Time for some updates. I'll post them in installments so that the excitement isn't too much for you.
Due to an imminently approaching departure date (watch this space) my search for sponsorship and funding has begun again in earnest. I've said it many times before on this site, and it's true that whatever happens, this expedition WILL happen, and soon. However, a little money and supplies can make a huge difference. For instance, the better my bike and camping equipment, the less chance there is that I'll freeze to death or get eaten by a bear. Actually that's exaggerating a little, but the premise is true. Higher quality gear (and the correct gear for the task) will vastly improve my chances of my safety and success. Company sponsors are keys to this - and I can offer them a lot in terms of publicity and profile in return for the goods they supply me with (see the sponsorship proposal pack for more info.)
First things first - the UNICEF Haiti appeal. You're probably all aware of the earthquake that struck Haiti recently, causing devastation beyond all comprehension. I guess I don't even need to go into the details here, I'm sure you've heard or read about just how bad it is. And it is bad. UNICEF already have emergency teams out there, but they urgently need more supplies. If you can, either donate directly to UNICEF here, or visit my justgiving site and donate to my trip - that money will also go direct to the charity and the work they're doing.
Now, to much less important matters. Have you signed up to the newsletter? If not, why not do it now! You'll get a fortnightly email with all the latest news on my trip, plus a few other bonuses that'll make it worth your while.
As for me, I reckon I'm now officially a New York resident. I've got an apartment, I go to work in the city every day, I've even got a bank account here. And it's kinda fun!
It's been pretty whirlwind - I arrived in on Saturday night, and took a cab to my arranged-via-the-internet apartment in Brooklyn. Luckily it all worked out okay, and apart from nearly killing myself hauling my bike and bag in and out of the taxi, it was pretty smooth. The area I'm in seems like a good place to be - Manhattan is only 15-20 minutes by subway, and Williamsburg, the new 'cool happenin' place to be' by all accounts, is only a short walk or bus ride away. Once I feel cool and happenin' enough I'll check it out.
I started working in a documentary production company on Tuesday, which is a lot of fun. The offices are in a big open loft space in Midtown West, to my mind quintessentially New York. Unfortunately I'm only the lowly intern, but I have 3 months to make a good impression! Even better, the folks there have been treating me well even before I've had a chance to show my skills at all - I haven't had to fetch coffee once.
So I've got 3 months of this city life ahead, which at the minute seems a fun prospect. When I'm not working I'm going to have to get cracking on expedition related things - the first task is to rebuild my bike! I've taken it all out of the box it was transported in, and it seems to have survived (I'd expect nothing less from the Santos, of course) but until I put it back together again I won't know for sure. So that's first. Then I gotta try and get some sort of profile in NYC, fill out the rest of my kit, and most importantly, get fit again. I still have a way to go with my recovery - I'm not yet in a position where I can train. So here's hoping my body finally gets some good healing time now I've stopped moving around, and I can get back on the bike and in the gym asap.
Finally, from The Big Apple, to a much smaller apple (that didn't really work)...my hometown of Coleraine - check out some of my latest press coverage here, including my feature in 'The Coleraine Chronicle' - I believe you'll find me somewhere after 'Rogue Dog responsible for Sheep Carnage.' I wouldn't read about me over that story either. There's also a new article on road.cc here
Enjoy the first of my NYC pictures, many many more to come!
So since last time I blogged, what's been happening? Well, on Thursday night I attended Rob Lilwall's launch party for his book and DVD series 'Cycling Home From Siberia.' It was a great evening, with an inspiring talk and slideshow from Rob about his trip. I'm halfway through the book already, and enjoying it thoroughly. These events are fantastic at bringing together like minded people, and it was really good to have a chat with folk that have 'been there and done that' (even though they'd never put it like that themselves) and others who, like me, are in somewhere the dreaming/planning/holy-crap-this-is-really-happening! stage.
On Friday I spent the day in the US embassy waiting for my visa, but the hours flew by as I was still on a high from the night before. It's at times like this that I realise just how lucky I am to have the resources and time to go on this expedition. I find it's easy to spend too much time worrying about all the problems that inevitably arise with the planning and prep required by this sort of trip. How silly though! This is the opportunity of a lifetime and I'm sure anyone else who has done/is doing anything like this would agree, as soon as you make the focus a little wider, everything becomes relative. The hurdles to overcome are really incidental, inconsequential inconveniences, whereas the positives of the trip promise so much more on a larger scale. It's worth a few days of stress, endless emails, phone calls, late nights, whatever it might be that is required. Listening to Rob's talk I was transported to a moment in the future on my own adventure, away from the trials and tribulations of everyday society. I had no work to get to the next morning, no deadlines to meet. I was my own boss, and life was good. I can't wait! New resolution - don't worry (be happy!)
The other good thing about Friday was that I was successful in my visa application, so I'm good to go. Next stop, New York! This week I'll continue to work on a potentially exciting sponsorship opportunity, and finally deliver on that long-promised video blog.
A few dates for your diary, from mine.
9-11th October - The Cycle Show, in Earls Court. (This promises to be amazing, although probably more for those who like bikes because, well, its a bike show.)
30th October - Will Gow, Polar Explorer and descendant of Ernest Shackleton is talking as part of the Canterbury Festival, can't wait for that one
13-15th November - Explore! Expeditions and Fieldworks Planning Weekend, can't speak highly enough of this, I went last year and it's probably the main reason why I've finally got my butt in gear and am heading off on my bike. Pure inspiration, and a lot of fun to boot.
One more thing for now, UNICEF are working around the clock providing aid for kids affected by the Asia-Pacific disasters, namely the Sumatra Earthquake, Typhoon Ketsana and the Samoan Tsunami. They urgently need funds to help the displaced and injured children in that region. More info is available here
If you're in a position to donate anything please visit the link, or donate via my site.
Finally, as I was concerning myself the other day with the topic of 'Do I know enough about bike maintenance?' (which I'll come back to seriously at some point) I was reminded of this great clip from Monty Python. Anyone else remember ''Bicycle Repair Man'?! If not - enjoy!
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.