Three friends – musicians – working a boring job in a shop. They spend their days dreaming of things getting better, dreaming of adventure, of their big break in music. There must be thousands of guys like this around the world right now. Not many of them though actually turn the joking and the dreaming into reality. Quitting their job and heading off on a proper adventure, riding across Europe on three tiny C90 motorbikes. That is what Jamie, Liam and Bon did. I chatted to Liam about how they made this happen.
Alastair: I saw your video and I thought it was absolutely a perfect example of relatively normal people doing something really quite cool. Could you give me a little summary of the adventure that you guys went on?
Liam: Sure. Well, we all worked in a shop. We’re all musicians as well and we worked in a music shop at the same time. And we were all getting a bit tired of it, as you do with jobs of that are quite repetitive. And we all would joke about things like [this adventure]. We would joke about doing crazy things or getting our big breaks as musicians and that sort of thing.
One day, Jamie, who’s one of the guys, said that he was going to ride a C90 to Greece. I got really excited about that because it just seemed like such a stupid thing to do and such a cool idea. I bought a bike off eBay. I think it may have even been the next day after we had that conversation, just in a total stupid eBay moment. And so it snowballed from there.
Our boss would joke with us saying, “You’re not going to do it, you’re not going to quit,” because it seemed like a stupid pipe-dream, although it’s not like a terribly ambitious thing obviously. We weren’t saying we were going to walk around the world or do something really, really difficult. But we just really got caught up in the romance of it, of leaving our jobs to do that, to do something completely stupid.
Alastair: I like this idea of Jamie having the chat at work. He had already bought the bike – is that right?
Liam: Actually, I bought the bike first after our chat. That’s another interesting side of it because Jamie was the last person to convince, even though it was his idea. Because when he said it, it was a joke. It wasn’t a real thing. But me and Bon, who’s the other guy, we just bought our bikes and just started getting really into the idea.
Alastair: I like the idea of trips growing from a joke. I spoke a while ago to a few guys who, also as a joke, wondered what the most expensive taxi fare ever was and ended up buying a black taxi and driving the whole way around the world with it on the meter, the whole way around. It was a good starting point for an adventure.
Liam: Yeah, definitely. Yeah.
Alastair: At what point did you move on from all of the chat about adventure – which loads and loads of people do? Was there a tipping point of commitment?
Liam: Eventually we all had bikes but with still no commitment to actually doing it. We went to and fro a little bit, as in somebody would start to drop out and be like, “Actually, this is stupid, I need to do this, I need to do this, I’ve got a job, I’ve got a band.” Like I say, we were all musicians as well. Then the other two would take on the role of encouraging them. And then it would swap around like that. We’d all have a go of dropping out.
Alastair: How long did this go on for?
Liam: It went on for about two months. Maybe three months or something. Then we had a little meeting. I called everyone ’round to my house and we got a map up on the screen. We basically decided that if we were going to do it, we’d have to hand in our notice the next day and all at the same time obviously, which wouldn’t be great for the shop! It was like, “Well, we’ve got this far, we have to do it. It would be so lame to back out now.” We went in the next day and handed our notices in.
Alastair: What it that fear of “lameness” that was the actual committing thing? Of all the people I’ve spoken to this year, it’s a really common theme of needing to find something to stop you finding an excuse to wimp out.
“Talk about your plan for ages so that it’ll be humiliating not go through with it.”
Liam: Yeah, that’s definitely a part of it. There’s a bit in the first part of the film where it says, it says, “How to Embark on a Ridiculous Adventure.” And it’s got these different steps, and one of the steps is, “Talk about your plan for ages so that it’ll be humiliating not go through with it.” Which is where we were at that point. We’ve talked about it and joked about it and bought motorbikes. It would have been really humiliating not to do it and really disappointing for us as well.
Alastair: Why did you go for these C90S? Why didn’t you, for example, bicycle to Greece or if that’s a bit energetic, why didn’t you take the train to China?
Liam: Like I say, it started with Jamie’s comment. Because when he’d been on a holiday in Greece he’d rented one of these bikes, the C90, and they have loads of them there. It was partly that and it was partly the fact that they’re so ordinary and we call them “pizza bikes” a lot on the blog because that’s how people know them. They’re so ordinary and so stupid that it’s almost like they’re invisible.
Alastair: It’s nice to think that something so small and ordinary can make it on an adventure for thousands of miles. When you look back on the trip now, what are your nuggets of the highlights of the experience?
