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Book give away: Ten Lessons from the Road – chapter 1

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.


What do you want to achieve with your life?
How do you want to live your life?
What do you want written on your gravestone?

Nothing struck me as right. Nothing rang true. It all seemed like a compromise. The routes expected of me; the conventional procession towards a secure job, a sensible pension, a respectable-sized gravestone – the roads to ‘success’ – just did not appeal to me. It is easy to slip into roles that bear little resemblance to how we really wanted our lives to pan out. I did not want to be jolted with the realisation – years from now, while waiting one day in the rain for a bus – that life had passed me by. And so, tentatively at first, I began questioning things, asking myself what I really wanted.

I realised that if we want to buck the trend, to forge our own paths, and not to just do what is expected of us, we need to summon up the nerve to do what we really dream of doing – to think big – and to begin making the very most of our potential, our opportunities, our lives.

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. It’s not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
– Muhammad Ali

It was time to choose my road. I chose to leave everything that I was familiar with, everything that I knew and loved and enjoyed. I chose to leave my friends and family and girlfriend and country. I decided to let go of everything that makes a life normal, secure and conventionally happy.
It is a selfish, ungrateful risk to give up all that makes you happy in the hope that you can find better. You risk not finding it. You risk finding it and then never being satisfied again, yearning always for more.

But I was looking for experiences that nothing – not the dimming light of old age nor financial ruin – could take away from me. It was uncertain travel that held an appeal, a luring magic, for me. The intoxicating release from conventional bonds, a chance for self-testing and self-discovery, and the rushing joy of being alive that I rarely felt at home.

I chose to leave everything behind; the wasted opportunities, the shiny things I had spent money on, the ironing board and the expectations of conventional living, the race to get a bigger house, bigger car, bigger gravestone.

I would have no home, no appointments, no deadlines, no career, no beautiful possessions, no weekend hobbies, no mortgage, no bills, no commute. I would have everything I wanted.

What do you want to achieve with your life?
I want to make the most of my potential and my opportunities

How do you want to live your life?
Optimistically, ambitiously, generously and with good humour

What do you want written on your gravestone?
“He lived a good, full and worthwhile life.”

Dream extravagant dreams.
At first I thought that I would like to cycle to India. I knew that that was possible; plenty of people had done it. But, looking at my atlas, it seemed a shame to stop at India. I would be halfway to Australia by then. I might as well keep going.

Push an idea to the limits.
Why not ride as far as it is possible to ride, to keep going until I arrived back where I began? Why not ride all the way around the planet? The idea seemed absurd. The idea became exciting.

Legwork and planning are needed to activate a dream.
But was it possible? How far was it? How long would it take? What should I take with me? The months before departure were exciting. I learnt so much. A lot of hard work went into getting me ready to begin. I was inspired by life again. I absorbed book after book about great journeys and adventures and the men and women who had pulled them off. I marvelled at their accomplishments and wondered whether I could do anything remotely similar. There was only one way I would ever know.

Dreams make the impossible possible; dedication makes the possible probable; and work makes the probable happen.
– Jim Trefethen

Dream big with heart and soul.
I had my dream: to undertake an outrageous journey. I knew that I might well fail, but I also knew that aiming ridiculously high meant that I was likely to end up achieving more than if I had set a realistic and achievable target. There is something that you have always dreamed of doing. It’s time to be bold, time to commit yourself to that dream.

Your dream can be anything you want. You just have to own it, guard it preciously and take the necessary steps to live it for yourself. What visionary dared to dream of building the Great Pyramids? Or conceived the idea of the Monastery at Petra?

Be reassured, setting yourself, and accomplishing, outrageous goals becomes a habit. I was fortunate enough to attain my goal. Today, the realisation of that dream defines who I am, even when I attempt to move on to new things. It has shifted me to a different level than I was on before I began. People expect more of me now. I expect more of myself. More seems possible. The same will be true for you once you take the decision to kick-start your ambition.

Yours is the world. Imagine you are free. Totally free. Unfettered by commitments, finances, physique, intellect, talent, age, education and – critically – by your own perception of your capabilities. Imagine now that you have only 70 years of life on the most astonishing, improbable, wonderful planet that ever existed. The clock is ticking. The world is all before you. Go on, take whatever you want. Yours is the Earth, and everything that’s in it. This is a supermarket sweep of infinite scope. It’s all yours. What do you want? You are limited only by your imagination.

Dream big.
I am convinced that we consistently underestimate our capacities and our capabilities. We settle too low. We strive for what we know we can achieve. What’s the point of that? Far better to be wildly ambitious, to set ourselves outrageous goals, and through that accomplish far more than we dared believe possible.

We should define our passions, define our goals, then set about achieving them.

Think of your many years of procrastination; how the gods have repeatedly granted you further periods of grace, of which you have taken no advantage. It is time now to realise that your time has a limit set to it. Use it, then, to advance your enlightenment; or it will be gone, and never in your power again.
– Marcus Aurelius

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

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  1. I finished my copy last night; it’s a small book, but a good read and well worth buying the paper version. I was umming and aahing over whether to ride to a bike race in a couple of weeks or just get the train – this book helped me make up my mind.

  2. Mike, I hope it persuaded you to ride not to take the train…?! πŸ˜‰

  3. Of course! πŸ™‚

    And on my cargo bike, with my MTB strapped to the back –

  4. Mark Russell Posted

    I love your books. I have sent copies to friends and family world wide and am currently re-reading ‘Moods of Future Joys’…it reminds me that there is so much more to life! Having bought and read the new one, I have realised a lot and am planning my own wee expedition to start in August. Am so excited by it! Down the West coast of Scotland and into Europe until Christmas. Fantastic πŸ™‚


  5. Cracking little book – just setting off on a trip of my own inspired by reading the first two books and a strange dinner in London where Al spoke. Going to take this along to remind me not to whinge too much about my sore bum!

  6. Thanks so much for the inspiration. I am at my job that I want to escape as I write this. You inspired me to write something and link to your site. See it here:

    Thanks again!

  7. Oh and it is under the post titled “Daydreaming”

  8. I am posting an article at trailpeak*art

    hope this is ok.



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