"The first great adventure of the new millennium." —Sir Ranulph Fiennes
"His manner is reminiscent of the great tradition of British explorers." —Guardian
Alastair Humphreys spent four years traveling around the world on his bicycle, a journey that covered 46,000 miles and five continents. During his trip he gave motivational talks and received thousands of emails to his website in which people asked what kept him going through the low-points on his journey. Collected here are the sources of Alastair’s… See more details below
Alastair Humphreys spent four years traveling around the world on his bicycle, a journey that covered 46,000 miles and five continents. During his trip he gave motivational talks and received thousands of emails to his website in which people asked what kept him going through the low-points on his journey. Collected here are the sources of Alastair’s inspiration, including affirming quotes, insights, and unique photographs. As this inspirational resource shows, the lessons he learned while on the road can be applied to any goal in life.
"The first great adventure of the new millennium." —Sir Ranulph Fiennes
"His manner is reminiscent of the great tradition of British explorers." —Guardian
You Want to do What?
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE WITH YOUR LIFE? HOW DO YOU WANT TO LIVE YOUR LIFE? WHAT DO YOU WANT WRITTEN ON YOUR GRAVESTONE?
Nothing struck me as right. Nothing rang true. It all seemed like a compromise. The routes expected of me, the conventional procession towards a secure job, a sensible pension, a respectable-sized gravestone - the roads to 'success' - just did not appeal to me. It is easy to slip into roles that bear little resemblance to how we really wanted our lives to pan out.
Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. It's not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary ...
Impossible is nothing.
I did not want to be jolted with the realisation - years from now, while waiting one day in the rain for a bus - that life had passed me by. And so, tentatively at first, I began questioning things, asking myself what I really wanted.
I realised that if we want to buck the trend, to forge our own paths, and not to just do what is expected of us, we need to summon up the nerve to do what we really dream of doing - to think big - and to begin making the very most of our potential, our opportunities, our lives.
It was time to choose my road. I chose to leave everything that I was familiar with, everything that I knew and loved and enjoyed. I chose to leave my friends and family and girlfriend and country. I decided to let go of everything that makes a life normal, secure and conventionally happy. It is a selfish, ungrateful risk to give up all that makes you happy in the hope that you can find better. You risk not finding it. You risk finding it, and then never being satisfied again, yearning always for more. But I was looking for experiences that nothing - not the dimming light of old age nor financial ruin - could take away from me. It was uncertain travel that held an appeal, a luring magic, for me. The intoxicating release from conventional bonds, a chance for self-testing and self-discovery, and the rushing joy of being alive that I rarely felt at home. I chose to leave everything behind; the wasted opportunities, the shiny things I had spent money on, the ironing board and the expectations of conventional living, the race to get a bigger house, bigger car, bigger gravestone. I would have no home, no appointments, no deadlines, no career, no beautiful possessions, no weekend hobbies, no mortgage, no bills, no commute. I would have everything I wanted.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE WITH YOUR LIFE?
I want to make the most of my potential and my opportunities.
HOW DO YOU WANT TO LIVE YOUR LIFE?
Optimistically, ambitiously, generously and with good humour.
WHAT DO YOU WANT WRITTEN ON YOUR GRAVESTONE?
"He lived a good, full and worthwhile life."
DREAM EXTRAVAGANT DREAMS
At first I thought that I would like to cycle to India. I knew that that was possible; plenty of people had done it. But, looking at my atlas, it seemed a shame to stop at India. I would be halfway to Australia by then. I might as well keep going.
PUSH AN IDEA TO THE LIMITS
Why not ride as far as it is possible to ride, to keep going until I arrived back where I began? Why not ride all the way around the planet? The idea seemed absurd. The idea became exciting.
LEGWORK AND PLANNING ARE NEEDED TO ACTIVATE A DREAM
But was it possible? How far was it? How long would it take? What should I take with me? The months before departure were exciting. I learnt so much. A lot of hard work went into getting ready to begin. I was inspired by life again. I absorbed book after book about great journeys and adventures and the men and women who had pulled them off. I marvelled at their accomplishments and wondered whether I could do anything remotely similar. There was only one way I would ever know.