Liam: The kindness-of-strangers thing is definitely a big thing. You know, we had moments where bits of the bikes broke and we had help from people in really rural areas who don’t speak English but come out of their house to try and fix it with tin foil or whatever it might be.
Also, sometimes, not only the kindness of strangers but the excitement of strangers. They’re kind of getting something out of what you’re doing. And they just, for some reason, they just got it, they just got the idea. They immediately would be cheering us on or like driving along with us. They were the kind of person that would think, “Yes, I’ve done stupid stuff too,” probably.
Alastair: Or they haven’t done stupid stuff, but they yearn to do it some time.
Liam: Yeah. Sure. There was one guy actually. We were in the Alps going between Italy and France. And there was a guy in a little tiny car and he was alone. There was nobody else on the road, it was completely empty. He just went crazy, honking us on and cheering, leaning out the window and cheering at us. I had this weird feeling that maybe it had been a really, really terrible day at work or something and he really bought into the idea just for that little chunk of time.
Alastair: I’m guessing you weren’t great at practical things like mechanics?
Liam: No, we did learn some stuff about them. They’re very simple bikes so you can change the tires and stuff yourself if you need to, as long as you learn how to do it. We tried to do everything without spending any money really. Obviously we spent what we needed to on petrol and food and everything else.
Alastair: What was the rough budget for the trip, if you don’t mind me asking?
Liam: I don’t know. It was probably under £1000, including the price of the bikes. Yeah, we must have each spent £350 on a bike each. I don’t know, a few hundred quid actually doing it, like paying for petrol, food, and campsites and the occasional luxury terrible shithole hotel.
Alastair: Isn’t that brilliant that this experience which is going to stay with you forever cost less than £1000?
Liam: Yeah, that was a massive part of it, I think.
We got to Dover and were like, “Bloody Hell, this is going to take forever.”
Alastair: In all of these interviews I’ve done, there’s a pretty common thread, which is a lack of planning. On one of your videos, I saw one of you saying, “We’ve got to Dover, this is the furthest I’ve gone on a motorbike.” Was the lack of planning just due to you being useless or was it deliberate?
Liam: It was genuinely being useless. We tried to plan it. We’d get together with a few beers and pretend to plan and not really plan. We did that quite a lot. We’d get together and end up just talking rubbish and not really getting anything done. You’re right. We rode down to Dover and it took us about seven hours to get to Dover. We weren’t prepared for that at all.
We got to Dover and were like, “Bloody Hell, this is going to take forever.” And that was definitely a reason for it working as well as it did because it meant that we had no expectations. We didn’t think, “Okay, it’s going to take this long to get here and this long to get here.” Blah, blah, blah. We just went. And we had various places that we were like, “We’ll stop here, we’ll stop here.” And we did it differently every time.
Alastair: What were the main worries that you had before the journey. Or perhaps your friends, other halves, mothers… what were their worries beforehand and how did that pan out in reality?
Liam: One of the worries was obviously that we were going to be killed immediately. That’s quite a common reaction. “You’re going to die, you’re going to die.” Leaving a job is another thing. It wasn’t the most exciting job. We had no careers to speak of. But none of us were necessarily in a position to do that in terms of how much money we had to spend. That was an obvious thing. The idea that we’d come back and have nothing. That was definitely a thing, a fear.
Alastair: Certainly the job issue is quite a big concern for people. What would your advice be, and it can be positive or negative, for someone who’s got a job, wants an adventure, but is quite worried about that sort of things?
Liam: One thing is, obviously, if you can keep your job and go, as long as you like your job, that’s one thing to consider. For us, it was kind of like a catalyst for change for all three of us. It wasn’t just about doing this adventure itself. It was the fact we were all in a position where we had the chance to do something like that and you’re not going to hurt anyone by doing it, all you’re going to do is change your life a little bit, then there’s very little reason not to do it. Because we all felt a bit stuck in a rut anyway. And our lives have changed since the trip. It was a catalyst for change because when we all went back, we all had a different head on. So in that respect, I think it can be really, really positive and really enriching to do something and be like, “I can actually breathe now and not be stuck in my routine.” Obviously that’s not the same for everyone. That’s just how it was for us, I think.
Alastair: That’s a really good answer. It seems to me that you really enjoyed the trip. When you got to Greece, why didn’t you just keep going? Did that cross your mind?
