The Oak Leaf

Bravery and the bladress

Yanis Ho
Bad weather doesn't deter Yanise Ho in her blading journey across the country.

Adeira Sherpa, Co-Photo Editor

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Aimless scrolling on social media pages isn’t always a waste of time. Catfishers and cyber stalkers aren’t the only ones lurking on the internet. Sometimes you can find someone truly inspiring or follow someone’s 6,000 mile journey that you might never have heard of if not for a women’s travel group on Facebook.

Myranda Ens, 28, was working at Twisted Tuna in Port Salerno, Florida when her co-worker told her about the rollerblading girl. As a lover of rollerblading herself, Ens went to meet the girl. What seemed strange at first budded into a friendship.

Most people aren’t quick to welcome strangers into their homes, but Ens is happy she did.

Ens is just one of the many people who’ve encountered 23-year-old Yanise Ho, the bravely optimistic rollerblader making her way from Miami up to New York and across to Los Angeles without a penny of her own. A woman whose trust in humanity is greater than her fear of danger.

Yanise Ho celebrates one month on the road with a host family in Newington, Gerogia.

“The second I met her I felt that I wanted to help her and keep her safe. Her vibes are amazing, and I’m so glad I was a part of her mission,” Ens said.

Ho’s pilgrimage of sorts encompasses two goals. First, she hopes to offer a more positive depiction of humanity. It’s easy to fall into the negativity presented by most media outlets. Ho strives to offer a new voice by highlighting the kindness of strangers through firsthand experience.

Second, she wants to fight for women’s rights. Alongside the charity organization One Girl Can, Ho has created #theBladressScholarship in hopes of funding schooling for girls in Sierra Leone. She refuses the money offered to her by her hosts and instead encourages donations.

Also known as “The Bladress,” Ho began skating about two years ago. “When I first started, a lot of things went wrong and I had 10 stitches on my head, road rashes all over and I was in the hospital, but I had to do it. I learned in two months,” Ho said.

She grew up in the concrete jungle of Hong Kong and suffered from insomnia. At 15, she traveled to New Zealand, where she experienced freedom for the first time. “I realized I could be whoever I want to be,” Ho said.

Her progress can be tracked through her website and she posts short accounts of her daily experience on her Instagram @yaniseho.

More than curing her insomnia and changing her outlook, New Zealand changed the way Ho interacted with people. Before her trip she kept to herself, but after those two weeks in a new environment, Ho became more social and decided to participate in an exchange program in Rome.

For the past seven years she’s been on the move. She attended college in three different states, worked at a hostel, backpacked through Central America and bounced back and forth between Hong Kong, Canada and the United States.

Ho hasn’t conformed to the common five or 10-year plans we set for ourselves but instead chooses to set personal challenges for herself. This expedition across the U.S. is one of them.

Originally she considered walking or cycling but decided blading would be the happy medium. She plans to tackle skating through parts of Africa or Europe next and eventually hopes to settle in Santa Monica.

As a speaker of Cantonese, English, Italian, some Spanish and a little Mandarin, she doesn’t allow herself to be held back by language barriers nor barriers of preconceived notions about others. She does, however, trust her gut.

“I feel like over time, you develop that instinct to discern the good and the bad and whether you can trust a person,” Ho said.

Not even the weather gets in her way. “I never even look at the weather forecasts,” Ho said. She tackles each day’s struggles as they come but has yet to face any real hardships.

So far she’s received the exact kindness she intended to highlight. She’s found a place to stay the night with in 10 minutes of arriving in any city.

While some people pride themselves on never asking for help, Ho thrives on humanity’s generosity. “The gratitude goes both ways,” she said.

Her schedule is dependent on her hosts. Sometimes she’ll just have breakfast with them; other days she won’t be back on the road until 2 p.m.

“Some days I get really huge mansions, and some days I crash in trailer parks,” Ho said.

She has a general plan but isn’t opposed to veering off course. Meeting new people offers Ho new perspectives and gives her something to think about as she skates.

“When people talk to me I just stop, put my bags down and talk. I could talk all day,” Ho said with giddy excitement.

Ho was lucky to grow up with parents who encouraged her to travel. Her father helped her make homemade sunscreen for her trip and her 84-year-old grandmother created an Instagram just to like her photos.

Beyond the obvious physical challenges that accompany such an expedition, there’s the additional dangers of being a woman traveling alone. To this, Ho said, “I’ve never been scared. I guess I don’t really have time to be scared.”

When faced with neighborhoods some would deem unsafe, she’s equally nonchalant.

After 35 miles of skating, on day 23 of her journey, Ho finds herself in Woodbine, Ga. where she reunites with a family she previously stayed with on her 600 mile trip.

“If I wave and smile at them, then there’s no reason to be mean to me,” Ho said.

A mindset some would consider naive is what opens so many doors for Ho.

She refuses to let anything hold her back. Through defying the common tendency to doubt our own abilities, Ho demonstrates the impact one woman can have on the world.

And she affects those she meets along the way.

“She inspired me in so many ways,” host Ens said. “I now believe there is more good out there in the world. At first I was very scared for her but following her still every time I read about who she’s meeting, it backs up how good the world actually still is, and it’s a great thing to see.”

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