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It’s been a tough few days. Regardless of whether there are people around, making a decision to leave something you’ve worked incredibly hard on is a lonely one. I had to make a call based on health and happiness; not taking into account anyone or anything else.
If I’ve learned anything these past few years it’s that the biggest decisions have to be made independently: we have to look after ourselves first otherwise we’re no good to others. Usually I’m focused on the positive side of that message; encouraging others (as well as motivating myself) to find the strength to make a decision that propels them forwards in life, regardless of external pressures. My latest move isn’t necessarily forwards, but it’s not backwards either. I’ve just skipped sideways, gingerly, into a new lane.
Closing off all other factors meant that I honestly had no concerns about how my pulling out of this expedition would be judged by others, so I’ve been blown away by the emails and messages filling up my email and bookface (yes, bookface). I’m really touched by the support; what a timely reminder that there are friends everywhere - a quiet safety net bound together just in case one falls. Thank you everybody who has taken the chance to write and offer some kind words and opinions, it means a great deal.
I write a lot about post-expedition depression - or, more accurately, blues - and as yet I’m unsure how this little scenario is going to phase out. It’s new ground, having to reset oneself from not reaching an original goal and I’ll admit, I’m feeling a little dizzy. This journey hasn’t turned out how I hoped but I’m fully at peace with my decision to stop. I think the aftermath would have been much harder had I tried to continue to Paris and failed, or even made it having had a miserable final two weeks. It’s really healthy to have your priorities tested now and then and ultimately I’ve made the right decision and can do no better than that, so with this in mind I actually think there will be minimal blues this time around.
I’ve spent the last day with my good friend Alex Flynn - whose own physical difficulties really put EVERYTHING into perspective (please click his name to be awed by everything Alex is achieving) - and to have the company of someone who immediately sees the full picture and can be a friend regardless, that’s special.
I’ll be heading back to the UK in the next couple of days to rest up, see the people most important to me, then start getting creative. There’s another book up my sleeve (I’m on the Cote d’Azur right now so I have small sleeves, which I guess means the book is nearby) and some ideas brewing for new projects. And of course, as always, the Summer is an excellent time to spread a little Say Yes More love.
For now though, I’ll leave you with a picture I took on the penultimate evening of this expedition. Having reached the 1124m Col de Toutes Aures I’d been riding downhill for only about three miles of what turned out to be a 35 mile descent and saw this cyclist crawling uphill. I felt so much for the guy, knowing he still had quite the climb ahead of him, but I had no idea what he’d already accomplished further down the road until I’d seen it for myself. Perhaps that’s a good way to finish this chapter.
Signing out for now, I’m going to give all this online stuff a break for a bit so I can recalibrate. Thanks everyone for your support.
Well, I guess something like this was going to come along at some point. This expedition is over: early. For me, at least.
After a delightful night in a cave I was rewarded with a largely easy descent into Nice. 35 of the 55 miles or so yesterday were downhill through tight gorges before the valley levelled out on approach to the sea. 55 miles left me empty, zombie-like, ready for pasture. It’s not pain that’s the problem, it’s a lack of energy, so dangerous on these roads occupied by speeding metal tins. I’m on my toes no longer.
I’d like to report something dramatic, like being attacked by a wild animal or a bad case of altitude sickness at sea level. Or that I dismounted at high speed when descending from the highest peak in the Alps, but I didn’t. The ElliptiGO has proved itself at speeds of 50kmph + and the only time I’ve come off my stride of the last two months was during an expected dusk encounter with some very slippy cow poo in central Germany. Very slippy.
I could go on, inventing hypotheticals that might spell the end of an expedition that has been almost a year in the making, but I’ll get to the point. I jarred my back carrying my ElliptiGO down some narrow, slippy (there we are again) steps in Zurich, and quite simply I need to rest it now before longer term damage is risked.
Sometimes you have to make a tough decision, one that impacts on others, and the only way to react is from the gut. This is not a call for the head or heart to make. It’s just health; my body has a lot more it needs to do to risk further injury at this stage.
I’m frustrated and upset to have had to make this call, but it’s not the end of the world. The whole concept of this journey - and the Say Yes More philosophy - is to make the most of moments and situations whether they’re positive or negative, and now the important thing is to get behind Squash these next two weeks.
She’ll continue this journey, of course. The team behind the Go Trek are putting together a plan that will ensure she has company for much of the way from Nice to Paris and all I can ask is that anyone who has been following this journey continues to support Squash all the way to the French capital. She’s on for a world record distance on an ElliptiGO and although she makes these distances look easy, riding all day every day takes more than just sheer fitness. A little support from afar wouldn’t go amiss.
So, before I say cheerio and pop off to get some rest, here are the positives I take from the last seven weeks and (almost) 2000 miles.
