Jay Austin had traveled the world before, alone, by scooter, by backpack with a train pass to places like South Africa, India, China, Japan, throughout Europe, but only for two to three months at a time. This time, his plan was to travel the world by bicycle and with his partner, Lauren, for anywhere from two to five years. According to his blog, simplycycling.org, summarized as 'part chronicling our journey and part helping others plan their own, the site is a collection of what we've learned so far (and the whole lot we're still learning) about pedaling the planet', they'd return when they've either seen everything, got tired of traveling or ran out of money.
But let's start at the beginning. Jay was brilliant and determined. He attended high school outside of his local district, accepted to a magnet program for the humanities. Jay graduated from the University of Delaware in two years and from Georgetown University in one. Just turning 21, Jay received his Master's Degree.
Jay was a visionary and, in the process, inspired so many. He was a kind and gentle soul who truly cared about protecting our planet and wanting us to live unencumbered lives as a means to our personal freedom as well as a means to save our planet's natural resources, to save our environment.
Jay was a member of the first tiny house community in Washington, DC known as Boneyard Studios where he built and lived nine months of the year (due to district code regulations) in his own tiny house. Workshops were held where people from all over the country attended to learn how to live in smaller spaces, simply, affordably and sustainably. He impressed upon people how the stuff in our lives, the masses of stuff we accumulate, is so unimportant. Letting the stuff go isn't living with less but living with so much more freedom. Tiny house living is also, as importantly, about preserving and protecting our natural resources, living off grid, using rain water and solar power, for instance, as a means to leave a small footprint. For his involvement in the tiny house community, Jay was one of the featured individuals in the documentary, 'Minimalism', which airs on Netflix. But this wasn't Jay's only passion.
Jay was a vegan, more so to protect the rights of animals than to enhance his own health and quality of life. In that vein, he was an advocate of community gardens, not only in that they provide an education on how to grow our own healthy foods, without containing the toxins of store-bought foods, but to also encourage a sense of community. Jay was adamant about protecting our natural resources, as he wasn't a fan of paper products or plastics. For instance, he would encourage the use of hand blowers in public restrooms instead of using the paper towels from the dispenser. I've had my own hand swatted away by Jay when reaching for a napkin.
Jay also volunteered his time with children at a homeless shelter in Washington, DC. while also acting as part-time photographer and carpenter.
Besides being an avid reader and gifted storyteller, Jay was a cyclist, a hiker, a runner, a mountain climber, an old-fashioned down-on-the-ground picnicker and a camper .. a lover of the great outdoors. He lived his life large, as if every day might be his last. Jay once wrote, prophetically, 'I could die doing what I love but I can also die never having really lived and to me, that would be a far greater tragedy'.
As importantly, Jay cared about the human race. He was giving of his time, his patience, always willing and ready to help in any way possible. When Jay spoke to you, he gave his undivided attention as if there were only two people in the world at that moment, you and Jay.
On July 29th 2018, 389 days into a world cycling adventure which began in South Africa and encompassed 27 countries, Jay was cycling with his partner, Lauren, and four others on the Pamir Highway, a well-known tourist attraction in Tajikistan, a country in Central Asia, when he and the group were intentionally targeted as they were Westerners and specifically that Jay and Lauren were Americans. Jay, Lauren and two others were murdered on that day in a terrorist attack.
We've created this foundation in Jay's honor, to continue his legacy, to keep his spirit alive, to carry on his philosophies, that being to simply be kind to the planet, to each other and to ourselves.
We plan to do that in a number of ways. Our focus is to create public awareness to live minimally, not only for our own personal freedom, but, at the same time, to protect our natural resources, the environment, we hope to encourage an awareness of healthy lifestyle choices, while, in the same vein, organizing community gardens across the country, creating an atmosphere of community, sharing a commonality to live healthier, we hope to have children become aware of healthy options while encouraging a passion to read and to write and explore the great outdoors, in a myriad of ways, be it camping, running, biking, hiking .. whatever gets us out into nature. 'Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better' ~ Albert Einstein
Written by Jay Austin's Mom, Jea Santovasco, Creator of The Jay Austin Simply Be Kind Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, EIN 84-3852918. Feel free to reach out at Jea@TheJayAustinSimplyBeKindFoundation.com
Jay Austin was passionate about creating positive change for a myriad of issues encompassing the environment, minimalism, literacy and nutrition as well as having a love for travel and the great outdoors, living life every day to the fullest while respecting our planet. We hope to follow his lead to create a healthier and happier planet for all of us to share and to leave for generations to come.
Follow us on Instagram @ jasimplybekind; on Twitter @ JASimplyBeKind; and on Facebook @ The Jay Austin Simply Be Kind Foundation.
Mention or photos of Lauren, the love of Jay's life, are intentionally excluded from this site at the request of and out of respect for the privacy of the family. To learn about Jay and Lauren's amazing journey together, visit simplycycling.org.
501(c)3 Tax-Exempt Status Effective 11/19/2019
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Copyright © 2019 The Jay Austin Simply Be Kind Foundation, Inc.
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Created by Jay's Mom, Jea Santovasco