A purpose found on the open road: a follow-up interview with Denny Ying

Denny Ying
Denny Ying

Denny Ying
by Mykaela A.Jones
Back in 2018, former United States Marine and realtor, Denny Ying, decided to sell everything he owned, buy a bike, and ride across these great United States in order to raise awareness for the prevention of suicide. I had the pleasure of interviewing Denny again, this last week where he shared some of his accomplishments and personal growth in his inspiring journey.

At the end of 2018, according to Ying’s athletic accomplishment video on his advocacy page, he actively rode for a total of 85 days, with his most active month being in November, and completed 5,386 miles just in 2018.

While he may have accomplished great distances and may have accomplished some personal goals, that doesn’t mean he didn’t share his own struggles. Ying says, “One of my biggest struggles came when I went through Kansas. I was struggling due to physical and mental exhaustion. I couldn’t reach my mileage goals while I was there… Kansas has been challenging, but pivotal and monumental for me.”
Ying was open about the struggles with himself and the journey, stating, “What really struck me, as someone riding for this cause, is that I’m only human.” He also stated whole-heartedly that he had begun to doubt himself, until after a phone call with a friend while he was on the road. In this conversation, Ying talked about his doubts and his struggles, and his friend said, “Denny, it sounds like you aren’t proud of yourself.”

This singular phone conversation made Ying realize he had his own self image to work on. This self reflection made him look back and realize all the good things that he’s done with his life. “I served in the Marines, and I wasn’t even a citizen yet. I served for eight years, and even before I was a citizen it felt good to give back to this country.” Giving back, according to Ying, is what made him feel better when things in his life get hard.

“I can’t focus on anything good in my life when I tell myself these [self-deprecating] stories, so when my life started falling apart in 2018, I decided that I needed to give back.”

That is when Ying’s ride across America was planned. Ying recognized that, while at first it may have been an impulsive choice to sell all his belongings, buy a bike, and ride across America, he says that he had to remind himself more than once that this cause and the end goal was nothing impulsive. This point in the interview sparked the memory of a conversation Denny had with one of the people who hosted him, a woman who herself was struggling with some huge life changes and challenges. This was just one of the many stories that Ying heard, and it made him realize that self-esteem and mental illness go hand in hand, and that people who struggle with their mental health seem to have a lot of issues with their self image. Ying stated, “We’re always so hard on ourselves, and it is so unnecessary.”
When asked about his upcoming journey and the plans he has for the year, he was proud to announce that not only will he be competing in his first Iron Man to raise awareness for his cause, but he will also be taking this trip for mental health all the way to Europe, from where he plans to bike and to spread the word all the way to Tokyo, Japan.
Ying said traveling through Colorado has been good training for him, and that riding through Colorado’s terrain, elevation, and mountains has been good preparation for his upcoming trips.
“I realize when things got hard I was able to become someone I had never been before, which is an endurance athlete. Looking back seven months, I am where I never imagined I’d be. Maybe adversity is nice. We give ourselves the opportunity to have a life changing experience… Life will continue to happen, and life will continue to happen for me.”
The interview ended with Ying stating that he hopes that reading his story will help whoever gets the chance to read it.
Since this is another story having to do with mental health awareness and suicide prevention, provided below are additional information and resources.