The Journey

Daeung Sunim is a 42 year-old Korean Buddhist monk journeying the Americas by bicycle. Ordained a Buddhist monk (Korean: sunim) by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism at age 19, Sunim comes from Bulkwangsa in Seoul, South Korea. He is currently on the bicycle tour of a lifetime, a journey that will take him through Canada, the United States, on down through Latin America, where he will complete his trip in southern Argentina. The reason for his journey? To test his spirit.

Sunim's journey began in Vancouver, British Columbia in early April of 2012. He started out this voyage with only two contacts -- a friend in Toronto and another in St. John's, Newfoundland (his destination for the Canadian leg of this journey). Having no support network, limited funds and limited language skills, Sunim soon found that his journey was not without its challenges. When he met Dave Pope on the night of April 24 on a long stretch of unlighted Canadian highway, he said to him, "I think God sent you to me." Dave, a practicing Christian, later remarked that he believed Sunim may have been expressing himself in terms he would be familiar with.

Pope was on his way to his second home in Vernon when he first caught a glimpse of Daeung Sunim. "It was a flash out of the corner of my eye. Just a body hunched over a wheel of a bicycle in the ditch,” he told Adam Tebbe of Sweeping Zen. “That’s what I thought I saw.” Dave turned around the next chance he had to investigate the matter, figuring the man was in distress. When he finally got to him, Pope observed that the bike had a flat and that the brakes were nearly bare. He also noted that Sunim had no reflective vest on, making the situation all the more dangerous.

Sunim handed Dave the address of a man in the area who he had met in Vancouver, someone who had offered Sunim a place to stay once he was in the Vernon area. After loading the vehicle with Sunim's bike and supplies, the two made their way to the man's address. No one was home. "You can stay with me," said Pope. Sunim was visibly relieved. When they finally arrived at Pope's home in Vernon, the 42 year-old monk was starving. Dave whipped up a meal and the two chatted a bit, despite the language barriers.

"Why are you on this journey?" Pope asked.

Putting his hand to his chest, the monk replied, "To test my spirit."

Pope, himself a former professional athlete, understood the sentiment all too well. Pope was a skeleton racer who had competed in several national championships, pushing the limits of his body at an age when most others had retired. He wanted to help Sunim in any way that he could, starting a Facebook page for him the next day. To learn more of his journey, see Sunim's Facebook page: