IN THE LONG RUN
Stories Written From the Road
A Companion book to
IN THE LONG RUN: A Hopeful World Odyssey
Why This Book… and What’s In It For YOU…
Would you like to share in a journey of a lifetime? Easily? Right now? If so, let’s go! You’re looking at your ticket!
I’m Tom Smith (seriously, not an alias). I’m a published writer and photographer who made such a journey. Close your eyes for a few seconds and visualize this… a two-year global odyssey on a motorscooter – like going around the world on a comfy chair with two wheels, like flying at ground level!
At its core, it was simply a project I created with several goals and saw through until completion. But along with being a personal effort to promote friendship and communication, imagine how such a project could provide you with a profound education, filled with inward and outward discoveries. Think of the massive personal growth you could attain, strengthening and expanding the foundation of your future.
Sure, it scared the hell out of me at first, but even thinking about undertaking a huge change in your life can feel that way, right? It can be intimidating and it might even stop you in your tracks. But my whys were much stronger than my fears. (And not “overthinking” about it sure helped!) In the long run, I ended up accomplishing more than I set out to do because of all the wonderful, helpful people I met and, in larger measure, of what I learned about life and myself along the way…. that combined with developing and acting upon that personal growth.
In the years since then, I found that that kind of massive personal change becomes part of you, a resource that becomes so rooted within you that you can draw from anytime, for the rest of your life. You own it and no one can take it away from you. It is always yours to continue to develop and share.
A big part of my mission in life now is to help others who are confronting a critical crossroads find and pursue a truer and more fulfilling direction in their lives.
But you can read more about me and this trip further on.
Let`s talk about you.
For starters, have you ever dreamed of making an epic, life-changing journey but felt held back by real or perceived limitations? Yet, in some way, you would still like to do it? Or would you at least like to quickly gain some of the benefits such a trip would provide to you, without you having to take on all the inherent risks to your time, money, health, or in encountering sudden adversity far from home?
If that’s you, read on.
Could it also be that you have come to a place in your life that is so critical, it makes you feel like this: I just can’t go on this way anymore. I want change! I need it! But where do I go from here?
Ah yes, self-improvement… and making that change happen – something we all want and need to do at various times in our lives, eh? I think of such times as confronting a personal crossroads. You find you simply can’t – or don’t want to – keep going in the same direction. At the least, there is an obstacle you must surmount. You feel passionately that the time has come for you to find and pursue a new direction for your life.
Regardless of whatever brought you there, moving in a direction that will create lasting, positive change that you truly desire is usually so much easier said than done, right? You can feel so overwhelmed with fears, doubts and even the sheer number of challenging choices that it becomes easier to just say forget it and slide back into the familiarity of the same old ruts. But you also know that’s the craziness of doing the same things repeatedly and expecting different results. It can drive you bonkers!
Has that happened to you?
It has to me.
This particular crossroads in my life compelled me to work on that, big-time! There I was, a rather shy divorced father of two amazing daughters (who were in the custody of their loving mom). I was unemployed, broke and virtually homeless. (I was camped out in my dad’s recreation room, where I had spent part of my childhood.) I felt I needed a change of career. For over a decade, I had been a law clerk. It was a good, responsible job, working for three great lawyers as part of their awesome team and as their representative at registry and court offices. But I was not really pursuing my deepest passions – the essence of who I truly was. Ultimately, I did try a new entrepreneurial career – as an antique dealer and wood crafter – but it failed, along with my marriage. I also needed new perspectives on life and love.
Yeah, you might say I was a real fixer-upper!
All of that made me realize that to create such massive change in my life, I would have to put down my television remote and get myself way out my rather isolated existence – and get out of my own way to do so.
Have you ever felt the need to do that?
I also wanted to do something about those altruistic feelings so many of us have for the world, you know – a strong desire for world peace, an end to poverty, disease, prejudice, and so on. I wanted to somehow serve the greater good.
