So after lots of planning, staring at screens, sending emails and generally living this trip 24/7, it's ready for an official launch! Woo hoo!
The first step is the creation of a facebook page, available to join here
On top of that the first video blog will be up in the next couple of days, and there should be some sponsorship news very soon. Thanks to everyone who's offered support so far, lets hope this is the start of something big! Keep your eyes and ears peeled for updates, press releases and generally just other exciting things regarding 'The Cycling Reporter'!
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/people/Leon-McCarron/701035225
JustGiving - http://www.justgiving.com/leonmccarron/
Here is a blog I wrote in the early hours of this morning – I just couldn't quite function well enough to post it then!
It's 3.26am – what are you doing right now? Tossing and turning sleeplessly because you can't stop thinking about adventure cycling touring? I thought not! No-one in their right mind is. Well, I am. I wish I wasn't actually, but I am, to the extent that I've decided to give up hope of sleep now and read something – inevitably, its something to do with my trip.
So what have I learned? Not a lot, but I have decided I definitely want Ortlieb panniers on my like, they look awesome! I think I've also learned that I need to switch off a bit, perhaps I'm overloading my brain with cycle-film-adventure info. Resolution – no more reading about such things just before bed! Best switch back to my trusty Raymond Chandler novels for my night-time literary fix. I have a day of work ahead, both paid work of the boring kind, and unpaid work of the exciting kind. More imminent however is a 2 hour session at the gym at 8 o'clock. Which is in four and a half hours. Oh Oh!
I will blog more soon on training though because it's a pretty important aspect of a trip like this – just how do you prepare to cycle thousands of miles across continents with such variable climates? A question for another day.
A quick word on inspiration, and an update on my progress. So I'm now officially raising money for UNICEF during my trip which is great news. UNICEF really are a superb organisation, doing great work for kids in developing countries that really need their help. It's gonna be a pleasure to fundraise for them along the way, so I'm pretty psyched about that - I get a t-shirt as well! Details of my Justgiving site (where you can donate) and links to UNICEF can be found on my Charity page here.
So, inspiration. That's a pretty big thing to blog about, but what a great thing it is! I reckon everyone gets inspired in different ways. There's the obvious sources, such as when you hear about people really pushing themselves to do amazing things - recent examples that I've followed are things like this and this (Sarah Outen rowing solo across the Indian Ocean) and this (an 18 year old cycling across Canada.) I also find regular inspiration in travel writing, from fantastic contemporary accounts by the likes of Alastair Humphreys and The Hungry Cyclist, to the absolutely legendary, my favourite being Ernest Shackleton. If you've never read his book 'South' about his failed expedition to Antartica, I can't recommend it enough, its such a testament some hardcore endurance! There's some good content on the BBC site about him here. As you can probably tell, he's a bit of a hero of mine. And he's Irish too, naturally!
Anyway, inspiration! I've been finding recently that I'm finding it in the oddest of people. I think it's because I'm so excited about this expedition that I'm perhaps more receptive to certain things, but watching someone in a coffee shop today spending hours perfecting a sketch in their notebook really had me impressed. I was (probably overly!) fascinated with the dedication she was showing. I could list a lot more examples of silly places where I've found inspiration recently, but I won't, because that would be dull for you. I think the point is I'm seeing the importance of dedication and endurance in all activities, even the planning side of this trip!
Perhaps some of you, like me, find your attention drops after a while, and whatever the activity you're doing suffers even if it's quite an enjoyable one. Well, I'm slowly learning that it's really worth it to push myself beyond my normal capacity for concentration, as the rewards will be greater. Hopefully that will be the case for the work I've put in this week. I'm hoping to begin the press releases, and essentially the 'grand unveiling' of my trip to the world at large, so I hope I've got everything organised. Watch this space!
