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Stephen Allen, 24, is on a mission to prove to the world—the whole world—that despite his epilepsy, he can lead an active and fulfilling life. The founder of the Seize the World Foundation is spreading awareness of epilepsy and raising donations to fund research for a cure by biking all the way around the globe.
Allen's Web site documents his journey—visit the ongoing blog of his experiences at seizetheworld.com —which began in Telluride, CO, and progressed to Charleston, SC. From there he flew by plane to Portugal, and biked through France, Spain, and Italy along the Mediterranean coast. Currently he is in Turkey, and will eventually head to Egypt, India, China, and Japan. Allen will fly from Japan to Seattle and then finish the tour when he reaches his home in Telluride.
“His effort is almost superhuman and is truly inspiring,” says Seize the World Foundation volunteer Ian McKittrick. “Seize the World's mission to fund epilepsy research can only be accomplished if Stephen's story is heard and felt around the world. We hope Stephen's journey will inspire individuals with epilepsy to achieve their own life goals and to seek more active lifestyles.”
Allen, who has had epilepsy since he was 15, planned the tour for a year prior to starting. Along the way, Allen has given talks at libraries, bookstores, and even epilepsy research centers.
After recovering from a seizure upon his arrival in Lisbon, Allen forged ahead, greeted by cheers when he arrived at his next destination. Although he has used the train to get around occasionally, most of his journey has been by bike, at a 10 mph pace.
He has also endured brutally cold weather and the onslaughts of traffic. While biking from Seville toward Valencia, Allen says, it was so cold that he could barely pedal. But, he says, “The experience of being a cyclist on Spain's back roads during such conditions, riding through the olive country, was beautiful.”
“Yes, I have epilepsy, but I also have memories of amazing freedom,” Allen says. “There will always be challenges in life, but I know that no matter where I go, there will also be great people along the way.”