Leon McCarron is a Northern Irish adventurer, cameraman, writer and motivational speaker. He has just concluded a 14,000 mile solo and unsupported bicycle ride from New York to Hong Kong, shooting footage for a documentary along the way.
He is now based in London, and still a little tired from all the cycling.
All blogs relating to 'The Cycling Reporter' Expedition can be found below
It's now been 3 weeks since I finished cycling. I'm not quite sure what it was that I'd hoped to achieve by this point in time, but an increased level of confusion and career-minded contemplations were certainly not it! Suffice to say the transition from daily pedaling to daily pondering has not gone quite as smoothly as I'd hoped. Upon returning I've felt like I haven't quite merged fully back into society yet - sometimes I'm more like the extra piece of lego at the bottom of the box after the toy has been assembled; useful perhaps, but not the correct fit. I am out of practice in this hectic, vocation driven world and it is not as easy as I once thought to find the right niche for me. People with much more experience than me warned that I'd feel a post-ride slump, and they were absolutely correct. However! After a couple of weeks of slightly aimless wonderings, I'm finally able to see the potential of the situation. The world is out there for us to make of it what we will, using the skills that we've been given. With this in mind, I've been thinking a little about what I've been able to extract so far from the experience of such a long distance cycle. Just as importantly, how can these factors fit into a more regular lifestyle?
Straight off the bat - here is the press release that I have issued - it briefly explains what it is that I've been doing for the last year, and why it will be of interest to others!
It's now been just over a week since I wheeled into St. Paul's Cathedral, London, and I've had some time to begin organising my thoughts for the future. Inevitably, my head is still very much immersed in memories, reflections and ponderings over the last year. Slowly however, plans are forming for what kind of shape the next few months might take.
The journey from New York to Hong Kong was, above all, a learning experience. In saying that, I feel that it is all still too fresh to really define exactly what those lessons have been. Each day that I wake and don't cycle down an unknown road brings more clarity, but there's still a way to go before I make sense of a lot of it. Of course there are also effects that have been developing since Day 1, and those I can pin down. The most important is that I sense I am much more driven, motivated and confident about what it is I am aiming for. Goals now seem clearer, and I believe I had a new sense of focus with which to chase these.
Undoubtedly I'll deem it necessary to reflect on the rest of the lessons I've learned in due time, and you will all be subjected to those contemplations on this very blog. But for now I'll give you a brief idea of what I'm planning on doing next. I've even split it into 3 points so it's nice and easy to read.
1 - I left NYC with the plan of making a documentary. That still stands, and I'm even more excited about it than ever. Soon I will be tackling the mounds of footage taken en route, and beginning the creative process.
2 - During my time cycling I became very reliant on my journal to document memories and feelings that could not make it onto video (along, of course, with those that did.) I found that writing is a very cathartic process for me, and I actually enjoyed it to such an extend that I missed it when I did not write for an extended period of time. It has been one of the many joyous pleasures of being able to keep this blog that some of you very kind readers have commented positively on my writing. Based on this, and some advice I have taken in the last week or two regarding articles I've penned, I've decided to perhaps have a shot at writing a book. Essentially I suppose it will be the book of the film - a book charting the people I met, their many and varied passions and interests, and my own journey amongst them. More to come on that as it happens!
3 - Finally, and currently the most advanced and concrete of the three, I am now giving talks based on my adventures from New York to Hong Kong. Primarily I am aiming at speaking in schools, initially around the UK. The talk is suitable for all school age children from 6-18 and combines educational content (relating to the curriculum), exciting and humorous stories from the road, and a keen message of inspiration - the power of what we are all capable of, and the importance of giving 100%. The talk is also available for groups and societies, and is tailored slightly to fit in with the focus of each recipient. If you are reading this and are interested in making a booking, please contact me at email@example.com, via the Contact Page on this website, or on 07850269193.
So that's almost where I'll leave you for now, but there is one more thing. I'd like to take this opportunity to say a huge, massive, all-embracing thank you to everyone who has followed my adventure over the last year. Your reading of my blog, supportive comments and insightful suggestions have consistently inspired and humbled me. I'd also like to thank everyone I met on the road - those who took me in out of the rain, fed me when I looked hungry (which was most of the time) and generally went out of their way to aid me on my way. I owe you all a great deal, and look forward to creating pictures and words for you to enjoy now that I am finished.
So I guess this is it! Considering I’m writing now from a comfy chair in a Canterbury coffee shop, drinking Americanos and eating a blueberry muffin, you would be safe to assume that I have left any ruggedness behind for a while and am currently embracing the easy life. But how did I get here? Well…
Last time I properly blogged I had just arrived in Hong Kong, and was feeling rather hollow. Going home was not something I’d thought about at all during my cycling, but it was always there as a reminder of what I had to be thankful for – all the comforts we come to expect. Now, suddenly as I faced this juncture head on, that carrot at the end of the stick seemed to be incredibly disappointing. There had certainly been a stick, for sure, but the carrot was fully a creation of my mind, and finishing seemed to bring no reward or relief; it merely left me existing in a situation slightly different to the one I’d been in previously.
