A Nanaimo man living in New Brunswick has returned home after cycling across the country, from Moncton to Vancouver Island, to change his life.
Growing up in Nanaimo, Chris Aubichon struggled with his mental health, which he says cost him relationships, jobs and housing. Nearly two decades ago, he left his home and moved to the east coast, spending most of his time living in Nova Scotia and, most recently, New Brunswick.
But after talking with his family earlier this year, he decided to return to the Island.
“I was untrained, unprepared, 325 pounds, mentally broken, suffering with depression,” said Aubichon.
The now father of three learned the Province of B.C. recently lifted the age restriction for its tuition waiver program, allowing students of all ages who were in the foster care system to have some expenses covered.
“My sister told me about B.C. and their tuition program for former wards [of the court] and I knew that was an opportunity for me. So that was a real catalyst,” said Aubichon.
Instead of taking a plane, car, or hitchhiking, he decided to bike more than 4,000 km on a bike without any previous cycling experience.
“If I jumped in a car or if I flew out west, I’d be the same that got there that left, and that meant [I] couldn’t keep a house, couldn’t keep a job, couldn’t keep a relationship,” said the man.
“I figured the man who could do that [pedal across Canada], especially so overweight, so broken mentally. The man who could do that certainly can accomplish school.”
It took exactly 90 days for Aubichon to reach Nanaimo, and he documented his journey through his TikTok and Instagram page. Along the way, he spoke about his upbringing, the struggles he went through and began raising awareness of men’s mental health.
“I feel like that’s why thousands of people supported me along the way, they’ve seen a man taking accountability for his role and his health and his mental health and they could relate almost, like who isn’t touched by mental health,” he said.
His sister began a GoFundMe at the start of his trip, which rose to over $14,000. Many donated money for food, offered up stays at hotels and in their own homes, and offered to meet him along the way.
“Kind of goes to show the power he has within himself. I don’t think he’s ever felt welcomed or understood, or cared for, or supported — obviously being a child in care — and he has supporters all across the country now,” said Jenn Aubichon.
Now that he’s back home, Chris is looking to start a support group for others in his community through cycling.
“I wanna invite them down and listen, but if they’re open to it, I can share with them the benefits of riding and what I’ve learned and how I was able to pedal through my adversity,” added Aubichon.
Donations are still being accepted on his GoFundMe, which will go toward the group’s startup costs and bike purchases.