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An adventurer, a cyclist, but especially, a man that likes to make people happy, this is Juan Trochas. A couple years back, all of these qualities drove him to set up the inclusive cycling initiative “Te Llevamos” (We take you) which aims to go cycling with specially adapted bicycles for the elderly or people with disabilities. This is a ride which will help take them out of their routine and which is, for many, a moment of intense happiness. Before all this, there was a time when Juan Trochas was just Juan Diego Álvarez. There was also once a time when the 23rd of July was nothing more than his birthday. It was a couple of years ago when things began to change and the 23rd became the day on which good things happened to Juan that changed his life.
From 2003 to 2005, Juan Diego Álvarez was dedicated to doing all kinds of activities and extreme sports in Colombia. Along those years of adventure, he discovered a plethora of different sports, but moreover, the many landscapes to see. In 2007, on July 23rd, he began working in television, specifically on Tele Medellín. “At first, my job was to carry cables,” he explains.
During those years, Juan decided to focus on bicycle trails. According to him, it was the one sport he liked the most and as he explains, it got a bit complicated: “I had to choose between work, study or doing lots of activities outdoors.” He finally opted to work with pedals and the camera simultaneously. So it was that Juan bought a camera to record some of his paths on the bike. One of those paths brought him to a prison called The Cathedral, a place famous for its amazing scenery and for being home to some historic events across specific years. However, he wasn’t able to record the whole journey and when he shared what he had with his friends, acquaintances and family members, they all said the same thing: “We would have liked to have seen the whole trip” or “we want to see more videos like this one”. Even today, he enthusiastically remarks that, “I knew at that moment that I had something special on my hands.” With that idea in mind, Juan got down to working on a pilot episode for the TV station he was working at and was already known as “the one who carried the camera”.
The pilot episode was well-received by the station’s management so they gave Juan the green light to put together a small TV show focused on cycling in the mountain and his adventures in the Department of Antioquia (Colombia). Trochas Telemedillín was born. At the same time, Juan Trochas was born, since it did not take long for everyone in that region to start calling him and getting to know him that way.
Until 2013, Juan Trochas was dedicated to showing the region of Antioquia, an area where in spite of living there, not all the locals knew that there were spectacular places near their homes. “With Trochas, the main objective was to show them that it was possible to go where I went and follow the same trails I did by bicycle” insists Juan.
Back then, Juan was already aware of all types of projects and initiatives for promoting cycling. In his municipality, bike paths grew from three kilometers to twenty in a short period of time. Juan Trochas had become a well-known member. “Government agencies hired me to assess their bike related projects and, likewise, they realized that I was famous both in the country and abroad. One day, I was even recognized while on a trip in the USA!” he explains joyfully.
Precisely in that moment, Juan Trochas decided to begin a new adventure. He decided to give happiness. “Riding my bicycle makes me happy and I believe that what we have to do is give away to others that which makes us happy. Solidarity is not about giving away your leftovers, but rather it is giving away that which makes us happy.” He got down to work with some of his friends: “We created bicycles that were adapted to take both elderly people and the disabled” he remembers. In 2011, “Te Llevamos” was born, a non-profit inclusive cycling organization.
Riding my bicycle makes me happy and I believe that what we have to do is give away to others what makes us happy
The first experience Juan Trochas had with adapted cycling only confirmed that they had made the best decision possible. “I got on the adapted bicycle with an elderly person and we set off on the trail. He was up front enjoying the ride, with the wind on his face. And when it was over, he thanked me in a way that brought tears to my eyes. It still moves me just thinking about it” he explains, truly moved, when remembering a moment that changed his life. “In that moment, I realized that we had to keep on with the project, come what may. There we were, we were volunteers with little money, but we will keep it up.”
Right before the start of COVID-19, “Te Llevamos” had taken hundreds of elderly and disabled people out at the weekends. Juan insists that they will keep working hard to be sure that the organization “Te Llevamos” goes forward and picks up their inclusive cycling activities just as soon as the health situation in Colombia allows for it.
“When we get on an adapted bicycle with an elderly person or someone with a disability, more than doing a very enjoyable outdoor activity, we are taking them out of their routine which is quite special for them,” Juan adds. He goes on to say that “disability is something that’s in the eye of the beholder but not for the person who has one. In my experience, many people with disabilities barely leave the house or participate in activities because their family members may think they can’t or shouldn’t do so.”
When we get on an adapted bicycle with an elderly person or someone with a disability, more than doing a very enjoyable outdoor activity outdoor, we are taking them out of their routine which is quite special for them
Juan is an adventurer that lives each experience with a smile. Thinking back on his cycling trails that he would like to do again, he mentions the “Manizales – Armero GuaYabal” trail: “On that trail, we were in the Nevado del Ruiz area and we passed through Murillo, one of the highest municipalities in Colombia. We ended the trail in the area of Armero, a town which was totally wiped out by the eruption of Nevado del Ruiz Volcano in 1985. Without a doubt, we couldn’t help but remember what had happened there and it gave us goosebumps.” “It was back in March 2011, a 100-km trip, and we went down around 3,000 meters in elevation in one day.”
As for his professional career in television, Telemedellín stopped filming new episodes of the Trochas program, even though they still show reruns of episodes from 2007 on. “In many of them, I think I look so young,” he says while laughing. Nonetheless, the cancelation of new episodes didn’t mean the end of his TV career. In 2019, he was invited back to continue his adventures thanks to an offer by Teleantioquia. During the filming of the episodes of the new program, Juan did 26 activities and extreme sports in just under three months. Once again, the objective wasn’t to give a demonstration of his skills, but rather “to motivate people to do these activities and encourage them to visit the Colombian region of Antioquia.”
Once the latter TV program had been completed, both the bicycle and television came back into Juan’s life since he was offered a new program in which the main focus would be to travel across Antioquia by bicycle highlighting the landscape, people and cuisine. “It was exactly what I like,” he emphasized with a laugh. “It is, undoubtedly, the project I’ve been dreaming about all these years.” The first episode of Rodando caminos was filmed on July 23, 2020, on his birthday. Unquestionably, it is a magical date for Juan Trochas, but also for the people from Antioquia given the fact that Juan lives to share and give away that which makes him happy to anyone nearby.