Liam: This might be a little bit overly romantic, but we had a chat on this Greek island, and Jamie said that he was gonna go back in order to propose to his now wife. So he went off and did that. But because Jamie left, we were now down to two and the whole idea wasn’t really the same any more.
Alastair: It reached a natural conclusion.
Liam: Yeah, so I don’t think it would have felt right to carry on.
“If you’ve got the chance to do something ridiculous, then you really ought to do it.”
Alastair: I’ve been watching bits and bobs of video around your website. It’s really fun. You’ve done a really good job. I’m going to read a couple of snippets: “If you’ve got the chance to do something ridiculous, then you really ought to do it.” I really like that. I think it’s important for us to realise, without sounding too preachy, how lucky we are in Britain, to be able to have a job, get money, get a passport and have the freedom to travel and just do stuff. What do you think stops more people from going?
Liam: I think it’s probably the unknown, is one thing. Fear of the unknown, definitely. Things being difficult. They’re right, it is uncomfortable. Ultimately, it’s really, really rewarding. But without doing it in the first place, you don’t get to realise the reward.
Alastair: You said, “Compared to all of the other stuff we do in life,” – by which I assume you mean jobs, degrees, marriage, death, children, all that stuff – “This is actually one of the easiest things to do in life,” which is, I thought, a brilliant description.
Liam: We took that from when we got to Greece, this feeling of, “We’ve actually done it.” We got there and thought, “Oh, we’ve made it.” Ever since, we’ve talked about that feeling of realizing that it’s actually quite easy to do stuff like that. Particularly if you get into the right head space.
Alastair: I’ve found from my journeys that without fail, the hardest part is beginning it. I get so nervous and worried and all that sort of stuff. Then once I begin, this huge weight lifts off my shoulder and then it’s easy after that, it really is.
Liam: Yeah, yeah, I would agree with that. Definitely.
“The world is a nicer, easier place than people say it is.”
Alastair: I’ve become a groupie of yours overnight. I cycled around the world once and this phrase from your film completely resonates with my own experience. “The world is a nicer, easier place than people say it is.” That’s a powerful lesson to come back with, isn’t it?
Liam: Yeah, definitely. I think all three of us had the same experience where you say you’re going to do something, and the reaction that we had from quite a few people was, “You can’t do that. The world is out to get you. What are you going to do if you get stuck somewhere,” all that sort of thing, all those worries people have. When you’re actually doing it, it’s completely the opposite.
“Stupid and liberating”
Alastair: Yeah, yeah, definitely. I think from the film bits I’ve seen, there’s this fantastic sense of fun and friendship and just mates having a good time. Perhaps the best summary of adventure I’ve heard in a long time is describing it as “stupid and liberating” which I think really nicely sums up all of the greatest adventures. Yvon Chouinard, the guy who founded Patagonia, describes climbing big mountains as “pointless but meaningful” which I’ve always really liked. And I’m now going to add “stupid and liberating” to that mix.
I have two more questions before I let you go. If someone else was watching your film and thinking, “Wow, I’d like to…,” what’s your advice for people that are wanting to do an adventure?
Liam: I think the first piece of advice would be just to say that you can do it. You know, it seems like an obvious thing but it’s always going to be possible. Just to say, “Yeah, of course, go for it!” Because I think a lot of the time people don’t have that attitude and it puts people down. When we said we were going to do this thing, a lot of people just said, “You won’t do that,” because I think they felt like they wouldn’t do it. You shouldn’t worry when people say things like that, when people project their fears onto you because that’s not your problem. That’s their problem. And sometimes they’re just saying that because it’s the status quo. It’s the thing that people say, like talking about the weather. They go, “That sounds really hard, you can’t do that. How are you going to do that?”
Alastair: If the three of you should ride again, and I gave you £1000 for one last shot at the big time, what would you get together and do?
Liam: I think the other two would say use the same bikes, but ride from coast to coast of America on the C90. But personally, again on a C90, I’d like to go down to South America. I would definitely do a trip on a C90 again. Even though I’ve gone around Europe on bigger motorbikes, it’s not really the same experience as going slowly and doing something, I don’t know, that so stupid.
Alastair: That’s a very good answer. That’s a very good answer.
Liam: I think I would definitely do something different. I wouldn’t try to recapture doing that trip because that was such a unique thing because none of us were adventurers, if you know what I mean. We just did something stupid. So we couldn’t recapture that. But I think another C90 trip, definitely.
Alastair: Thank you very much.
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