Last week I wrote about trying to avoid wishing away time by wanting to be somewhere else. I have slowly grown to find a reasonable level of contentment in London, buoyed by once more being surrounded by loved ones and the comforts of city life.
Today my mind is on fear and excuses - some the biggest barriers (for me, at least) to personal happiness. In the past I can pinpoint the moments in my life where opportunity has come calling and I have either seized it, or let it pass me by. The times when I have done the former have been those which have shaped me as a person and led to greater fulfillment, and the latter are those which I regret. Opportunity comes in many forms, and often represents a big change; a shift to a lack of stability. My psyche certainly, and I would imagine most people's, does not readily accept change - a move away from the comfortable and the known, into the murky depths of uncertainty. While this can be terrifying, it's also at the very heart of living an adventurous life. Seizing upon opportunities to escape routine and to broaden horizons is what adventure is all about - to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield! Pushing personal limits and seeing what we are capable of. It is possible, of course, to make opportunity for ourselves by luck, judgement, skill and determination. But it is equally important to recognise that opportunity when it comes along, self-made or out of the blue. It is crucial to think beyond the initial fears, excuses and cop-outs.
When Rob Lilwall asked me to walk across China with him my head was immediately full of 'reasons' why I shouldn't go. I was exhausted from just having cycling 14,000 miles. I had no money! I had no time. I should get a real job. I had a loving and patient (read: long-suffering) girlfriend waiting for me at home. I had better and more important things to be doing. Of course, once I thought about this, once I REALLY thought about this, I quickly established these were not 'reasons' (at least most of them weren't) - these were excuses. In fact this opportunity represented everything I was passionate about - an amazing adventure, exploring China, challenging myself beyond my known limits, learning from an experienced adventurer and storyteller such as Rob, and making a TV show (for National Geographic!) The easy option was to return to London and hope something more comfortable came along, with 'better' timing, but that's not how it works. I said yes to the expedition. It was tough - the conditions made it extremely difficult to film, and the trekking was relentless. I had to leave behind my girlfriend, friends and home comforts once more. But it was absolutely worth it, the hardships perhaps most of all, and I have benefitted in a whole host of ways.
All this to say...opportunity has come knocking once again. Sitting in my room in London I received a tantalisingly sparse email from Alastair Humphreys. It read:
Hypothetically speaking, would you be interested in another long walk?! 6-8 weeks. Desert. Pulling a cart. Nov-Dec. Home for Xmas..."
Al wanted to cross the Empty Quarter desert on the Arabian Peninsula on foot. 1000 miles from Salalah on the south coast of Oman to Dubai, the glitzy megacity in the United Arab Emirates. 6 weeks of pulling a cart with 43 days of food supplies and up to two weeks of water at a time, and following in the footsteps of one of his (and my) travelling heroes, Wilfred Thesiger.
There were hundreds of reasons not to go.
We leave in just over a week!
I'll post more details about the expedition before we depart. We'll be filming the journey extensively to make a documentary upon our return. Check out this trailer Al has made with the footage we've shot so far: