250 Pounds Lost. Love of Adventure Found.
By KEEN Fan Andrew Cedergren
In early 2014, I made a decision that would end up changing my life going forward. At 5'10" and 425 lbs, I was not living the life I wanted. After a tense moment with a doctor who told me I’d never be successful on my own, I decided it was time to make a change. Over the next three years with diet changes, I lost 250 lbs—beginning with motivation and sustained by forming habits.
Andrew at 425 lbs and 175 lbs.
Continent #1: Australia was just the start
After years of weight loss—and now different-sized feet—I needed new shoes for my new active lifestyle. After what some might call an excessive amount of research and reading reviews, I settled on my KEEN Austins. To break them in, I had the perfect plan. Rewarding myself for my weight loss, I set on fulfilling a life-long goal; going on my dream trip to Australia. Here I spent two amazing weeks on my first solo travel, and walked over 100 miles through city streets and endless country.
Sydney and Melbourne both served as hubs for me to explore from. From Sydney I went out into neighboring towns and into the Blue Mountains region. Excited to try new things, I even ended up skydiving out of a plane to land on an ocean beach. Melbourne had a love of creativity and art, with fantastic food to boot. Here also served as a place for me to take off and see the gold coast road.
I found my love of travel and everything that comes with it in Australia. I had no idea that it was going to spark a need for me to keep going.
Continent #2: North America holds endless adventures at home
Having made it a priority in my life to travel and go to new places, it’s easy to forget about what you have back at home. Living in the Midwest you could say I’m lucky that I’m right in the middle of this great nation; yet I’ve been to more countries than I have American states. As part of a way to learn more about my own home, I have tried to watch for opportunities to explore domestically. Sometimes that means adding a weekend onto the end of a work trip and getting the chance to explore via a short vacation. Most of the time though it’s finding excuses to hop in the car and see the country and the roads that connect it.
I found my favorite food city in America when I visited Chicago; working off all those calories by walking the riverfront, around The Art Institute, Chinatown, and cheering on the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Multiple times I’ve been drawn to Colorado where you can find some of the country's best craft breweries nestled within beautiful mountains and fresh air. I’ve enjoyed the hospitality of the Twin Cities in Minnesota; the lights, sounds, and heat of Las Vegas, Nevada; and in Omaha, Nebraska I found my favorite zoo, the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.
Wherever you live, don’t forget adventure can start just by walking out your front door.
Continent #3: Europe welcomes me back, a new man
Back before Australia and just before my weight loss started, I was lucky to have flown to visit family in Europe. Back then however I felt held back by my weight; I stressed about making those next to me on flights uncomfortable, and I could not walk far—seeing only slivers of the places I visited. So when I saw the opportunity to go back with a fresh pair of shoes I had to jump on it.
I found myself reconciling who I was in the past and who I was trying to become.
I started off in Paris, and was blown away by the art and history found within that city. Despite rumors that you may hear, I found the people here warm. Maybe it was my butchering of simple greetings and phrases as I stumbled over my tongue in French, but I was almost always met with smiles. Taking the train under the ocean to London, I explored—what was for much of history—one of the biggest drivers of world events. If I had one piece of advice for visiting London; when you go to the Tower of London respect the rules regarding photography of the royal jewels (don’t). My apologies to the royal guard who had a “chat” with me. Finishing up I flew to Berlin, setting foot into a pregnant history. Berlin is filled with sobering events of times past, but you get the feeling of a city working to make tomorrow great; a place for opportunity and love.
It was the perfect way to end a trip walking around Western Europe. Between my first and second visit here I found myself reconciling who I was in the past and who I was trying to become.
Andrew in Denver, Colorado; Paris, France; Moray, Peru; and Kyoto, Japan.
Continent #4: Japan helps me look forward (and back)
Losing 250 lbs of body fat on my frame ended up leaving me with a significant amount of extra skin. No one should feel ashamed in a situation like this, and I was still proud of what I did, but I had a hard time seeing myself in the mirror. So in 2018 I went through some skin reduction surgeries, helping to let myself focus on the future. With the power of medical bills and an airline-specific credit card I found myself with enough airline miles to get me to Japan. So why not!?
With my recent surgeries helping me look forward, I found myself in a modern country that thrives on its past. Stepping out of my comfort zone into a culture where English is a minor language, I learned to connect with others in ways other than words. I found new favorite foods, walked through cities blended with nature, drove a motorcycle on winding mountain roads, and fell in love with efficient public transportation! The Japanese attention to ensuring perfect customer service with no expectation of anything in return was surprising.
Continent #5: South America shows me what to be thankful for
South America called to me in 2019, and I agonized over where I wanted to fly. The continent is full of people who have beauty in their land, history, and culture. As my first introduction into this I ended up settling on Peru. As a foodie, photographer, and someone interested in other cultures, Peru offered it up in spades. I’m happy to say within all my travels, Peru stands out as the most impactful.
The Peruvian people made me realize what I have back home, and in return how I want to live my life.
Landing in Lima, I booked a popular bus service that sent me south along the coast almost to the Bolivian border and then up to Cusco. I found myself walking through modern cities, relaxing in a fishing port, sandboarding down desert dunes, hiking in high elevations, standing on floating islands, and riding a motorcycle through the Sacred Valley. Every step along the way left me blown away by the citizens living here. The Peruvian people made me realize what I have back home, and in return how I want to live my life. Icing on the cake, I found myself lucky to have traveled during this time with other visitors who I shared these experiences with, making friendships that will last into the years to come.
Continent #6: Africa helps me focus on what’s ahead
Partly to have been able to walk on all six of the inhabited continents—but mostly out of desire to experience things outside my daily life—I wanted to go next to Africa. I’ve got familial ties on that continent, and lists of places I would love to visit. I had no idea where to go. Thankfully a very good flight sale to Tanzania spurred me to make a decision, and I jumped on a ticket purchase for mid-2020.
As I look toward this milestone of travel, I want to also focus on other goals to be excited for. With a desire to keep traveling in years to come, I am reminded to focus on my health and what I will not go back to. I’ve got a future that looks to be rich with growth among my family and friends; something that will always ground me to home. I want my next five to ten years to bring not only myself happiness but allow me to find ways to bring it to others.
Thank you, KEEN, for the pair of shoes that has seen me through all this. It might take a set of tires or wings to get you to your destination, but once you arrive use your feet to take you to the next step.
We make shoes to make a difference, so it was incredibly moving to receive Andrew's letter about how his KEEN shoes played a role in his inspiring story. If you're trekking your way to a life-changing experience, we'd love to hear about it. Just tag @KEEN or pass along your story to firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured. Happy trails!