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Maria Rasouli, Escape Founder tells her story and why she created Escape Bicycle Tours and Rentals in Ottawa

Maria Rasouli

Escape Founder and your tour operator

I grew up in a small village in the north of Iran, near the Caspian Sea. My greatest joy was riding my bicycle every day after school with my best friend, Eli, balanced on my handlebars. We’d travel past the young men playing soccer, through the open fields, and into the forest on the edge of village.

I’d pedal as fast as possible for the thrill of the wind in our faces. We’d often fall in the fields, or on the dirt paths, laughing hysterically at how ridiculous we looked. Exploring the world on my bicycle was my childhood definition of freedom. I was happiest outside in nature — visiting the trees, lying in the grass, and feeling the sun on my face.

Around the age of eleven everything changed. One day, Eli and I were slowed down behind a group of young male soccer players who were walking on the path towards the field. I could not keep the bicycle balanced. We both fell off and started laughing at ourselves, at which point an older man approached us and looked Eli in the eye. With a very kind paternal voice, he told her

“My daughter, you are a grown up woman. Getting on a bicycle in a skirt is inappropriate, especially around these young men. Go home and wear proper clothing. The two of you are grown up women and should not be on a bicycle.” 

We went home and told our parents, in search of sympathy. Instead, they told us to stop bicycling around, as we needed to begin behaving in a more ‘proper’ and ‘appropriate’ way for women. My bicycle was given to my younger brother and I was left with a yearning for the next 13 years.

I threw myself into school, replacing the physical freedom of my bicycle with the freedom found inside books. Reading became my escape. I excelled in school and university. After a lot of hard work, I received a scholarship from Carleton University in 2002 for my Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology.

The first order of business for me was bicycling – which I did on Day One, using a colleague’s bicycle. I made quite a comical sight – as it was a man’s bicycle and he was a foot taller than me! I didn’t care. Words cannot describe how I felt the moment I got on that bicycle — what a rush of excitement, freedom, and joy!

On the day I was told to stop bicycling, I could never have imagined that one day I would be free to bicycle again in my beautiful home, Canada. I started Escape Bicycle Tours in 2015 to share with you the joy and freedom of bicycling in nature. Escape Bicycle Tours is about unwinding from our daily hectic pace. It’s about celebrating our freedom to explore and connect with our Canadian heritage, magnificent nature, history, and culture on our bicycles!

Plan your next Escape with us for a few hours, one day or a couple of days, and discover some magnificent ‘hidden gems’ in the Ottawa and Gatineau regions. Together, we’ll explore beautiful urban and rural landscapes, museums, farms, great local cafes, and bakeries at a leisurely pace.

It will be fun! Plenty of fun!

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