The ultimate human upgrade

Last year, 30 of the industry’s finest took on the epic challenge of riding 500km across Thailand. Their goal was to raise funds for orphaned children as part of the Digital Live Ride to Provide. This year, 70 more are readying to take part in what’s been labelled the “ultimate human upgrade”.

When Digital Live founder Steve Carroll put out the call for real estate agents to ride with him across Thailand in support of orphaned children, he was overwhelmed by the positive response.

Last April, 30 riders from all walks of life, with all levels of fitness, enthusiastically embraced the challenge, raising $250,000 in the process.

Now, the event is set to become an annual fixture and over the next few short weeks more than 70 riders will take part in the 2020 ride.

Half departed in late February and the remainder will set off in early March.

In the interim, the riders are busily raising much-needed funds for the charity Hands Across the Water.

Proceeds will go directly to providing shelter and education to orphaned children in Thailand.

“Our real focus is digital education,” Steve explains.

“It’s the key.

“Our goal is to give these children access to computers and the internet so when they leave the orphanages at 16 or 17, they have a real future ahead of them.

“Without the ability to turn on a computer there’s a very real chance the girls will, at best, be forced into low-paid positions like cleaners or at worst into prostitution, while the boys will turn to drugs.”

Last year’s event was so moving and life changing that participants labelled it the “ultimate human upgrade” and as word of their experience spread, rider numbers for 2020 more than doubled.

“This year we have 76 riders and additional supporters as part of an industry effort that will change people’s lives,” Steve says.

Here’s an insight into just some of the real estate professionals involved.

When PRD Newcastle founding director Mark Kentwell heads off to Thailand in March, he will be embarking on his second Digital Live Ride to Provide.

“Last year we labelled it a ‘human upgrade’, and that’s exactly what it was. It was a very moving paradigm shift,” he says.

“In Australia, we have so much and are so unappreciative.

“Over there they have so little and are so grateful. It’s hard to work out who’s the richer.”

On his previous ride, Mark started out with a general level of fitness after having surgery 21 days prior.

On day one of the ride he accidentally lacerated a tendon in his thumb, so his ride was almost over before it started.

It was the support of the team which got him through, he reflects.

“A lot of people had overcome adversity to be there,” Mark says.

“There were those who were good cyclists, those who were fairly fit and others who had simply set the goal to be there.”

Mark says highlights for him were the camaraderie, the cause, and the beautiful people of Thailand.

The last day of the ride, when they rode into the orphanage, is one which will stay with him forever.

“The children had been waiting 12 months to meet us,” he says.

“Here were these kids taking us around the village, looking us in the eyes.

“We spent three hours that night dancing.

“When they asked us to come back, I booked immediately.”

“Sometimes you’ve got to get off your backside and do something,” Dean Mackie says when asked about his reasons for riding in Thailand.

“It’s a great cause to support kids who don’t have shelter or the opportunity for education.

“We are very blessed in Australia where it’s almost a God-given right and I’m in the business of shelter.

“For me this is an opportunity to do something for someone else, but it’s also the chance to start a conversation with my kids about how some children aren’t so fortunate.”

At present Dean is riding 30-40km per day in an effort to improve his fitness. As the ride gets closer, he’s planning to intensify that further.

Meanwhile, he notes the training, consistency and working towards a goal are great ways to lead his real estate team by example.

“In real estate it’s important to stay consistent,” he says. “Achieving things in life is about setting goals and discipline, so this is a good way to talk about that.”

When Lupton Ferguson director Louise Lupton told her three teenage sons she planned to embark on a 500km ride across Thailand, they found the idea of their mum on a bike pretty humorous.

Their mirth was a challenge Louise couldn’t resist, while assisting children in need was a calling she couldn’t knock back.

“I’d spoken to people who rode with Steve Carroll last year and they all remarked what a life-changing experience it was,” she says.

“People of all shapes and sizes had taken part and you don’t have to be an athlete.

“I love the idea of being able to give back.

“For years all I’ve wanted to do is help children in need, so in many ways this is meant to be.”

At present Louise is training three times a week, including F45 training and regular one-hour rides.

“Over Christmas and New Year it was a bit tougher,” she admits.

“But I’m keen to show people what I’m about beyond real estate.”

From humble beginnings himself, Tate Brownlee says providing shelter and education to children is a cause that simply resonated.

“As a kid I went through the Ash Wednesday bushfires and we lost part of our house, so I know what it’s like to live with significant changes in your life,” he says.

“But in Thailand there’s no government aid and these children are not in a position to go out and fund themselves.”

As a father of four, Tate also notes providing security and education for children was a goal that hit home. Tate says his fitness is at a fairly solid level, but he candidly admits he’s never ridden a racing bike in his life!

Novak Properties director Mark Novak is returning for his second Digital Live Ride to Provide and this year his wife, two children and Novak agent Michael Burgio will be riding alongside him.

“Honestly, it’s the human upgrade element that sees me riding again,” Mark says.

“Last year it was one of those things where I was working hard and was presented an opportunity to do something good that I thought might shake me up. It did.

“It was unbelievable to see where and how these children live.

“To get to the orphanage was incredibly moving.

“On that ride I didn’t know anyone and was totally out of my comfort zone, but I made great friendships, and reset both my mind and body.

“I’m looking forward to the camaraderie and helping the children out more.”

The first Digital Live Ride to Provide commenced on February 26, while the second starts on March 6. In between, the riders will meet up in Bangkok, and have a collective goal of raising $500,000.

You can learn more about this year’s ride or contribute to the fundraising effort here

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Cassandra Charlesworth

Cassandra Charlesworth is a features writer for Elite Agent Magazine with over 15 years’ journalism experience in metropolitan and regional newsrooms. She has a specialist interest in real estate, tech disruption and a good old-fashioned “yarn”.