Beirut to Berlin

Beirut to Berlin: A motorcycle expedition to raise awareness for Lebanese mental health.

People in Beirut, myself included, are dealing with a trauma that cannot be adequately understood or processed. There is a social stigma that surrounds asking for help, and most of us in Lebanon, struggle to find the resources for emotional wellbeing that are affordable and socially acceptable.

An economic crisis hit Lebanon in 2019. The instability of the Lebanese Pound followed by its hyperinflation caused civil unrest and was complicated further by an unforgiving global pandemic.  Most carried on surviving until August 4, 2020, when the Beirut explosion took place, displacing over 300,000 people, injuring over 7000, and leaving at least 204 people dead. The landscape of needs in Lebanon has evolved dramatically over the last year, tensions and anxiety are increasing.

After the explosion, I, mostly intact, rushed to a devastated Beirut to rescue and assist friends and strangers alike, spending the few subsequent months recovering, cleaning, rebuilding, organizing and restoring the ruins of a collapsed city. While cooperating with different NGOs and local organizations, I worked to establish communication amongst the many teams in the field, from one household to another. I learned a lot from this experience, it gave me a purpose and a direction to support my country, and helped me to understand how a small organized group of people can make a significant difference. This has made me realize that there is a need for better resources aimed at alleviating deteriorating mental health crisis.  

The project:

Motorcycling has always been one of the ways I cope with stress,the feeling of fresh air and the possibility an open road represents. However, in the period right after the explosion, I endured a motorcycle accident resulting in several surgeries. During the recovery, I fought with past traumas. I recalled the loss of 15 years’ worth of my photography hard drives and filmmaking reels. I came to the realization of how important motorcycling, image capturing and sharing are to me for my sense of wellbeing. I reminisced about the profound connections formed with the individuals I’d come across in the field whilst rebuilding our city. Now that dust has settled, I want to take a trip to honor their work, revive the sense of civic contribution, and act upon what it can do for our feeling of hope for the future.

The recent months witnessed the complete suspension of our economy. Since most industries have been shut down, I’ve lost all means of income. My attempts to salvage and sell the remainder of my belongings to support this pursuit have failed. Instead, I decided to donate my most prized possession, my professional camera, to a group of university photography students in Beirut. I reckon they’ll have better stories to tell with their young and aspiring perspectives.

I have since dedicated my time to planning a solo overland motorcycle journey from Beirut to Berlin. These two cities have been unofficially linked for decades, both witnessing a very similar and paralleled past, as depicted in the film BerlinBeirut (2004) by Myrna Maakaron. Berlin has always nurtured Beirut’s brilliant minds.

Along this journey, I plan to interview people who have emigrated to better places, to shine a light on the challenges they faced when forced to leave their homes and document their stories in a series of photographs and short films. With my contribution, I seek to bring ease and inspire unity, for those who feel the most secluded or abandoned, be it from Lebanon or any other country. I hope to encourage people consumed by hopelessness and pain to start believing again that there is much to be done and a myriad of ways to do it, just as I have been influenced by the many stories I’ve heard.

In Berlin, I plan to establish a workshop of dedicated mental health professionals with the intention of creating meaningful connections with those who need it most, in liaison with local NGOs such as Embrace and the Institute for Development, Research, Advocacy and Applied Care (IDRAAC), eventually leading to seminars in Beirut.

The fund:

In order to better tell my story and those I plan to meet through the course of my journey, I ask for your help and support. A part of your contributions will allow me to acquire the equipment I need to make this quest possible. I’ll be traveling light, camping, eating, sleeping, and everything in between on the trails ~7000 km to the finish line!

I’ll need protective riding gear to cross the challenging terrain. Camping essentials will help me avoid hotels and keep the costs to a minimum. I’ll soon finish repairing my old trusty KTM 990 from her accident, she would need new tires, petrol, a navigation device and luggage to help me cross the continent.

To film, photograph and document, I need a compact camera, two lenses, a microphone, and film tools. Finally, to edit and put all of this together, I would need a laptop and a dependable hard drive.

All the remains of your donations will go directly to the people who still need it more, to better cope with their mental health conditions both at home and abroad.

This has been 7 months in the making, every step has been planned and the outcomes will be thoroughly accounted for with consistent updates and posts about the progress. In addition, a website is to be dedicated upon completion of the journey, once in Berlin.

Last but not least, I value the time you’ve taken to read about my story and motivation. I recognize that in these current uncertainties every dollar counts, and so your contributions, however big or small, are truly appreciated. I will ensure to share with you well-crafted storytelling and orchestrated imagery, with collaborations of our finest musicians and visual artists. I’m genuinely excited to launch this project.

From Beirut, with love.

Richard John
  • Sabine Haddad 
    • €20 
    • vor 1 T
  • Sally Lahoud 
    • €20 
    • vor 6 T
  • Nicky Nicky 
    • €20 
    • vor 7 T
  • Fady Mansour 
    • €100 
    • vor 9 T
  • Ioana Comat 
    • €100 
    • vor 10 T
Alle anzeigen


Richard John 
Hamburg, Deutschland
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