I thought: Maybe I can combine the two! That would be so win/win!
So I finally did put down my remote, got up off my butt and sought mentorship – and came up with a plan to make a journey around the world. I developed some really good intentions!
But to what end? Or beginning? And would be going on good intentions be good enough?
(Since this might be the first you’ve heard about me, I’ll go into a bit more detail how this came about a little further on in this intro.)
Here’s the trip in a nutshell:
Initially, I had intended to go by bicycle, but injuring a ligament in my right knee after falling through the ice along the shore of Lake Erie while training near my home put a stop to that just a few months before my target departure date. When the time came, I got on a motorscooter instead (though I’d never ridden a motorbike of any kind before) and rode around the world, solo, for two years (though I’d never been outside what I considered the protective womb of North America). I named the scooter Melawend – for my daughters Melanie and Wendy. That helped give me more courage to do it and determination to return.
I wanted to grow and give purpose to my passions for writing and photography. And I developed that outward purpose of promoting friendship and communication.
All in all, it was a really tough gig for a shy guy like me to even contemplate. But it forced me to take on a lot of diverse inward and outward challenges… and I effing did it! I’m happy to report that despite numerous setbacks including accidents, disease and other misadventures, I survived, and so did Melawend (which might say as much for non-mechanically-inclined me as much as it does for a particular make and model of scooter). And I can – here and now – share the benefits of the odyssey with you. (I made that dream come true too!)
Let’s move forward together!
I integrated into the complete odyssey story the lessons of life that I learned before, during, and after the journey. You will see how I applied many of them along the way… and beyond. I believe you will find ways to integrate those you identify with into your own life.
Be they good or bad, think of how major shifts you’ve made in your life have stayed with you – how they either moved you directly ahead or served as lessons. That’s life, right? Get ready… this story is full of that stuff!
Check out these areas of self-improvement that I worked on as I traveled, as they might apply to you and serve you now:
- your relationships
- dealing with people in general
- your finances
- your health
- your deepest passions and greatest goals
- your spirituality
- your inner strengths
- your skill sets
- creating win/wins solutions (Often the best way to get what you need is by helping others get what they need.)
- increasing your sphere of influence and productivity
- serving the greater good (That increases your self-motivation and sense of purpose.)
If you are at critical crossroads now, the story of this world odyssey might help you find and follow that bold new direction for your life.
To more fully serve you, I created two perspectives on the story – which has resulted in two books.
I`ll get to the second one in a bit.
What you have here is the complete series of real-time reports – 18 stories I wrote from the road for the readers of my hometown newspaper during that life-changing journey. The folks back home got them periodically over two years – but you have them all… right here, right now!
While the outward purpose of the journey was to promote friendship and communication, it also became an incredible odyssey of hope and discovery, inward and outward – profound experiences and lessons of life that became the stuff of massive personal growth in many areas of one`s life – the kind that stays with you for the rest of your life, becoming part of you. (I repeat that because it is so true and important.)
In my case, it’s been 29 years and counting as I write this at the beginning of 2016. (OMG… where does time go, eh?) Throughout that time, I have referenced the changes I went through then into my life at the moment, always with gratitude for all aspects of the journey including greater self-confidence just for having done it. I will do that for the rest of my life. You realize that once achieved, massive change becomes timeless and recyclable.
So how does a story that is based mostly someone’s terrestrial journey help you to improve your life?
Well, as you read, remember that your life itself is an odyssey. And know that the legacy of any kind of travel you do in your life is far more mental, emotional and spiritual, whether it entails terrestrial travel or not. It greatly influences and even changes your beliefs and values – the core subconscious in you that create your behaviors and habits and what you think, feel, say and do. Before you undertake any specific inward or outward journey, imagine how it might change the ways you respond to life – what you think, feel, say and do – and even your sense of purpose – all hopefully for the better.
