Pacific Grove local’s film shows the power of kindness – Monterey Herald

Pacific Grove resident Daniel Troia slept in unconventional places.

Some of the most unusual include baseball dugouts, a truck stop bathroom in Idaho, a giant redwood tree in northern California, and a not-so-abandoned barn where he was woken up by goats chewing on his tent. .

But for seven months in 2018, finding a place to sleep at night was a challenge as Troia relied solely on the kindness of strangers to feed, support and sometimes shelter him as he cycled from Pacific Grove to New York and back.

Troia has documented her journey and will premiere her award-winning film, “We Are All in This Together,” at the Golden State Theater on June 18.

“I wanted to capture candid and authentic reactions from people and interactions,” he said. “So when someone was helping me…I was like, ‘Hey, do you have a story about someone helping you when you really needed it?’ And so, I started collecting these stories through candid conversations.

Troia, 36, grew up in Pacific Grove and graduated with an exercise science degree from CSU Monterey Bay in 2014. He currently works as a trainer at a physical therapy clinic and taught himself how to film and ascend.

The idea for the documentary came to him in 2014 while biking from Portland, Oregon, to Monterey and running out of food and money. He used a sign similar to the one he used in his movie, which read, “Cycling across the country, out of food. Everything helps. One day a homeless man used his food stamps to buy a sandwich in Troia.

“It was the moment that inspired me. It was so impactful for me,” Troia said. “I remember thinking, ‘Man, I wish I could capture this moment and share it with the world.’ That’s what inspired the film, this random kindness of the man who was homeless.

So, in May 2018, Troia set out to find out how far the kindness of strangers could take him. He cycled 7,000 miles through 23 states and quickly discovered that it was those experiencing poverty, homelessness or hardship who were most willing to help him.

Six months later, physically and emotionally exhausted, Troia was sitting on the side of the road when a homeless man approached him with a bag of groceries. Troia hadn’t asked the man for anything but thinks that because the stranger understood what it’s like to go through tough times, he was ready to help in any way he could.

“I was very privileged to be able to do this and to choose to do it. But there are people who don’t have a choice,” he said. Trying to find a place to bathe…trying to find a place to sleep…Never having my own space, never really had a place to go…Stressful of not having enough food. It just makes me think of the people who go through this. It’s their real life.

Life on the road was tough. Troia said he’d outrun a tornado in Kansas and a snowstorm in the mountains of Montana, crossed the Rocky Mountains twice, fought hypothermia during 13-degree nights and hiked 84 miles through the desert of Large pelvis severely dehydrated.

In those moments – when Troia was exhausted, hungry, cold, and ready to quit – it was the people who showed up in her life and were willing to help her that kept her going.

“Every two weeks, something really beautiful happened. There are people who have appeared in my life. It may not have seemed like much at all – it could have been a little interaction – but those moments were [what] kept me going and reminded me why I was doing this,” Troia said. “Even if someone didn’t have something to give me sometimes when someone smiled or recognized me or said ‘Have a nice day.’ It meant so much to me. These are the ones I wanted to continue for.

Troia said the experience changed him. What he took away the most from this trip was the importance of recognizing people and making them feel seen. He said that now, four years after his trip, he actively tries to make eye contact, ask people how they are and recognize them.

“Over time, I started to feel invisible there. It’s hard to put words to how you feel,” he said. There’s no one answer, but I think one thing everyone can do is if we don’t have anything to give, we can at least recognize people. that we regard them as human beings.

Troia finished editing the film two weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world and recently began showing the film at film festivals and to audiences. Her film screening at the Golden State Theater is in partnership with Gathering for Women, an organization that provides resources and support for homeless women. Tickets to the show are free, but attendees can donate cash to the women’s shelter.

The world is very different today than in 2018 and Troia knows it. But in a post-pandemic world, the importance of connection and solidarity is more important than ever, he said.

“There is more that brings us together than separates us,” Troia said. “I think everyone who sees the film will be able to identify with at least one person in particular. Whether it’s the lady who lost a son and was grieving or the person who helped me overcome drug addiction or the person who lost her husband to cancer. There are a lot of people who come forward and I think we can all relate to at least one person in the film.

You can reserve your ticket for the June 18 screening at goldenstatetheatre.com/events or at weareallinthistogethermovie.com.

Pacific Grove resident Daniel Troia will premiere his film “We’re All in This Together” at the Golden State Theater on Saturday, June 18. The film follows his journey as he cycles across the country without food or money, relying solely on the kindness of strangers for support (Daniel Troia).

Gladys T. Hensley