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Poll: impoverished freedom or a bit of a compromise?

My friend Mark Beaumont announced yesterday on Twitter that his journey down the Americas will now bypass Colombia. He’s going to take a boat from Panama to Ecuador. (I took a yacht from Colombia to Panama, skipping the Darien Gap which was too scary for me). This is a pity for him as Colombia is an amazing, if slightly crazy place to ride through.
I am assuming this decision has come from the Health & Safety powers at the BBC (who are filming his latest trip). Yawn, yawn, yawn.

This has raised an interesting question in my mind and I thought I would get your opinion on it too.

Mark’s a good guy and I have watched his progress with interest ever since he came to chat with me after one of my talks when he was planning his record-breaking dash round the world. I would be really happy to go on an expedition with him one day.

However, I must be honest and confess that I have also watched his stellar rise to TV star, best-selling author and Orange mobile phone poster boy with less-than-noble feelings of envy. I have been working really hard since 2001 to get in a position where I can make my living from my expeditions. Mark nailed it in 6 months (or 194 days, to be precise)!

So when I saw that Mark will not be riding through Colombia I asked myself what would I rather have:

a. – the freedom to cycle through wonderful Colombia
b. – a BBC TV series and a best-selling book

My answer: I wish that I would choose option ‘a’. But, as I grow older, more and more of me wants to pick ‘b’…

So I thought I would ask you your opinion. Unlike me though you are not allowed to sit on the fence!

Read Comments

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  1. IT’s a tough one. Theoretically you’d want to do it exactly how you planned it, but being as though I’m the one sat at a desk voting rather than doing I think it’s probably more within my temperament to take the safe option.

    I think your ride is a case in point – I don’t see a tv company / book company fronting up money for a project which was, with the best will in the world a bit vague. As it turned out however it was an amazing, inspiring journey. Quite possibly you saw the most incredible things because you went off the beaten track and took the effort to see the scary places rather than doing the tourist trail.

    Perhaps when one becomes more known one finds it easier to gain funding (although perversely I wonder if there would be fewer places you’d be ‘allowed’ to go to).

    Tough one though.

  2. The answer to this surely depends on the question “how badly do I need/want the money/fame”? Then follows an assessment of need vs want. And that ultimately depends on your philosophy of life. So it’s a big question, basically!

  3. Tom,
    You are exactly right!
    But what are you going to choose? Red or blue? Blue… Red…?

  4. As ever I think I would go for the compromise. Either get the sponsor to pay but say you’ll do all the camera work therefore waiving any H&S issues – mind you it may look a bit DIY? Or take the job and then with the money you’ve earnt go back and do the bits you would have done. Or you could film one of your own expeditions and then sell it to a channel provider?

    Honestly though, you sound like you have greater freedoms than others to live your life how you want and you’ve worked hard to get there. Don’t give it up.

  5. I think the problem is that these days everything has to be covered live. If you go back five or ten years then you could do pretty much whatever you wanted on an expedition as long as you filmed it and got it back afterwards. I’m sure if noone knew that Mark was heading through Columbia then the risk of him going there would be reduced to a level where he’d almost certainly go.

  6. Yep, this is a tough one, and normally I’d go for the freedom to do what, when, and where I want option, but…
    having been there/done that/got the t-shirt (and the scar) to prove it, I’d happily give Columbia a miss. Not because I didn’t like the place, and nothing political at all. I’d just rather nobody ever shot at me again!

  7. Compromising in one aspect can create freedom in other aspects. If the money he generates from this expedition gives him enough income to fund a whole load more expeditions then next time he can do exactly what he wants. When we use it wisely, money offers a route to freedom.

  8. When you’re grey and old, and you look back on your life, will you be glad you chose adventure on the road less travelled or (relative) comfort and financial gain?

    A all the way!!!

  9. The solitude/loneliness (delete as appropriate) and indepedent nature of your bike trip, along with the scale, are what made it stand out for me. Having the BBC along would’ve removed that somewhat.

    However, that is done now and you have experienced it. I guess it depends on how important that level of freedom is to you for future trips. In my opinion, if a level compromise is a necessity for funding, then so be it. Most people compromise their ideals a lot more in order to get paid!