Planning is well and truly under way, and as I gradually get the word out to my friends and family that I'm heading off on this expedition, a common (and fair) response is 'Why?' Alastair Humphreys compiled some famous responses to the 'why go expeditioning' question on his site recently (here) which ranged from Ranulph Fiennes' "to pay the bills," to Robert Swann's "to impress girls at parties." I think the question as to why anyone would want to sell up and cycle off into the sunset is always going to be very personal. Sure, it sounds quite romantic, and I'm banking on the fact that some of it will be! I'm not kidding myself though, its gonna be a long, tough slog for a lot of it. First off, let me tell you how I initially got attracted to the idea.
It all started with Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman. Now famous, their 'Long Way Round' expedition blew me at away. At the time I was a young impressionable teenager, and it just seemed like the coolest thing - 2 guys heading off round the world, having a laugh and a good old adventure. Sold. But, there was a problem. I had no money or resources to emulate them - plus, theyd already done it better than I ever could. So, what to do? Go less distance, on less complex machines, with less risk of course! 3 years later I had completed two trips - Short Way Round, and Short Way Round 2 (inventive naming, I know.) The first was a corner-cutting tour of the UK, the second took me and my good friend David from Northern Ireland to Germany for the World Cup.
Since then, I have had the urge to do it again, except further, and better. I want to travel and see the world, but in a way that is conscious of the planet and it's precarious state suffering under humankind's steady destruction of it. I don't want to cause unnecessary damage to the environment - in fact I would like to leave little or no footprint behind. Biking is the ultimate 'green' vehicle. This, combined with my love of filmmaking and my desire to make a documentary that gives a voice (however small) to the 'common man' so to speak, led me to where I am now. When I think about it like this, all the fear of leaving disappears (and believe me, sometimes I really feel the fear!) Giving up my job was easy. Moving out of my house was easy. Planning the adventure is great fun. Sure money always causes problems, but it's just money. I'm privileged to have been born into affluent Western society where we can follow our dreams. I'm not from a rich family, far from it, but I have the most supportive family in the world (especially my mum, aren't mums great!) and a bank who will lend me money for my hairbrained schemes.
I'm gonna miss some home comforts, I'm definately gonna miss my family, my friends, my wonderful girlfriend. But these opportunities are there to be grabbed, and the things that matter to us at home will still be there.
So, why? To feed my wanderlust, to make my film, to meet people from diverse cultures, to enjoy hospitality from strangers, to experience what there is on offer out there. Hopefully I can raise money for my chosen charity along the way and help in some small way to make a difference, and maybe even my film can highlight some otherwise ignored issues. But at the base of it all is the spirit of adventure, the pleasure being not in the finding of anything in particular, but in the seeking.
Welcome to the new website! And welcome to my new, exciting project., entitled 'The Cycling Reporter.' Full details are available elsewhere on the site, but basically in February next year I will begin a 7000 mile cycle beginning in New York City, crossing N. America, New Zealand and Australia.
The premise is that I will interview anyone and everyone I meet along the way, letting people express themselves on camera. It should make for a really cool film, gathering the thoughts of disparate and disconnected people, only linked by the route I'm travelling. All the videos and photos will be posted on this site as I travel, making it a completely interactive experience, so you can all get involved with watching, commenting and suggesting places and people for me to see!
Its been a crazy couple of weeks for me -I've moved out of my house into temporary accomodation, booked my flights to New York, got insurance, applied for visas, and basically begun to sever the ties that have been keeping me here in Canterbury. I've been so busy that it hasn't really sunk in yet, but now I'm in full on planning and prep mode I can't wait to get moving.
Over the coming days and weeks I have to fine tune my route, start asking companies if they would like to sponsor me with any of their fantastic products, finalise the charity which I will raise money for, and generally just do all the things expeditions require!
One thing that I am really eager to get started on is publicising the trip, and this website so that (hopefully) by the time I start cycling, some people will know about my journey, and will actively come and talk to me! If anyone has any helpful tips or advice for me, it's always very much appreciated. Until my next post, heres a taster of the first part of my route.
View Cycling in a larger map