DREAM BIG WITH HEART AND SOUL
I had my dream: to undertake an outrageous journey. I knew that I might well fail, but I also knew that aiming ridiculously high meant that I was likely to end up achieving more than if I had set a realistic and achievable target. There is something that you have always dreamed of doing. It's time to be bold, time to commit yourself to that dream.
YOUR DREAM CAN BE ANYTHING YOU WANT. YOU JUST HAVE TO OWN IT, GUARD IT PRECIOUSLY AND TAKE THE NECESSARY STEPS TO LIVE IT FOR YOURSELF
What visionary dared to dream of building the Great Pyramids? Or conceived the idea of the Monastery at Petra?
BE REASSURED: SETTING YOURSELF, AND ACCOMPLISHING, OUTRAGEOUS GOALS BECOMES A HABIT
I was fortunate enough to attain my goal. Today, the realisation of that dream defines who I am, even when I attempt to move on to new things. It has shifted me to a different level than I was on before I began. People expect more of me now. I expect more of myself. More seems possible. The same will be true for you once you take the decision to kick-start your ambition.
YOURS IS THE WORLD
Imagine you are free. Totally free. Unfettered by commitments, finances, physique, intellect, talent, age, education and - critically - by your own perception of your capabilities. Imagine now that you have only 70 years of life on the most astonishing, improbable, wonderful planet that ever existed. The clock is ticking. The world is all before you. Go on, take whatever you want. Yours is the Earth, and everything that's in it. This is a supermarket sweep of infinite scope. It's all yours. What do you want? You are limited only by your imagination.
I am convinced that we consistently underestimate our capacities and our capabilities. We settle too low. We strive for what we know we can achieve. What's the point of that? Far better to be wildly ambitious, to set ourselves outrageous goals, and through that accomplish far more than we dared believe possible. We should define our passions, define our goals, then set about achieving them.CHAPTER 2
Just do it
MAKE IT HARDER TO IGNORE YOUR DREAM THAN TO OVERCOME THE RISKS AND OBSTACLES INVOLVED. WHAT DIFFICULTIES DO YOU NEED TO OVERCOME IN ORDER TO BEGIN?
I often receive emails from people contemplating an expedition, a journey, or a change of lifestyle. They are looking for advice, for the comforting blanket of knowledge that, ironically, you can only acquire once you have begun, yet only seek beforehand. But most of all they are looking, consciously or sub-consciously, for one thing. They are looking for impetus.
Grab a pencil, grab a piece of paper. Draw a line down the middle. In one column make a list of all the reasons why you should begin taking steps to pursue your outrageous goal today. In the other column make a list of all the reasons not to bother and just to carry on with things the way they are. I'll help you out: 'Too expensive.' 'Can't get time off work.' 'Mortgage.' 'It's not "sensible".' 'I can't leave Bobby [my cat/my partner/my budgie].' 'It's not good for my career path.' 'It will affect my pension plan.' 'Too much effort.' 'I will miss episodes of "Big Brother" ... Now, imagine you are 90 years old and on your last legs. (If you are already 90, well, congratulations! So imagine you're 100 instead.) Will you be pleased with these excuses to procrastinate and wriggle out of the biggest, most exciting chapter of your life when you're about to snuff it? Remember: he who dies with the most toys, still dies.
DO YOU BELIEVE YOUR EXCUSES
Ignoring all the demons in my head, climbing on the bike, and pedalling away from my front door was the hardest thing I have done. It took all my resolve to ignore the excuses.
WHAT DIFFICULTIES DO YOU NEED TO OVERCOME IN ORDER TO BEGIN?
I was in a happy relationship, I had a good job waiting for me, I had all my friends and family in England. Convincing myself that there could be something even better waiting for me out there, and that I would regret it if I did not look for it, was very difficult.
