9 Months On
This day 9 months ago I rode over Paso Garibaldi at the southern tip of Argentine Patagonia and ended my Pan-American bicycle journey after one year and three months on the road.
It’s difficult to comprehend just where the time has gone between then and now. Only yesterday I was talking with some friends about the idea of ‘time flying’ and what we seem to remember or have learned within the days and weeks we book-end into a particular period.
Although I felt that 27,000km passed by so incredibly quickly when I pulled on the brakes in Ushuaia late last year, it’s only on reflection that I grasp how much diversity and experience was actually crammed into each and every day. The minute details often surface now when I read a passage from my diary, recognise a familiar place name on BBC World News weather, or my chain slips off the bike in heaving mid-morning traffic. Without fail, I zone away to a particular trip moment and draw a smile across my face with the remembrance.
Lifestyle, however much it has changed, now offers me the opportunity to look back and appreciate the trip for everything it was.
I’ve moved to Laos, Southeast Asia with Áine my girlfriend, who was truly amazing to wait 15 months for me to return from travels. We’ve been here almost half a year, meaning I had a relatively brief spell in Ireland with family and friends but just about enough time to thank everyone who helped me reach ‘the end of the world’. The congratulations on the street from passers-by and reaction of schoolchildren for whom I was delighted to present my story and photographs was an unforgettable aspect of my home time and meant I kept living the journey despite the wheels ceasing to turn.
One thing I maintained as paramount on return from Argentina was allowing the experiences from the 350South trip to inform certain life decisions from here on out. There are too many to name but making the right time to focus on personal ambitions and putting effort into maintaining relationships are amongst the most important of them.
I’ve decided to give writing a firm shot since I had an abundance of space and time to scribble away on the road. Plus, if I can make at least a little living from it, I can keep a semblance of the freedom I drew breath from every day on the bicycle. I’m now working as a sub-editor of Vientiane Times newspaper in Laos’ capital and also editing a travel and lifestyle magazine, the latter affording me the escape I often crave from the city. Making time on top of this to a write a book has been tough, but I’m getting there.
Provisionally titled ‘American Revolutions: a 17,000 mile Pan-American Bicycle Journey’, I’m thoroughly enjoying inking tales from the saddle onto paper. Doing that in a way which truly reflects the reality and thoughts from the ride isn’t entirely straightforward however. Figuring out what stories to include, the style in which to write them and making 100,000 words have more than just personal value requires patience, constant reassessment and many, many cups of tea.
I hope to have the first draft finished by the end of the year before I decide how to pursue publishing. I’m delighted to have piqued the interest of a few publishing houses thus far and I do believe that writing it in a form that doesn’t just describe what happened from day to day but instead looks at the wider mental and physical consequences of the journey will give a greater weight and merit to the story.
The Ted Simon Foundation has also honoured the efforts of the 350South project by naming me as a Jupiter’s Traveller. The foundation itself is headed by Ted Simon, a man who rode 64,000 miles through 45 countries on his motorbike beginning in 1973. He repeated this great feat again in 2001, this time rolling wheels in 47 countries in just under 60,000 miles. His book Jupiter’s Travels is a travel classic and was the inspiration for Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman to set off on their well-known journey, The Long Way Round, in 2004.
With all those miles and countries visited, Ted Simon and his foundation now encourage and assist travellers in making an extra effort to develop their observations and insights into something of value for the rest of the world to share, whatever their medium of expression might be. In my case, it’s American Revolutions. And I’m very proud to be a part of such an impressive list of other Jupiter’s Travellers, which you should check out here.
I’ll continue to work on the book over the coming months and hope to post more about it in the near future. In just a few short weeks I’ll also be reunited with my bicycle, which I hope makes the transcontinental plane journey with as much ease as she forged through the Americas. I might even try some small tours to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, setting a line for the mountains or the coast. Then again, it’s not that far back to Ireland either.