Samer Abouhamad discovered two passions during his visit to his parents’ homeland in 2020: how “very proud” he is to be Lebanese and how exhilarating bikepacking is in Lebanon.
He returned to Boston with the idea growing in him to bike his way in an extraordinary adventure from his hometown all the way to Patagonia in South America, which he has been currently undertaking for a little more than four months now.
It is on his bikepacking way now that 961 caught a moment with him. This is his story.
Samer Abouhamad is the son of Lebanese emigrants, Rania Matar and Jean Abouhamad, both graduates of the American University of Beirut (AUB) and who had fled Lebanon during the civil war in 1984 to settle in the United States.
His mother is none other than the multi-awarded Lebanese-American photographer, Rania Matar, who has reached a high level of fame.
Samer graduated in Business Administration from Wake Forest University, which led him to land “good jobs,” namely in finance and real estate.
The 28-year-old liked living in New York City until the Covid-19 pandemic started and changed everything, leaving him seeking new adventures.
Having had the chance to visit Lebanon during his childhood, he returned again to his country of origin with his mother a couple of months after the Beirut port explosion of August 4, 2020.
They visited the explosion site, where they saw the rubbles of the blast, and also some of the destruction in Beirut reminiscent of the civil war.
Samer had seen the images of the Beirut Blast from Boston, and wished he could do something to help Lebanon and its people.
Hence, reaching Lebanon after the blast, he joined the Lebanese NGO Offre Joie as a volunteer. It was “a life-changing experience,” he said. “I showed up in October 2020 not knowing anyone nor expecting anything.”
He volunteered with Offre Joie helping restore and repair homes destroyed by the blast, and got to meet people from around the world and locals. He also got the opportunity to (finally) learn the Lebanese language.
During that visit, he decided to explore the beauty of Lebanon. He took his bike and set off on many adventures to explore the country and reconnect with his roots.
It was during these cycling adventures that he got the idea to cycle from his home in Boston all the way to Patagonia in South America, and he went for it, taking the roads on his bike to his far destination in April 2022.
So far, he has taken two breaks: a 3-week interlude in California and a 10-day layover in Mexico City.
When asked about what inspired him to go on such a journey from the U.S. to Patagonia, Samer told 961 that it was due to how much he enjoyed discovering Lebanon from his saddle.
“I appreciated the pace at which one can travel with my bike- fast enough to cover large distances but slow enough to take in all your surroundings to the max,” he said.
He also shared that he had the chance to rent a bike and travel across France by bike last summer.
“This was an amazing experience for me and I began reading the stories of former bike adventurers who traveled the world (Al Humphrey’s 2 books in particular- he passed through Lebanon in 2002!),” he said.
“There is also a German Heinz Stucke who traveled the world on his bike for 50 years after leaving from his home in 1962,” he told us. “So these guys (among many others!) showed me the endless possibilities of bike travel, all in an era before cellphones, the internet, and GPS!”
Samer said that he had originally wanted to go from Paris to Beijing, “but it was a bit more complicated logistically so I decided why not leave from my home and head as far south as possible!”
When asked about his relationship with Lebanon, Samer voiced that he grew up enjoying visiting his grandparents and extended family every year for a few weeks.
However, as he shared with us, he “never felt fully Lebanese” due to the language barrier.
“I wasn’t able to speak Arabic and felt like an outsider looking in at times. When I moved to Lebanon after the blast, I feel as though I was able to reclaim this part of my identity,” he said.
“Whether it was working to help rebuild after the blast, hand in hand with other Lebanese, or biking through my grandfather’s hometown of Rashaya (and even getting detained at the police station there for a bit),” he told us that this allowed him to connect with Lebanon.
“I would say I am super proud to be Lebanese,” Samer stated.
However, the passionate explorer-by-bike is still trying to figure out his future journey after he reaches his destination, as he told us.
“Part of me wants to continue and bike the entire world. But part of me is also looking forward to returning home to the Boston area and building my life there,” he explained.
“Regardless of what I end up doing, biking, traveling, and outdoors will remain a big part of my life going forward.”
Samer has a dream for Lebanon, a long-term goal he has set for himself, as he shared with 961: “To organize and bring an ultra-distance bike challenge to Lebanon, which would bring cyclists from around the world to compete on a circuit that would highlight some of the country’s most beautiful places.”
Until then, the “proudly Lebanese” Samer Abouhamad is on his way to Costa Rica and aims to reach Patagonia around April 2023, before it starts getting cold there.