1. This ElliptiGO journey been another life-affirming experience. Seeing new things and meeting some quite outstanding, generous, kind, intimidating-in-a-good-way people. This is what travel is all about.
2. Say Yes More. It’s more than just an idea, it’s something we’ve talked about to everyone we’ve met en route and it’s caught on. From Chris and his team in Holland who ran over 400km in 32 hours, to Arnoud Van Veltzen’s breathtaking ElliptiGO climbs and Anthony Ingles sending a photo of himself in a ginger wig, next to a ginger ElliptiGO and Burley Trailer, his new set-up in preparation for a length-of-Thames ElliptiGO ride. Wow, so many people, so much good done.
3. CoppaFeel! We’re still aiming for the £3000 total and to date we’ve raised close to £2000 in 2000 miles - donate here!. In addition to this 10% of all GoTrek t-shirt sales goes to the charity - you can get yours here!
4. The journey still counts towards Expedition1000, thank goodness! Only 17 journeys of 1000 miles or more to go!
5. The ElliptiGO itself. Before I slipped on that Swiss step I was at my all-time fittest. Some phenomenal athletes have stepped onto an ElliptiGO for the first time and returned after 200 metres with sweat dripping and a new found respect for what Squash and I have been doing. We met a man with two double-hip replacements who can barely walk, yet he ElliptiGOs everyday. After just a week of this journey our between-expedition lbs were gone, bodies were slimmer and more toned, we were ready to be Duracell bunnies and continued as such. I’ll ElliptiGO for the rest of my life and with that in mind, one day I will reach 3000 miles!
Chris after running quite a long way around a lake in Holland
Tony, from Milton Keynes, isn’t naturally ginger
We’re raising funds for CoppaFeel!’s brilliantly creative ways to raise pre-detection levels of breast cancer. Please donate a couple of pennies if you enjoyed this blog.
And here’s our official Go Trek website, for the full background.
This has become a familiar routine but the joy never wears off. A knock each day from the postman, a slow accumulation of little gear piles in the corner of my room: electronics, camping gear, food, personal, miscellaneous.
Yes, expedition time is approaching and slowly loose ends are being bound together like frayed rope-ends being cured by a….hold on! I haven’t packed a lighter yet.
During my first two adventure projects I got a little carried away by the sudden realisation that if I had a cool project it meant I could blag free stuff. Seriously, someone even sent me a remote control car because I managed to convince them that it would help me skateboard across Australia.
But those times are gone. The glee I now feel when receiving a sponsored product is akin to placing one of the final pieces into a nearly completed jigsaw puzzle. Almost everything I travel with is necessary. An ElliptiGO is about 30% harder to power than a bicycle, so add a trailer full of gear behind and there’s a challenge on the cards. Keeping things light is essential.
Each day next week, starting on Monday, I’ll be sharing ideas on how to make your expedition happen, from deciding what you need to obtaining sponsorship, getting over the inevitable rejection from some potential partners and also ensuring that you do a good job for those who have chosen to support you.
On April 30th myself & Squash Falconer set off from Liverpool on our ElliptiGO elliptical trainers with 3000 miles of road and 5 European countries ahead of us.
We’re encouraging people to come and join us on the road, spread the word, set up events to get people on our ElliptiGOs at the same time as helping us raise thousands for CoppaFeel!’s efforts towards breast cancer awareness and pre-detection.
If you know anyone on the route who might be willing to host us, have Squash and I deliver an entertaining and motivating talk, get friends out to ride with us for a brief while, or just to simply spread the word, please let us know.
The days/ nights in bold capitals below are the ones where we’re looking for someone to set up an event in the evening. And of course, if you’d like to join us for a day or just a few hours, this’ll give you an idea of where we will be.
Tue 30 April - Liverpool to Nantwich
Wed 1 May - Nantwich to Derby
Thu 2 May - SOMEWHERE BETWEEN LEICESTER & NORTHAMPTON
Fri 3 May - Milton Keynes (event @ 7pm)
Sat 4 May - WE’D LIKE TO HOLD A LONDON EVENT
Sun 5 May - Hyde Park, 3pm
6 May - Brighton
7 May - SOMEWHERE IN KENT
8 May - Gravesend, 5pm
9 May - BETWEEN CHELMSFORD & IPSWICH
10 May - Harwich to Rotterdam ferry
Two days ago I wrote a very grumpy post about the quality of an article in the UK Metro newspaper. The article was bouncy, pleasant and very nice about our recently completed expedition, swimming down the Missouri.
I’ve had a few messages since saying I should be grateful for any media coverage, but I couldn’t disagree more.
The article in the Metro wasn’t in any way negative and I’m delighted that someone picked the story up and ran it, I’m just disappointed in how it was done. I understand that those who know me may have felt excitement or pride to see the coverage. I know that perhaps a few out there who I’ve never met will have thought, ‘good on him.’ Despite all of this, it simply wasn’t good enough.
