Meet The Woman Who Biked Across The Country To Save Herself From Depression
By DeAnna Taylor
Jasmine Reese is a woman with a remarkable story. The Los Angeles native set out to bike the country for two years, with her dog Fiji in tow. She needed a way to bring herself out of the darkness of depression. What makes her story even better is that she would stop and pick up gigs playing the violin along the way.
She has now mastered the idea of doing her favorite things, while also earning an income in the process. We spoke with Jasmine about what inspired her to start biking the country and what’s next for her.
TN: What inspired you to start biking?
Jasmine: It was an escape. From about 2008 to 2012, I began suffering from major depression. It was a last attempt to lose weight and save myself from the dark depths of depression. I didn’t know it was depression, but I knew I was in a haze of inactivity and reclusiveness that was draining me of all energy, will, and self-worth. I saw my mom’s old Walmart bicycle in the garage. I began to ride it regularly, about 7 miles a day. I fell in love. Besides my wonderful dog, Fiji, the bicycle was a vehicle for connecting me with the outside world again.
While I couldn’t recapture my zeal and focus for school and the violin at the time, I knew I didn’t want to stop cycling, so I began to wonder for how long and how far could I go on this thing. Thus, the idea of bicycling across America was born. That trek was about recapturing the girl I lost. I wanted to be that determined, high-achieving person again.
TN: What did you learn from that experience?
Jasmine: I knew if I did something as mentally and physically challenging as thrusting myself out into the world and somehow surviving, I’d definitely get my mojo back.
However, that trip taught me something better; it taught me to embrace the woman I had become. I was a different woman, but I was still capable of great things. I am strong, resourceful, able to connect with people in meaningful ways, and I am more than my mental health.
TN: Tell me about your talent of playing the violin?
Jasmine: I began violin at 14 years old which is considered late if you have professional aspirations. I began studying pre-med and English in college. Unfortunately, major depression derailed all of that, and I destroyed my academic career from the inability to focus and take in information from classes. With a shot GPA, there was no way, even if I wanted to, that I’d go to music school. So, I ended up not taking lessons and pretty much neglecting the violin for a number of years.
I decided to pursue my violin aspirations once again at the age of 27, but in the most adventurous and unique way. I would turn the road into my personal school of music, and bicycle around the world with my violin and dog in tow.
TN: What was your longest trek like?
Jasmine: I was on the road for one year beginning in 2016. I bicycled from Indianapolis to Austin, TX. I worked for a few weeks in Boston, doing odd jobs. I wanted to get my cross Canada trek started as quickly as possible to beat out the winter, so I hitched a ride via Craigslist up to Seattle. I then headed North via bike and ferries and began the amazing journey across Canada.
I made it to Nova Scotia only a couple of weeks prior to November 2016. I decided to enter the U.S. and skip out on going up to Newfoundland and Labrador, due to the harsh Canadian winters. I rode my bike and hitchhiked down the East Coast and made it to Florida.
TN: How have you been perceived out on the road?
Jasmine: Everyone has been super supportive and positive. Some people are super bold and say bluntly, “I didn’t expect to see a black fat girl on a bike.” A man in Texas pulled over on the road just to stop and tell me that. I thought it was hilarious. He followed up his rude comment with an invitation to his home. I declined the offer.
People have enthusiastically invited me into their homes, churches, and other places. I’ve been super fortunate to meet amazingly kind people from all walks of life.
TN: What’s next for you?
Jasmine: I will start a full-time remote career in June, so my family, violin, and career are the priorities. But cycling and nomadism are a lifestyle, and that will continue as well.
I am attending the Boston Violin Intensive in August 2019. Then, I plan on cycling in Central America sometime next year. I also recently started the FiJaPAW blog to tell stories of my past, present, and future. I am hoping I can inspire people to live the life they want.
TN: Where can we find you online?
DeAnna Taylor is a criminal defense Attorney turned travel writer. The Charlotte native recently completed one year abroad working as an English teacher in South Korea. Her hobbies include fitness, traveling to new countries, and trying new foods.