hanger” is bound to make group dynamics go south, fast!

What new skills did you acquire that will help you carry out your community project?

I learned more techniques for how to lead collaboratively and engage others to step into leadership, too. The consensus-based, decision-making model is unique from other leadership styles and will be helpful in engaging others for the bicycle festival later this year.

Favorite part of the trip?

I really enjoyed the heavy focus on scenario role plays. Solo or small group bicycle travel is so different from group travel and having the opportunity to be exposed to challenging situations and practice problem solving “in the moment” was incredibly helpful.

If you would like to help more young people like Rachel become leaders in bike travel, donate to our Young Adult Bike Travel Scholarship. Applications will re-open later this fall.

All photos courtesy of Rachel Irvine


The Thomas Stevens Fan Club is brought to you by the development team, Annette, April, and Michelle. They share an office with a classic Parisian Metropole bicycle. Want to know more about how you can support Adventure Cycling and all the amazing work they do? Call them at 406-532-2760 or email them at




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