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Hong Kong native rollerblading across the country

October 6, 2018

POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) — Originally from the concrete jungle of Hong Kong, a 23-year old woman has embarked on a 6,000-mile journey across the concrete sidewalks and asphalt highways of America with nothing more than what she can muscle into a large backpack and the rollerblades on her feet.

Yanise Ho, also known as The Bladress, skated her way through southeast Idaho last month, stopping in Pocatello on Sept. 24 and American Falls on Sept. 25, days 194 and 195 of her journey.

“The whole mission is to go without anything,” Ho told the Journal during an interview in front of the historic Union Pacific Depot. “I don’t have any money or a plan every day — I just go having faith that there are a lot of amazing people in the world.”

Ho added that inspiration for her journey came from conversations with people that society today has been marred by doubt and insecurity regarding trust and faith in humanity.

“People would tell me that the world is dangerous, don’t trust people,” Ho said. “I want to show the world that there are actually a lot of wonderful people we just have to trust more and have faith. Everyday I share stories about amazing people that would host me, offer me food and accommodations, and show that it is easy to make friends if you go and try.”

Ho started her cross-country trek in Miami, Florida, a little over six months ago. Before heading west, Ho went north to New York City, New York. She would like to reach her final destination of Portland, Oregon, by Oct. 22.

According to her website, yaniseho.com , 9-year-old Ho started pondering the meaning of life — dreaming about total freedom and imagining herself running through a wild meadow alongside scampering horses.

Ho told the Journal that turning her dream into a reality was significantly hampered by the life she was able to live in the hard, urban city of Hong Kong.

“In Hong Kong, everywhere you are surrounded by just too many people,” Ho said. “You are never able to really interact with each individual.”

She continued, “Hong Kong is a very cosmopolitan city. With all the high-rise buildings and pollution, I wasn’t able to sleep all throughout my childhood. I was very weak and very sick, but I knew once I got out of the city I would be OK. I just knew.”

So at age 15, Ho asked her parents if she could leave the country for a couple of weeks. Her destination?

New Zealand.

“I picked New Zealand and the first day I was there I was able to sleep,” Ho said. “Ever since then, I was healthy. But because I decided to leave I felt that freedom that I had always wished to have. I wanted to be able to run and run and run kind of like Forrest Gump with no end in sight. This is pretty much what I am doing now because I wanted to do that as a child.”

At 16, Ho studied abroad in Rome, Italy, where she was “adopted” into an Italian family, according to her website. At 17, she started college in Washington state, then moved to California at age 18. At 20 years old, she backpacked across Central America and Europe for six months before moving to New York, Canada, and back to Hong Kong. At age 21, she created #TheBladress project.

“I actually started rollerblading two years ago and that was my first time ever,” Ho said. “I had the idea of going across the country, so I picked up my first pair of rollerblades, flew to Canada to learn full time how to rollerblade and I had multiple scars on my body because I pushed it really hard. I wanted to do this very badly. I had 10 stitches on my head and the doctors told me not to rollerblade for at least two weeks. But the next day I was up and about rollerblading.”

In 2016, Ho began her mission by rollerblading 600 miles from Savannah, Georgia, to Miami, Florida, over 19 days without money.

“It was a huge success so I promised people that I would come back to visit,” Ho said. “That is why I started this journey in Miami.”

Ho said her nickname The Bladress not only identifies her as a female rollerblader but is also a symbol of hope for other women in the world.

“There is a female empowerment message behind it,” she said. “I want to show people that if you dream it, you can do anything you want to — it doesn’t matter what gender you are.”

Furthermore, Ho created the #TheBladress Scholarship, through the charity One Girl Can, to raise funds for girls’ education in Kenya and Uganda. So far, the campaign has raised over $22,000. Those interested in contributing are encouraged to visit bit.ly/2xObDBd.

“This scholarship is to fund girls secondary education in Kenya and Uganda because a lot of times secondary schools are not necessarily free or mandatory,” Ho said. “Many of the people who live in rural areas and come from low-income families can’t afford going to school. These kids end up getting married or have to work at a very young age. This scholarship makes sure girls get a chance to go to school instead of being forced to get married.”

Along her journey, Ho travels with a 40-pound backpack that holds a 3-liter water pouch, some clothes, her phone and charger, and a tent and sleeping bag that, remarkably, she has never had to use.

“So far, every day I have managed to find somebody to host me,” Ho said. “It just works out. I don’t worry about finding a place to stay or meal to eat — the right people always come to me. I don’t ask for anything. If I don’t know where to go I will go into a restaurant or bar and follow my heart and instinct to go to the right place.”

Ho uses the same boots for her rollerblades but has used four sets of wheels that she swaps out about every 700 miles. On average, she blades about 30 miles a day, topping out at 48 miles on one occasion.

Ho said she decided to rollerblade because a bike would be too fast and walking would be too slow for her mission of stopping and talking to as many people as she can along the way.

“I love the idea because it’s very unique,” Ho said about her decision to rollerblade. “My skates become a part of my body — they go through whatever I have go through, like, ups and downs literally.”

Though Ho is female, small in stature and only 23 years old, she said she has not once felt scared or intimidated along her way. Her travels have seen her stay with people from all walks of life. These different experiences have further cemented the overall message of her mission, in that she wants people to love and trust their fellow human counterparts a little more.

“Six months on the road, every day I have met amazing people,” Ho said. “People are very positive and support what I do. I have stayed with people from all walks of life, single moms to single dads to families or couples, people of different ethnicities and backgrounds — everything you can think of.

She continued, “I really believe that the world is a reflection of who you are so if you are nice to people they will likely be nice to you and if you trust them they will trust you back. It really doesn’t matter what background you are how big or small or what gender you are.”

Those interested in following Ho along the remainder of her journey or hearing any of the stories she has documented along the way are encouraged to visit her website as well as her Instagram, which has the username Yaniseho , or by visiting facebook.com/TheBladress .

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Information from: Idaho State Journal, http://www.journalnet.com

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