The start of my ride round the world was tough to persevere through. I was engulfed in so much doubt that it was difficult not to concede to those telling me I ought to limit my plans. What I tried to always concentrate on during the difficult times was the memory of why I began the trip in the first place, how my life was before I began, how I had wanted it to change and what awaited me if I persevered ... I had to ensure that I did not lose sight of all that.
Let's then think of ways to overcome all the negativity and excuses of that second column and focus on all the positive reasons for why you will not regret beginning to do what you really want to do with your life.
Beginning is undeniably hard. What the people who get in touch with me really want is to be given courage and reassurance, and for me to whisk away their carpet of complacency, to blast the starter's pistol, to put my boot squarely against their backs and shove them over the cliff edge that marks the point of no return. Reassurance, nerve and a boot in the back. I certainly had wished that there was somebody to do the same for me as my departure date loomed. Leaving behind a happy, comfortable life for one brim full of uncertainties and hardships was difficult. But I forced myself to begin, because I did not want to look back later in life and lament not having had a go at it.
We need to overcome our inertia, to focus on the positives and all the possibilities that lie ahead. I needed only to get on my bike and ride. What small thing do you need to do in order to begin? Inertia, in life as in science, means that a body remains motionless until a force acts upon it. The larger the object, the more difficult it is to move it. So it is with life. The longer you have been stuck in your ways - doing the same things year in, year out, without questioning what you are doing, why you are doing it, and whether you wish to continue doing it - the harder it will be to get you moving. But, as you fight to overcome lethargy and doubt, lazy procrastination and fear, draw spirit from knowing that, in life as in science, once something builds up a good momentum it's hellish hard to stop it.
So, as you're struggling to get started (your devilish mind rolling out the excuses), be aware that beginning your journey is the hardest thing you'll ever do. However, if you can ignore them, ignore them and set off anyway, then you'll take some stopping!
YOU CAN'T IGNORE YOUR DREAM, CAN YOU?
Can you acknowledge, deep down, that you need to get on and do this thing? By all means look at the obstacles in your path, but look at them only with positive eyes that ask, "how am I going to get past this in order to get where I want to be?"CHAPTER 3
Quitting is Not an Option (But Failure is)
DOES A FEAR OF FAILING PREVENT YOU FROM BEGINNING THINGS? IF YOU QUIT, WHAT WILL YOU DO INSTEAD THAT IS MORE REWARDING?
Congratulations! You've overcome the pessimism and inertia. You're in motion. The hardest part is over. But getting out on the road and beginning the journey does not mean that the difficulties are over. Nothing worth doing is achieved lightly and there will be plenty of rough patches ahead. You need to begin to be able to balance a hunger for success with a sanguine, uninhibited approach to the possibility of failure.
DOES A FEAR OF FAILING PREVENT YOU BEGINNING?
A fear of failing and a fear of what others would think about my failure certainly motivated me in the first couple of years on the road. I am grateful, however, that it did not prevent me from beginning in the first place. I felt that, with a project such as this, it was better to have a go than not to try at all.
IF YOU QUIT, WHAT WILL YOU DO INSTEAD THAT IS MORE REWARDING?
This was my mantra when times were tough. I never did think of anything better. And so I never quit. I also had a rule that I was not allowed to pack it all in when I was cold, tired, sick, hungry, or at night. I did not want to jump recklessly into doing something I would regret as soon as I cheered up. A memory bank of previous experiences - the cerebral version of an athlete's 'muscle memory' - helps you to see things through, confident in the knowledge that if you've done it before, surely you can do it again. Unfortunately this means that the first, most difficult step into the unknown is made even harder by having no memory bank of prior experiences to help stiffen your resolve.
A difficulty of setting bold goals is that for much of your journey you will travel alone, alone in your head, with no scaffolding of prior experience to prop you up, no memory of a previous path to guide you, no support from friends and family who have no experience with which to help you. Some will tell you that you are mad, and nearly all will say, 'what is the use?' Despair and doubt will be your all -too-frequent travel companions.