I don’t do what I do for plaudits. Just because on occasion I’ve managed to achieve something original shouldn’t be construed as an attempt to gain respect or admiration. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
I’m as normal or as crazy as anyone, I do what I do because I love it. My adventures are a result of a number of life decisions, I’m able to sate most of the natural urges I have and compliment any creative abilities I’ve been given through adventure. This is why I do it, not to have an article now and then confirm why I should have a big head.
I know the value of what I do. I also know that because so far I’ve actively turned down opportunities that could have raised my profile and created celebrity or fame that I compromise the full potential of my actions. But I’m okay with that because I’m not compromising myself at the same time.
Perhaps one day I’ll be respected because I stuck to my guns, rather than swimming my way into a headline alliteration. Either way, I’ll not change my values. We need to raise the bar on everything; our choices, how we spend our time, our ambition, media content. Comfort kills ambition.
We have the power to make choices. I’m never going to agree with an article, news piece or tv programme being packaged in consumer-friendly bitesize chunks simply because we have no more faith in humans having a half-decent attention span. I will make no jokes here about my tiny package.
My adventures and my attitude have and continue to have the ingredients to pass on a mild eureka moment to others and the motivation (and tools) to take ones dreams and start living them. The expeditions themselves also serve as a lovely conduit to raise money for good causes. Recently these efforts I’ve been focused on CoppaFeel!, the breast cancer awareness charity set up by my friend Kris after she was diagnosed at the age of 23. In the face of seeing her own life drastically shortened she decided to prevent the same happening to others.
I enjoy raising money for charity. It’s not my bread and butter and it’s not the reason that I do what I do, but by default if I can raise some awareness and even funds for a cause I believe in, then I will.
If I were famous, if I had an article about me every single day in the Metro, I’d raise more money. As it is I have maybe one article a year, and if it’s written like the one that was published yesterday it is pretty close to worthless in terms of conveying any decent message.
So why don’t I pursue fame? Because I’d hate myself if I did.
Every decision I make in life comes from my heart. I will do something if I feel it develops me and will be fun at the same time. I want to be happy and that means honouring my own values and reducing stresses. I have turned down television companies who wanted to follow me paddling down a river because they thought it would only be interesting to the public if I wrestled an alligator or two. I laughed at them.
I’m not arguing that I’d make a great TV presenter, I just think a journey down the river over several months IS an interesting, educational story. I experience so much on my trips that they can’t fail to make good stories if they’re told well, but if they don’t involve an accident (even that doesn’t work sometimes), a huge struggle or a large set of teeth then it isn’t fit for public consumption.
What about the pure, relatable story of someone just choosing to live life to the full without being motivated by a sob story or god-given life challenge or near-death experience? What about living every moment? What about taking life by the scruff of the neck for no reason other than because we’re alive? What about grasping everything the world has to offer rather than living the same year 80 times and calling it life? Our society is incessantly missing the point.
I appreciate all the well wishes and congratulations. My team deserve them just as much as I (indeed, I wouldn’t have made it without them, period) and they didn’t get a mention. The accumulative effort put in by everyone involved in this project deserved more than £5000 in donations and this is partly down to the lack of journalism involved in mainstream journalism. Our PR campaign certainly was not weak and as self-critical as I am we could have done little more.
As begrudging as I am about being called a Daredevil I would have been content with the Metro article had it mentioned CoppaFeel! and my team, but it didn’t. Someone took a press release, removed everything important and copied and pasted the rest. As with everything, regardless of situation unless we take our work and do it to the best of our ability we’re wasting our time and lying to ourselves. Sub-standard gets us nowhere.
'That's just how it is,' I've heard time and time again in the last two days. Unquestionably, but I don't buy it, I expect more. We have become so accustomed to accepting less than what we deserve that we've stopped caring. As individuals. As communities. As nations. If we allow our primary news sources to administer fluff every day we slowly require nothing of substance and become lazily misinformed and happy with it. We shouldn't be afraid to demand more.
All I ask from journalists is that they employ a little more thought into what they share with the world. I understand that the Metro is a city paper designed to entertain more than educate, but it’s not The Sun either. They should strive to be better, intelligent people should be tested on a morning commute. A great deal of my frustration comes down to 1) that they missed the point of the story, which instantly means most of the readers do too, and 2) that this was the only coverage of the journey in the UK, where other publications are probably better placed to provide a bit more meat to their news
I have no right to expect coverage of my actions, but if it comes I’d rather some effort was put into it. Those with a voice in our world have a responsibility to do their job well. Let’s not accept our education in the form of punchlines, life is not a gimmick.
Other reading material on this matter: