TheTouristDog has cycled the whole of the UK coast. (excluding Ireland). Approx. 5000 miles. The ride began and ended in Selsey. The tour began on June 2nd 2019 and concluded on World Mental Health Day 10th of October.
Lewis Stephens is The Tourist Dog, a lovable determined underdog with a mission to cycle the UK coastline. Since starting the tour Lewis has become a cult internet figure with an extremely dedicated fanbase, the trip has become about uniting people and has grown far further than a heroic charity challenge.
Lewis organically gained (there has been no press or marketing budget) approx. 800 approx. Facebook followers (up to 45,000 reach, 20,000 engagements per week), and 440 approx. Instagram followers. He was interviewed by many news-papers, featured on lots of live radio (including BBC regional), he is supported by his bike brand Claud Butler and was chosen charity for the tour- CALM. Lewis became an unusual British icon being stopped in the street by people who’ve seen him online or in the press; loved wherever he goes for his quirky British humour and openness. The messages we get from fans who meet Lewis are truly humbling.
Lewis also talked about mental health and the pressures of growing up to 100 teenagers on the NCS programme whilst on the tour, which was one of his personal highlights of the tour. One of Lewis biggest aims is to connect with people and to share support and experiences; in Fort William he learned of and was welcomed to meet a men’s mental health group which was set up by someone who had lost a friend to suicide.
Originally Lewis was cycled 50 miles a day and living on £5 per day relying on the kindness of strangers. Lewis believes in the spirit of community and gives back wherever he can. When Lewis was hosted for a weekend in Newquay by restaurant Reefs Lewis insisted on volunteering as a pot-wash to ‘pay’ for his stay.
The trip evolved and in Scotland his challenge was to live for £20 for 20 days which captured the public’s imagination; we got offers as incredible as army ration packs, lots of free accommodation and even people who cycled some of the route with him! Lewis wanted to set this challenge to make himself vulnerable and to really highlight that when you need help you have to reach out to people; thankfully people delighted in this and he completed the challenge. Organically the turned into #randomactsofkindness where Lewis is being shared all over social media and people now contact
desperate to be part of the journey. Lewis’ fans recently convinced 5 star hotel The Orange Tree, Thornham to host him free.
We reached a position where kindly we are being donated items to give away as prizes, we did a like and share competi-tion with a luxury Lindores Abbey Distillery Whisky bottle and Lewis fans were asking to buy t-shirts which we sold to celebrate the tour and 100% of profits were donated.
We had to ask The Tourist Dog; Why CALM?
“CALM fit perfectly with me due everyday experiences of not only my own thoughts but the blatant negative emotion written on the psyche of others. Most alarmingly the on the faces of men who seem to want to ignore it as much as possible. With an ever-growing rise in the aid of machines to support us many of us are becoming reliant of something else to find us a level of calm can only take you so far…”
“I’ve had close friends whose family members have had their own struggles due to problems that arise through no fault
of their own and at times I’ve experienced the same emotions. I feel that by looking for alternate ways of dealing with problems there are ways to overcome this issue. CALM for me personally is the perfect charity to make the first steps to that change.”
And…Why the UK bike tour:
“It wasn’t planned, it stemmed from a book I found in France, I read it and said I was going to do it. I had no idea how the journey would develop, but physically and metaphorically I’m along for the ride.”
“It’s mad to think how this journey has developed from a small idea into something that has changed and touched the lives of everyone involved in some way… All this has come from an idea, a 60 year old bike and a positive use demonstration of how we can use media now to inspire a different world.”
“When people tell me that I’ve inspired them, they talk to me about their stories/mental health journey’s or keep messaging/commenting weeks after meeting them it makes me realise what an impact I’m having on people. I’m grateful to support people’s life journey any way I can.”
About CALM: Registered charity England and Wales (1110621) and in Scotland (SC044347)
• In 2015, 75% of all suicides in the UK were male. Suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged under-45 in the UK (NISRA, GRO, ONS, 2015).
• Founded in 2006, CALM is an award-winning charity dedicated to preventing male suicide. CALM’s helpline & webchat are open daily 5pm-midnight.