This is why quitting is not an option. The road you have chosen will be onerous and the serpent in your mind will twist and turn you towards the primrose-lined easy alternative. You'll come up with all sorts of excuses that justify giving the whole nonsense up. However, if you can persevere through it all, you will be stronger for the next time. You will have your rewards. You just have to get through the first time.
Whilst I am adamant about the rewards that are earned if you learn to detest quitting, I do not think you should worry about failure. If you take on difficult challenges, you will fail at many, if not most, of them. Fear of failure is something that strongly motivates us not to give up. But the dread of failure must not be so strong that we hesitate to even begin a task for fear of failing it. Dreading defeat is too often responsible for people not even beginning something. This stifles daring and stops you taking on the challenge that, if successful, could be the making of you. Sure, you may fail, but so long as you fought hard you should not look back on that with remorse. With a determination to improve, or act differently perhaps, but not with regret. But if you do not even have a go, there will be nothing to show later except bitter grumbles of "would've, could've, should've".
The excitement of hatching your dream is just a memory now. The injection of energy you received by taking the first steps on the long walk towards your outrageous goal has long since ebbed. You have taken a sobering reality check of how much hard graft lies ahead of you. You have begun to doubt your ability or determination to see it through. You have even started to question whether it is even worth continuing. It is!
Step back through your memory to remember why you began this journey. Reflect on how excited you were to begin. You were excited because you knew well that the end result was important and alluring to you. Do not lose sight of that now.
Become comfortable in your mind that failing is not shameful; you must not let the fear of failure suffocate your desire to act. Remember how much you wanted this in the first place.CHAPTER 4
We Walk Alone
DO YOU BLAME OTHER PEOPLE FOR YOUR LIFE NOT BEING WHERE YOU WANT IT TO BE? OR ARE YOU WILLING TO TAKE THE RESPONSIBILITY AND OWNERSHIP FOR YOUR OUTRAGEOUS GOAL?
We all enjoy sitting back in a comfy armchair, pausing for a moment in complete contentment. These are times when we can look back on what we have done, and look forwards to all we would like to do. Times to think idealistically and set down the laws and standards by which we wish to live. To feel satisfied by things done well and seen through to their ends. To feel disappointed by the occasions we listened to our own excuses and took a decision that was easy and appealing at the time, but which rings hollow now.
We can think forward to events that lie ahead and hope we will undertake them the right way, not the easy way. It is not easy to act with dignity and humility, to exercise grace under pressure. Far too often it is simpler to be lazy or selfish or complacent. It is comforting, if futile, to pin the blame on others. So it is important to assess coldly that many of our failures are down to ourselves, and to come to terms with the fact that, if we are going to succeed at something, then we have to take action ourselves.
Throughout my journey ran the constant thread of the self -imposed rules I set myself, the standards by which my quest had to stand up to my own harsh self-scrutiny. In some ways my whole journey was strangely contrived and artificial, yet its difficulty sometimes felt even larger by being arbitrary and self-chosen. There were no prizes, awards, trophies or records at stake. My route and journey would be as hard or as easy, as long or as short as I chose to make it. I was competing only with myself. I had to set myself problems and then solve them. It is hard to motivate yourself to build a high brick wall when you know that you have then to climb over it. It is a strange person too, who bangs his head ever harder against that brick wall because he knows that the harder he bangs, the sweeter the stopping will feel.
The ride was important to me, to my future, to my self -confidence, to all the hard work I had gone through to get to this point. And yet, I was always wryly aware that it was only a bike ride. It didn't really matter.
Excerpted from Ten Lessons from the Road by Alastair Humphreys, Julia Dillon. Copyright © 2009 Alastair Humphreys. Excerpted by permission of Eye Books Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Alastair Humphreys is the author of Blue Mountains, Mood of Future Joys, and Thunder and Sunshine.
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