Looking back, there were warning signs of a bicycle ride around the world. They’re jammed under a bed in my mum’s house: shreds of cardboard memorialising hitch hikes of my teenage-years. There are marker-penned petitions for ‘M1 north’ and ‘Milton Keynes’ (pleading to go there was an irony that didn’t strike me at the time). There’s even an ‘Anywhere’ to hold up on dead stretches of road, and which reads now as an exciting opportunity for roving sociopaths with a taste for kids.
It was a potent wanderlust. I exploited the long school holidays, thumbing rides to each quarter of the compass; clambering into trucks bound for Scotland or streaking south to Cornwall. Often, I had no target; smitten with the simple sense of movement, a nascent fetish to pick up and go.
In 2009 I was a doctor at Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Trust in central London. I worked in Emergency Medicine, Intensive Care and on medical wards. But in January 2010 I waved goodbye to colleagues, friends and family from outside the hospital, and for the next six years I pedalled across 75 different countries, clocking up a distance of 86,209 km (53,568 miles) by bicycle.
From the baked deserts of Syria and Afghanistan to an outstandingly untoasty Mongolia mid-winter, I dodged landslides and leaping camel spiders, towed a rollerblader across Uzbekistan, contracted dengue fever (and the urge to tell everyone about it), pedalled through blizzards, tropical storms and volcanic eruptions, marvelled at my own spiralling dishevelment, began a relationship with Ol’ Patchy – a personable inner tube, and survived both a run-in with a gunman and the marauding hoards of school children armed to the milk-teeth with snowballs in Kent.
I’m back in the UK now, working part-time at the same hospital so that I can devote the rest of my time to writing a book. I haven’t yet enrolled in spinning classes. ‘Walk across Madagascar’ has made it onto my to-do list, but six years of cycling means I’m a balding, thirty-five-year-old man living with his mum. One step at a time.
I’m also a freelance journalist with work published in a variety of magazines and newspapers – from political opinion and health pieces in the Guardian, to travel in the Telegraph, the BBC, CNN, Geographical, Adventure Travel, Wild, Action Asia, Outer Edge and Cycle.
My thirst for adventure has also taken me to the 5610 metre summit of the active volcano Damavand in Iran, to Wales to summit every mountain over 3000 feet in 24 hours, to New Caledonia to hike across the island with a bivy bag and tarp and, as a 19-year-old, to South America to cycle the length of Chile with my 17-year-old brother.