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Within Reach 

Within Reach



Guest Editorial
by Mandy Creighton : Within Reach

Cycling Toward Sustainable Community


Ryan Mlynarczyk and Mandy Creighton of Within Reach as they pedal down a rainy Tucson, Ariz. street.


Ryan Mlynarczyk and Mandy Creighton of Within Reach as they pedal down a rainy Tucson, Ariz. street.
Photo by Ryan Mlynarczyk.

What do you really want to do with your life? When my partner and Within Reach co-biker Ryan Mlynarczyk was asked that question last year, his simple response was “to live more sustainably on the land and in community.” 

Most of us spend a majority of our lives walking in and out of boxes: from the bedroom to the garage to the office and back again. We scarcely find time to be outdoors, other than planned activities, kids’ sports games, and the like. Why is it that our bodies, which are born of nature, feel so drawn to the great indoors? Is it possible to have the best of both worlds? 

Only when I began questioning did I find another way. Indeed, when you really want something, for the right reasons, it does seem as though the “entire universe conspires in helping you to achieve it,” as Paulo Coelho writes in The Alchemist.

There is a certain connection to the land that one can only experience in the open air. No windows glaringly reflecting the outside world back to you. No barrier lending its seemingly protective wall keeping “strangers” away. Nothing shielding you from the elements of nature, be it wind, rain, or blazing sun.

In the summer of 2007, the dream of bicycling 12,000 miles across the U.S. to visit and document sustainable communities was born, and manifested as the project called Within Reach. In February 2008, I jumped on board, realizing that this could help me find a way to live outside the box—to learn about, serve, and grow sustainable communities. 

Camping along the way: Ryan and Mandy of Within Reach prepare for another day of riding across the desert.

Camping along the way: Ryan and Mandy of Within Reach prepare for another day of riding across the desert.
Photo by Ryan Mlynarczyk.


I sold my car and moved to California to join the Within Reach tour. Since our tour began in San Francisco in September, we have bicycled over 1,400 miles, visiting more than forty sustainable communities in California, Arizona, and New Mexico as we journey to the East Coast and back again. 

We characterize “sustainable community” as a localized group of people working together to create a regenerative lifestyle, one that provides for the needs of today’s generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable communities include ecovillages, cohousing communities, coops, spiritual communities, live/work neighborhoods, non-residential communities, integrated inner-city communities, and our newest addition, transition towns. 

The mission of the project is to create a documentary film and website, as well as to encourage everyone to consider living sustainably in community.

There is an outward focus to this mission—to encourage others to discover that sustainable community is within reach for all of us. But there is also a deeply internal process as we reach within each day and find sustainable community to be something that we’re already creating! 

Cobb dragon sculpted into the wall of a cobb home at the Emerald Earth community.


Cobb dragon sculpted into the wall of a cobb home at the Emerald Earth community in Boonville, California. The community is not only unique in its cobb and strawbale construction, it also serves as the inspiration for the Within Reach tour across the U.S.
Photo by Ryan Mlynarczyk.


As I transition to a bicycle-oriented lifestyle, I notice how an increased connection to the Earth is not only possible, but essential. To accomplish a ride of fifty miles, for example, I must focus on terrain, weather, road, traffic, and the care of my own body. I no longer take good health, physical fitness, protection from sun and biting insects, and the availability of water for granted. As a chronic allergy and asthma sufferer, I feared riding in the wide open would only aggravate these ills. Instead, as I breathe in the open air—roadside or otherwise—I find myself healthier now than ever before.

Riding a bike as a primary means of transportation allows for a deepening connection not only with the natural landscape, but also with intentional communities. I have had the rare opportunity of staying in many alternative dwellings, ranging from domes at Hummingbird Ranch to a state-of-the-art ecohome in the community of Civano.  Each of these residences offers the opportunity to live a bit closer to nature than the average house in America.  They are often built of energy-efficient natural materials, many featuring environmental approaches such as composting toilets, rainwater-collecting cisterns, and permaculture gardens.

The most surprising and rewarding element of cycling toward sustainable community, however, has been the opportunity to deepen my connections with other people. As we stop at a rest area, or as we pedal at eight miles per hour down a street, we are regularly approached by inquisitive souls. Simple questions of where we’re headed and how comfortable our bicycles are lead to deeper discussions about the state of our world and the positive hope that sustainable communities provide for our future. 

In effect, we’ve exchanged superficial water cooler chats for a chance to truly get to know the nature of humanity and what we want for ourselves, our communities, and the world beyond. 

So ask yourself: What do you really want to do with your life? You may be surprised at where the response takes you.


Mandy Creighton is currently bicycling 12,000 miles around the U.S. with her partner Ryan Mlynarczyk in exploration of sustainable communities. She is helping produce a feature-length documentary film titled Within Reach, and is actively biographing this epic journey on www.withinreachmovie.com.

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