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Book give away: Ten Lessons from the Road – chapter 2

My third book, Ten Lessons from the Road, came out earlier this year. I’m really pleased with it, and I would love people to read it. But I’m realistic about how few people will actually read the book. So I decided to give it away -for freehere on my blog. Hopefully it will reach more people that way.
Ten Lessons from the Road has ten chapters, each one short, sweet and ideal for a blog post. I’m reproducing them here, one each month, and I hope you enjoy them.

The only downside of this is that I can’t reproduce on the blog the beautiful photos and cool layout of the book which make the book what it is. But, hey, it’s free here! You can see how the actual book looks in the 30-second preview video above.


Make it harder to ignore your dream than to overcome the risks and obstacles involved.
Do you believe your excuses?
What difficulties do you need to overcome in order to begin?

I often receive emails from people contemplating an expedition, a journey, or a change of lifestyle. They are looking for advice, for the comforting blanket of knowledge that, ironically, you can only acquire once you have begun, yet only seek beforehand. But most of all they are looking, consciously or sub-consciously, for one thing. They are looking for impetus.

Grab a piece of paper, grab a pencil. Draw a line down the middle. In one column make a list of all the reasons why you should begin taking steps to pursue your outrageous goal today. In the other column make a list of all the reasons not to bother and just to carry on with things the way they are. I’ll help you out: ‘Too expensive.’ ‘Can’t get time off work.’ ‘Mortgage.’ ‘It’s not “sensible”.’ ‘I can’t leave Bobby [my cat/my partner/my budgie].’ ‘It’s not good for my career path.’ ‘It will affect my pension plan.’ ‘Too much effort.’ ‘I will miss episodes of “Big Brother”…’

Now, imagine you are 90 years old and on your last legs. (If you are already 90, well, congratulations! So imagine you’re 100 instead.) Will you be pleased with these excuses to procrastinate and wriggle out of the biggest, most exciting chapter of your life when you’re about to snuff it? Remember: he who dies with the most toys, still dies.

Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
Would you capture it or just let it slip?
– Eminem

My bags are packed and I can think of no convincing excuse to back out. I am trapped on a runaway train that I set in motion myself, but now am powerless to stop or jump off. I wake up feeling physically sick with fear. Excuses to delay race through my frightened mind.
I roll out of my bed for the last time, open my curtains for the last time and look at my beautiful view of the Yorkshire Dales for the last time. I realise that if I take stock of all these ‘last times’, then I will be in floods of tears before I even make it downstairs (for the last time).
Everything seems surreal. Is this really happening to me? I don’t have to do this, do I?
I awkwardly wheel my heavy, cumbersome bike out of the garage, wait for Dad to ask the neighbour to take a final photo of the family, hug everyone goodbye and then I am off. As easy as that. I have crossed my first border: from being a person dreaming of his big journey to somebody who is actually on his journey.

Finally I round the corner and my home is gone. Then it all hits me. I have just left from my front door to try to cycle around the planet. I have left behind everyone that I love. I am alone. If I were a brave man, I would turn around right now, go home, and admit that it was too frightening. Instead I keep on riding.

Do you believe your excuses?
Ignoring all the demons in my head, climbing on the bike, and pedalling away from my front door was the hardest thing I have done. It took all my resolve to ignore the excuses.

What difficulties do you need to overcome in order to begin?
I was in a happy relationship, I had a good job waiting for me, I had all my friends and family in England. Convincing myself that there could be something even better waiting for me out there, and that I would regret it if I did not look for it, was very difficult.

The start of my ride round the world was tough to persevere. I was engulfed in so much doubt that it was difficult not to concede to those telling me I ought to limit my plans. What I tried to always concentrate on during the difficult times was the memory of why I began the trip in the first place; how my life was before I began, how I had wanted it to change and what awaited me if I persevered… I had to ensure that I did not lose sight of all that.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.
– W. H. Murray

Let’s then think of ways to overcome all the negativity and excuses of that second column and focus on all the positive reasons for why you will not regret beginning to do what you really want to do with your life.

Beginning is undeniably hard. What the people who get in touch with me really want is to be given courage and reassurance, and for me to whisk away their carpet of complacency, to blast the starter’s pistol, to put my boot squarely against their backs and then shove them over the cliff edge that marks the point of no return. Reassurance, nerve and a boot in the back.
I had certainly wished that there were somebody to do the same for me as my departure date loomed. Leaving behind a happy, comfortable life for one brim full of uncertainties and difficulties was difficult. But I forced myself to begin, because I did not want to look back later in life and lament not having had a go at it.

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
– Annie Dillard

Do, or do not. There is no try.
– Yoda

Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.
– Samuel Johnson

We need to overcome our inertia, to focus on the positives and all the possibilities that lie ahead. I needed only to get on my bike and ride. What small thing do you need to do in order to begin?

Inertia, in life as in science, means that a body remains motionless until a force acts upon it. The larger the object, the more difficult it is to move it. So it is with life. The longer you have been stuck in your ways – doing the same things year in, year out, without questioning what you are doing, why you are doing it, and whether you wish to continue doing it – the harder it will be to get you moving.
But, as you fight to overcome lethargy and doubt, lazy procrastination and fear, draw spirit from knowing that, in life as in science, once something builds up a good momentum it’s hellish hard to stop it. So, as you’re struggling to get started (your devilish mind rolling out the excuses), be aware that beginning your journey is the hardest thing you’ll ever do. However, if you can ignore them, ignore them and set off anyway, then you’ll take some stopping!

You can’t ignore your dream, can you?
Can you acknowledge, deep down, that you need to get on and do this thing?

By all means look at the obstacles in your path, but look at them only with positive eyes that ask, “how am I going to get past this in order to get where I want to be?”

Imagine you are old and looking back on your life. Now –
Just do it!

If you enjoyed this chapter you can read the others here.

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  1. A comment I received by email: encouragement for the book, and also a notification of something broken on the site for me to fix!

    “I have actually ‘purchased’ your book and from a ‘proper’ bookshop too! I did not know you or about you before this book, so it IS really good as it sold itself! And I bought it at the very respectable Stanfords in Covent Garden!!

    Thanks for writing it; I’m starting my own business and I need a kick up the back side every now and then and opening your book just quickly reminds me to do it! 🙂

    And it is more than what words could mean; the feeling of happiness I get that ‘this is a great world we live in’ – London tends to forget it!

    Good luck with your next life affirming adventure and I will be looking out for that book too!

    Elina Grigoriou



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