  10. There are so many choices to made every day. Sometimes you can and will follow your principles and sometimes you are better off with a compromise. As long you make choices with your own life philosophy as guidance.

  11. A – every single time!

    The lack of funds may well inhibit plans particularly in the planning stage but the freedom that you crave comes with a price. Would it have meant the same to you if it hadn’t been such a struggle? Your round the world trip was truly awe inspiring to read and had nothing to do with timetables or high profile sponsors. For me it was about open eyed wonder at the world and people around you, experiencing something that every fibre of your being needed, no-one can ever take that away from you.

  12. I think the best answer is to have both. To have the freedom to go and do whatever you want… and have the success that enables you to live an amazing life. You don’t always ave to choose one or the other. Both is always a good way to go… if you can figure out how to do it.

  13. It is not as easy as it sounds. It depends if it is ‘the trip of a lifetime’ or if it is just a step towards one.

    The first should be as you want it. But if a ‘sponsored project’ can raise enough funds and publicity so you can afterwards really do what you want (as you want it, but this time without even financial limits), then it would be a wise investment.

    Then again, I had dinner with Mark when we met in Guatemala; we discussed his upcoming skipping of Honduras. Strangely enough El Salvador was ok, but sleepy Honduras was considered too dangerous, so he took a truck.

    Not only does this not make sense (it is perfectly safe, and a truck is arguably much more dangerous), but -together with the skipping of Colombia- eats away on the roots of his great trip: cycling across Americas, not trucking/boating/travelling whatever.

    Btw, BBC should take their responsibility in showing that not all places are as scary as Fox News makes them out to be.

    Looking forward to Colombia, first slowly across Costa Rica & Panama (then a boat: yes, the Darien gap is too scary for me as well ;-)!

  14. I’m much more likely to follow (and get hooked on) an expedition that chooses A over B, exactly because I know B will be compromising so much more, especially in how they communicate what they’re doing.

    Personally, I seem to be choosing A more and more emphatically as I get older. Partly, I think this comes from a growing awareness / sense of urgency about how precious time is. If I’m going to spend a year or two of my life on an expedition, I want it to be *my* expedition. Or maybe I’m just a control freak 🙂

    On the other hand, I’m not trying to make a living out of this and I’ve been lucky enough to do work I love between journeys, so that makes it much easier…

    PS The Greenpeace founders had an interesting saying: “Do the right thing and the money will follow.”

  15. In my opinion, life is one big compromise. Mark kind of hit the jackpot doing such a good job of filming himself pretty much on his RTW record trip, and has worked it brilliantly since.

    As you’re blog earlier in the week said Al, your traffic is increasing all the time… But it’s more about word of mouth (many of my friends are now aware of you, who’d never had otherwise known).

  16. I thought you might like this link:

  17. He has made completely the wrong decision. I live in Colombia and travel to a lot of very rural areas. As long as he was sensible, he would be fine security-wise, there are far scarier places. The great shame is that he will miss a country with a fantastic cycling culture – even in the most isolated places you often see someone lycra-clad on a racer heading up and down the hills. Every Sunday they close major roads in Medellin and Bogota and people come out in their many thousands for a spin, a great festival of cycling called ‘cyclovia’. Mark can check out footage of this on the web…

  18. Interesting poll, Al, nice one. I have been sitting here too considering the benefits of both a) and b). I guess if you do b) and things go well, you can take off when the cheque comes in and cycle through Colombia all you jolly well want…. ?

  19. If it is Mark’s choice to skip past Columbia that is one thing. It is his choice and his trip. If he is being told he cannot or should not and he complies then is the trip still his?

    Some things are not worth the paycheck, but everyone needs a paycheck!

  20. One of the things I admire from your books is the most dangerous moments and as you yourself experienced; the people of this world are not as bad as the media (BBC?) report. Perhaps it is the presence of the BBC that would make that passage more ‘interesting’ to any trouble makers…


  21. Baba Blacksheep Posted

    This depends on the financial situation of the person.Do you have money saved up to ride around the world for the rest of your life?Or will this compromise help you get that money?Also,will you be alive tomorrow to use that money?Or will you just get stuck in the Saving up money for the day that never comes?



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