Thursday, 29 May 2008

Who am I? What do I want?

My publisher has asked me, prior to the official launch of Thunder and Sunshine in mid-June, to write a little bit about myself that will show journalists exactly who I am.
I have been cringing about this and procrastinating for ages. But he pinned me down today, so here goes:

"My route to making a career from arduous physical challenges began when I was small and weak and could not get into any sports teams at school. I found my niche in the outdoor clubs, sailing, fell-running and completing the National 3 Peaks in 24 hours when I was 13. At 18 I taught in Africa for a year. This opened my eyes to the beauty of the world, that the world is crazier and there's more of it than we think. I tasted adventure, camped beneath southern stars and I wanted more.
Throughout university I read books of epic journeys*, dreamed of being a writer and an adventurer and I set about taking the steps to make it happen. I saved up for summer exploits and the more I saw the greedier I became. Back home I ran in the hills and realised that simply refusing to stop is a good way to ensure you reach the end. My self confidence rose and, with it, my ambition.
Freed at last from the shackles of formal education I headed for the world to start learning. My journey round the world by bike was intended as a journey not a structured expedition. I would wander where the fancy took me, I would travel slow, and cheap, and with wide open, curious eyes. If I could also help to promote 'Hope and Homes for Children' by succeeding that would be a further boon. There was focus to it all as well: I wanted to make it right round the world to come home with sufficient material to begin learning to be a writer. I enjoy writing and I would love to make my life as a writer.
Home at last I tried hard to bury my wanderlust. I have had normal jobs and I have written two books. But it has not succeeded, and I'm now preparing for the next adventure. I have been at my most excited when hunched over a map and dreaming of more, or when eulogising to children at my talks about the thrill of freedom, the privilege of opportunity, the satisfaction of self-reliance and my gratitude that, for whatever reason, I snatched at my dream and I acted upon it. If my journeys can convince children (or anyone) to out-stare the fear of failure and insecurity and to take a risk upon their ambition then I shall be well-pleased. If I can also share my new appreciation of how good the people of the world actually are, as well as my experiences of the great imbalance and injustice in our world, and my corresponding scorn of the apathy and "affluenza" in our own society then so much the better.
My next big journey is different. It has nothing to do with the fun and excitement of foreign cultures. It is a complicated, high-budget, technologically challenging expedition. But I am still thrilled by it because it is different, it is difficult and because it will take me to more new places. New places physically, certainly, but new places in my mind and spirit as well. I will learn more about how hard I can push myself, about how much I can endure. It will hammer home how important the important things are in life, and how trivial most of our concerns are. If the expedition also convinces some children of the potential in their lives I will be proud. If the expedition produces a book and helps me to eke a career from doing what I love I will be grateful.
The lifelong memories will be sweet. But most of all the adventure itself will be glorious: forcing my heart and nerve and sinew to keep going through some of the most desolate, unvisited, majestic landscapes on Earth, the opportunity to explore what I am capable of, to make the most of my too-fleet three score years and ten, to share it all with a good friend, to try to achieve a goal many believe to impossibl. And all this away from the rushing madness of the world. To seek, to strive, to find, and not to yield: that's what I want."

*Ranulph Fiennes, Laurie Lee, Fitzroy Maclean, Eric Newby, Patrick Fermor, Simon Murray, Cherry Garrard et al.

I feel that this video conveys how I feel:



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