After three years working as an IT Consultant in Dublin, I became disillusioned with the routine of it all and decided to quit and pursue my dream of becoming a travel writer. I started a blog and set off for Canada to pursue a new life for myself. To create the new person I wished to be I believed it was best to escape my old environment in Ireland. Now, after almost two years travelling around Canada, I am embarking on my greatest adventure to date – an 1,800 kilometer Canadian cycle from Montréal to Cape Spear, Newfoundland.
“Many people die with their music still in them. Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it time runs out.” – Oliver Wendall Holmes
It’s great being a writer. You can write anything you want. It’s easy really. I try to write as honestly as I can but I’m aware my truth is not necessarily the truth. I always have a lens filtering my own memories. Probably one which makes me come out of the story better. So it’s easy to lie in writing, or at least exaggerate the truth. That’s the part about writing that I have a problem with. In my opinion, writing is not much different from talking. And I know plenty of people who talk a good game but rarely do anything they say. That is why I don’t want to associate myself solely as a writer. I fear I will just become another talker. Even if what I’m saying is right it doesn’t mean I’m actually living by those principles.
That’s why I’m focused on being a doer and not just a talker. Doing is the most important part. We lead by example not by words. I always relate leadership to sport and what makes a great captain. Roy Keane’s words may have riled up players on the Man United team to get them to put their bodies on the line but if it wasn’t for his example his words would have little effect. It was the fire in his eyes and the tenacity in his effort that inspired others to fall in behind him. His words only reinforced what they’d seen from him and helped served as a guide on how they too could muster up that ferocity.
For the past while I have felt like I’ve been making a bit of a half-arsed effort at the whole chasing my dream thing. I haven’t been publishing enough or undertaken enough to improve my writing skills. I have an abundance of ideas and half-written articles gathering dust in my Google Docs folder but that’s where they stay. There was always one thing or another going on that I chose to focus my attention on instead. It’s usually something social like going drinking with the lads. I knew however that if I wanted to really give this travel-writing lifestyle a real crack I would need to change my environment and to jump fully into it. I know that this approach isn’t for everyone but for me, comfort is the biggest obstacle to my productivity and that’s why I needed to do something radical.
Late last week, I completed the first leg of an 1,800 kilometer Canadian cycle from Montréal to St John’s Newfoundland with the aim of both sharpening my writing skills as well as my calf muscles. The journey should take me roughly three weeks to complete – giving me plenty of time to think and write on the open roads as I go.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to do as much cycling training as I would’ve liked in the lead up to my departure date. But to be honest, that’s part of the challenge. You’ll never be 100 percent prepared to chase your dreams. There will always be some skill you will lack or area where you are weak. There will always be something going on at home, or in your job, or with your football team that means you can’t leave. There will always be reasons not to do something and far fewer to actually do it. But there is one reason why taking on this Canadian cycle made all the nagging doubts seem obsolete. And that is: If I don’t chase my dream right now will I ever do it?
Why this Canadian cycle journey is so important to me
Before leaving, I was reminded of the gravity of this question while chatting with my colleague Norm. Norm is almost 70 now and he’s been painting houses for over forty years. We were talking about education and I was telling him half-jokingly about how I was going to change the education system in Ireland when I returned back home. He laughed at my innocence, saying:
“I wanted to change the world too when I was your age. But then you get a job, you find a woman, you have kids, you get a house and you settle down. Don’t you worry man I was the same as you. I was the rebel when I was younger.”
In those moments I saw my future-self in Norm. He thought like me when he was younger and he stood up and took action for what he believed was right. But before he knew it life took hold and society’s firm grip eventually pulled his youthful enthusiasm back in. He told me that the years started to fly by as the daily routine of working life took hold. His last words to me were:
“Keep writing and doing and thinking the way you do and you will change the world!”
That was enough motivation to silence any doubts I had, and I’m fully sure that I’m doing the right thing. Now let the fun begin!