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November 29, 2007

Moksha on display at Earl's Court Boat Show

Moksha is being exhibited as one of the highlights of the 'Hall of Fame' display at the Earl's Court Boat Show from this Saturday the 1st December through the 9th. The display is being sponsored by Yachting World in association by the National Maritime Museum.


Round the world sailing pioneers like Sir Francis Chichester, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, and Sir Chay Blyth are also being featured.

The Expedition 360 display will feature some of the other equipment and modes of propulsion that were used to circumnavigation using only human power: kayaks, rollerblades and an overland component comprising the bike and camping equipment.

Another reason to come along and visit the display is meeting Steve's father Stuart who has kindly offered to man the exhibit and answer any questions that aren't explained by the information boards and multimedia kiosk. He's knows the stories and tells them better than any of us, so you won't be disappointed! There will also be a limited supply of special edition signed T-shirts for sale.

More information about the show can be found here. We look forward to seeing you there!

Posted at 11:13 AM

November 21, 2007

The Sustrans Big Lottery bid - your vote needed!

Another impression from being away for 13-years is how backward the UK is compared to many other countries around the world in terms of providing sustainable transport alternatives for people - bicycle paths and lanes in particular. For poorer countries like India and China bicycles are the preferred method of travel mainly for economic reasons (people would start using a car in a heartbeat if they could afford one). But travelling through continental Europe - Germany, Austria and Belgium in particular, countries at least on a par with the UK economically - I was struck how advanced they are with the whole process of providing safe environments for cyclists and walkers to travel adjacent to established roads and thoroughfares both in the towns and the countryside. Sometimes almost to the point of irritation in terms of how prescriptive they were.

Sustrans is one organization that is actively working towards sustainable transport solutions for the UK however. As the UK’s leading sustainable transport charity its vision is a world in which people choose to travel in ways that benefit their health and the environment. Their Connect2 initiative is currently shortlisted with three other contenders for 50 million pounds of Big Lottery money that, if they win, will go towards creating 79 bicycle paths, bridges and walkways nationwide. I was invited yesterday to help promote their initiatives in Devon and Dorset which include a 1.8km traffic-free route in Newton Abbot and plans to construct a bridge over the River Otter in Ottery St. Mary, to create a safe, traffic free pathway away from the busy main road. You can find out more details on their Big Lottery bid here. For residents of the UK please consider giving them your vote starting the 26th of this month. To me it’s a win-win situation; riding a bike whenever possible means carbon neutral travel, saving money and keeping fit. And while the other three contenders are certainly worthy causes, the Sustrans Connect2 bid is the only one that will directly affect local communities nationwide.


Posted at 7:34 AM

November 16, 2007

Back into Society

Its over a month ago that I re-crossed the Meridian Line at Greenwich along with Moksha and the other members and close supporters of Expedition 360. Having been riding towards this exact moment in time - 12pm on October 6th 2007 - for so many months coming up through Africa, the Middle East and Europe, it was predictably a very emotional moment. For so many years I'd been pushing myself on with the adage that it is the journey, not the destination, that is important. But I cannot deny that at the end of it all the destination was just as important too. After all, how can one have a journey without there being a destination? It would be impossible to have one without the other.

The first three weeks following the circumnavigation completion were a blur: back to back interviews by media to the point of losing my voice and nearly my mind. In amongst this frenzied activity I was trying to spend time with as many of the expedition family as possible, many of whom had traveled a great distance and gone to considerable expense to be there at the finish. The completion party at the Trafalgar Rowing Club was quite small and modest considering the scale of effort by so many over so many years. There were only a hundred there to celebrate. But I knew that never again in my lifetime would I get to share the same room with such an incredible bunch of absolutely top rate human beings. For me it was definitely the high point of the entire expedition.

Since then the media interest has thankfully waned, replaced by meetings with publishers, broadcasters and others interested in exploiting the story. I've always joked that at the end of X360 I'd be as broke as when I started, with little to show for it except a bunch of good stories, and that's pretty much the way it's turned out. But what's interesting is that there does seem to be value in these stories that I didn't fully appreciate until just recently. So if I play my cards right I might not have to go back to cleaning windows after all!

One of the most common questions I've been asked is how I will adapt back to a life without the expedition. Well, the truth is that aside from the physical traveling, not much else has changed. I'm still talking about it, writing about it, thinking about it 24/7. The monster still needs feeding and its appetite is growing if anything, rather than subsiding. So unless I do want to go back to cleaning windows it seems like I'll be living with the expedition for a while yet to come.

Adapting back to living in London has been a struggle though. The culture shock of transitioning from a largely freeform existence traveling through largely freeform countries and environments, where few rules exist that can't be circumvented either by greasing palms or shouting a lot, has been quite severe. In short I am not enjoying being back in the UK. Everyone complains about the cost of living, stealth taxes, CCTV cameras, loss of personal rights and an insidious bureaucracy gradually creeping into every aspect of their lives. Having been away for 13-years I can see it clearer than anyone. It's actually terrifying, and part of me wants to run screaming in the opposite direction as far as my world weary legs will carry me. And then there's the media. Oh Boy! How much more narcissistic, utterly base, pointless, navel gazing drivel can they cram on the box before people become completely disconnected from ANYTHING that is actually worth filling their heads with? So many lies, distortions, sensationalism, half-truths, non-truths, all for the sake of attracting more eyeballs and better serving the interests of greedy advertisers just so they can put more crap on the shelves that people don't actually need. So many hours of the average person's day already appears to be dedicated to earning money just to pay bills. As part of this new found awareness that people have of climate change and carbon footprints you'd think we'd be looking at ways of buying less stuff, rather than more, so we can spend less time working and more time at home with our children or doing exercise to keep healthy, or just sitting in a corner reading a book. Clearly a change in mainstream society's value system is desperately needed. But how to engineer this when materialism and obsession with money is so ingrained in everyone's thinking from early childhood on?

Admittedly I am the world's biggest hippocratic as far as time management goes considering how much a slave I still am to this project (that is supposedly now 'finished'). The challenge I see for myself from now on is to try and harness the legacy of the last 13-years into something that is interesting and useful for people to read or watch a program about. Recounting a straight adventure story doesn't interest me. Participating in a much needed public debate on how human behaviour might be adapted over the next 50 years to better serve the interests of a sustainable planet with people helping each other rather than exploiting and killing each other (as is our historic precedent) does. And if there's any conclusion that I can draw after traveling the world these past 13-years it is that education is where its at. That's the direction I need to channel my efforts from now on.


Read a recent ESPN article

Posted at 2:57 AM