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Take the long and winding road

This month’s guest blog comes from Dan Harrison. Dan was a normal bloke with a normal job and normal life. Then he decided to cycle to Africa

“About this time two years ago I glanced out of the window on the train to work and the idea hit me; cycle to South Africa. Now I’m doing it. I feel alive.

The big idea

Cycle solo across Africa; it wasn’t a logical thought. I pedal around London but I’m not a real lycra-loving cyclist. I’ve never been to Africa and I had a pretty cushy job – why jack it in? However, lack of logic wasn’t important; I was excited and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d got excited on the way to work.

Like most of my friends, I’d always wanted to work on something with humanitarian goals, go travelling again, and find myself doing what felt more like ‘me’.

This idea felt right; it got my pulse racing.

Getting to the start line

I didn’t know if it was even possible to cycle solo though Africa. Luckily I found Al Humphreys’ fantastic presentation to the RGS. I was inspired; if this young whippersnapper could do it, I reckoned I stood a chance.

The Explore Conference extinguished any lingering doubts. I met Dan Martin and many other truly incredible people. Their energy and ethos to just get out there and do it was infectious. I was going.

I made my plan, and committed to it. I would leave the following summer.

I told my boss and started working four days a week, using my ‘extra’ day for planning and fundraising. Little by little, with friends and family in support, the thought on the train became a reality.

Then on a fine August day last year I set off. It feels like the best career move I’ve ever made.

Time to be free

Looking back, perhaps the most poignant part of my planning was the lack of it. My route is vague and timings unconstrained. I’d taken note that Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boardman had constantly been racing against the clock on their ‘Long Way Down’ through Africa; not how I intended to do it.

I want to feel free, to wander, stop and savour what I see. For me it is about the journey, not the destination. My recent experiences highlight the reason why.

Three months ago I arrived in Damascus, intending to stay a few days… I’m still here. I’ve been helping an incredible group I met here to establish a new NGO: Bidna Capoeira – something I feel truly passionate about. This could be a project that changes thousands of people’s lives for the better, through sport, music and play.

It’s not for money I’m doing this: there is none. It’s the positive energy. It really feels like I have a home here, with friends I will keep for a long time. Had I had a timetable to keep I would have missed out on that joy.

The work on the NGO has planted a seed that I too may benefit from; setting up projects and teaching capoeira around the world. Insha’Allah.

What next?

I’m looking forward to getting back on the open road. I’ve arranged to visit several orphanages on my way through Africa and I will; my waypoints on this wandering journey.

How long will it take me to get to South Africa? I have no idea; one year, maybe two. When I start to run out of money, I guess I’ll have to find some work. And what happens when I reach Cape Town? No plans.

It feels like I’m living the way I should be and if I continue the future will take care of itself.

This is a time of my life that is changing me deeply. I don’t know where I’m headed but it feels like the right direction.

I am free.
…& you?

I write this story in the hope it joins other inspirations you have which one day soon reappears as an extraordinary thought that gets your heart racing.

If you’ve got an idea, don’t let it go. Tell your friends, ask anyone who can help. Pursue your idea. It is worth the effort, just to see how incredible your life could be.”

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