I write this from Paris, where I am indulging in some very last minute planning. I leave tomorrow, Wednesday and am headed for St. Paul's Cathedral, London. The ride should take 4 days and really isn't that complex to organise, however I must admit I have been rather lazy since getting off my plane from Hong Kong. A week has passed me by, spent mainly in coffee shops and parks. But now I must get ready for my final stint on two wheels, so here's the news...
What I'd like to tell you all about is this. On Saturday 5th March, that's four days from now, I will be riding from Canterbury Cathedral to St Paul's Cathedral in London. I'd absolutely love for any of you reading this to join me and help me finish my ride in style. It's about 60 - 65 miles, and will be done at a very easy pace, arriving into London at about 3pm. There's already a few people who have said they'll come along, so if you are based anywhere nearby and would like to ride, that'd be great!
The details are:
Saturday 5th March
Meet outside the main gate of Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury - 8am
Arrive St. Paul's Cathedral, London - 3pm
I can be contacted temporarily on the phone number 07415459078. Leave a comment on this page, call me, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or just show up!
Hope to see some of you there!
To see all the pictures from this leg of the journey, plus previous sections, click here
The street before the rains
My day off in Macau was, quite literally, a washout. Waking to the sound of an argument in the room next to mine, I headed outside in search of a hot morning beverage. Within seconds I was in retreat, the heavens well and truly opening directly over the Rua de Felicidades (Street of Happiness.) No matter, there was a relatively comfortable bed back inside that I’d just vacated, and if I was quick it would still be warm. So I got back under the covers and went to sleep. There's no rules against going soft once in a while...
The universality of pictures!
From Dongxing I made my way east through the relatively small suburban sprawl of the city. The place was dead – locals were still enjoying the benefits of a national holiday. Officialy, the Chinese New Year had begun a few days ago, but it would be the start of the next week before the populace would recommence working duties. The country was essentially on pause mode, a bizarre experience in vast metropolis spaces. The soundtrack to my departure therefore was provided not by teeming streets animated by business and recreation; rather occasional firecrackers would explode erratically in some unseen part of the city sounding for all the world like machine gun fire. All in all, it was a rather unsettling morning experience, and so I was relieved to make it into the safety and seclusion of the countryside.
Ah, the old lapse into blogging delays! A quick update for a start, to keep you all informed. Firstly, I am now in China! I crossed the border from Mong Cai in Vietnam to Dongxing in the PRC. China is, so far, mindblowingly Chinese. By that I mean it instantly felt like China even though I've never been here before - there is an atmosphere that floats in the air like a foreign accent, a gait of the people that is quite unique. That said I haven't been here very long, but even just the scale of things is impressive. Dongxing is very small by Chinese standards, but even so the size and quantity of buildings is a sight to behold. Already I have encountered great hospitality - an elderly gent in the street gave me a map of the Guangxi province, while some giggling girls in a pharmacy managed to call a friend who spoke English and could direct me to a cheap guesthouse. I still, honestly, don't really know where I am, how to get out of here, or which roads I'm allowed on - but I feel positive about it. If everyone is as helpful as the folks here, I'll have no problems.
Approaching the border
No miraculous change of surroundings came upon me during my last 56km in Cambodia. The road trailed ever onwards, flat and straight heading due north against the wind. At a rare roadside stall I found Pierre and Marion, a French couple from Paris who had temporarily traded in the backpacking lifestyle for the 800km cycle between Phnom Penh and Vientiane. They were easy going and very likable, and so we teamed up to cross the remote border into Laos. Heeding warnings of travelers who had crossed our paths we were ready to do battle against the stamp wielding officials, apparently all to ready to refuse entry unless they pocketed a few dollars on the sly. Leaving Cambodia was fine – I was asked to pay a dollar, but smiled dumbly and pointed at my visa saying what a wonderful time I’d had in the country. A busload of groggy looking white tourists had pulled up behind me, and licking his lips the guard waved me on in favour of bigger prey. I heard him extorting $3 from the first unlucky passenger to step into the arena.
[To view the full post, clickhere]
The Phnom Penh I enjoyed
Just as quickly as Phnom Penh had become a haven of relaxation, it changed to a prison from which I longed to escape. Two days into the New Year, I got sick – something I had mercifully avoided during my whole time cycling. Now it had caught me. I lay feverish and weak in my windowless room for 3 days. Kindly friends came to check on me, but in time had to depart on their own journeys and I was left to stare into the green void of my lime coloured walls. I hated that colour, and I especially hated the little pictures of fruit stuck to the wall in attempted decoration. Twice I thought of shouting at the watermelon, the leader of the glittery sticker gang, but couldn’t muster the energy.