Of course, life also deals with the mundane, routine aspects of living as well as the bold and new, the good and the bad. So much of what happened during my journey happens in everyday life.
So read along – and make this journey your own, right from where you are, in your mind.
I’ll show you how to do that.
Start by knowing that you can achieve what I’m suggesting – safely, comfortably, and relatively quickly – vicariously – starting right here and now!
And this book will help prepare you for the much deeper and expansive experience to follow.
In their own words, you will see what others got out of the odyssey story for themselves.
Here is one reader’s experience of making the story his own:
“Tom, you got to me!! You took me clear out of myself as I read your story. I have never been so moved in my life! I actually forgot I was sitting in this wheelchair. It was me on that scooter, and it was me looking out of your eyes, and feeling and being.”
~ MURRAY ANDREWS , Golden Poet Award-Winner, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Murray even wrote a poem of his personal identification with the odyssey! You can read it on the website.
Here is another by someone who also made a round-the world journey by motorcycle:
“My two trips by bike were amazing and life changing, but short compared to Tom’s two-year traveling extravaganza! One Man, One Scooter, One Hell of a Ride!”
~ EWAN McGREGOR, the award-winning actor and humanitarian sent that to me in a hand-written blurb. You might know of the round-the-world journey he made by motorcycle together another trip from Scotland to the tip of South Africa, both made with his best buddy Charley Boorman – told via the BBC series and their books, Long Way Round, and Long Way Down.
Are you ready? Let’s go!
But hold on a sec. Before we really get into it, please know that I respect your time. So with the thousands of great books on self-improvement and thousands of excellent travel accounts out there, why do I feel this book is worth it to you to invest yourself in it? (…as well as the much longer book this one is a companion to.)
That has to do with value and personal identification. I’ll explain…
From the outset, I knew that to make this journey I would have to force myself to go waaaay out of my comfort zone. I can imagine you’ve felt that need too! Maybe you’re there now. But just getting started can be the toughest part, right?
To get the benefits I was hoping for, I knew that once I got going, I would encounter a lot of challenges – the expected and the unexpected – that would compel me to find and develop inner strengths, to reach out to others for help, and to come up with mutual benefits with people I would meet. (Again, that was kind of tough for a shy guy like me!) I knew that if I could see it through, it would change my life for the better, forever. It would make me a better person all around. It would also make for some great stories along the way and a book later that would not only provide an entertaining diversion for my readers, but more important, also help people with similar challenges in their own lives. That helped give the journey more purpose and drive.
That also fuels my desire and determination to write and share more!
Okay, get yourself comfortable and just imagine this… you’re making this journey your own. You are about to embark on what you know will be an incredibly life-transformational, adventurous, purpose-oriented journey around the world, solo. You’ve planned it will take you take one-year to complete. (You never even imagined it might evolve into a two-year odyssey!)
And here’s some good news for you: to make discoveries and create change, you don’t have to become an adventurous scholar like Indiana Jones nor an expert at anything in particular. I sure wasn’t.
Frankly, as I said earlier, I was a bit of a reclusive fixer-upper , and the magnitude of the journey scared the hell out of me: I might die doing this!
LIFE TIP: A key to getting started on creating any profound change in your life is to weaken your fears by strengthening your resolve.
YOU CAN GET STARTED on creating massive change in your life by acting on what for you might be a dream or at least wishful thinking and actually move forward on it – inwardly to start. You can, like I did, do that by soul-searching to get more clarity and certainty about your dreams, plans and passions – starting from where you are and what you have going for you, especially when you include being grateful for that.
Does that make sense?
It will challenge what you have accepted as your limitations. Even when you are just contemplating big change, you might not believe you already have the strength of spirit and power of mind you need to create the change you want – but I believe you will feel it coming on with each forward move you make and incremental successes in the overall major goals you set for yourself , what John Assaraf – serial entrepreneur, brain researcher, and CEO of PraxisNow and Neurogym, and author of the bestsellers The Answer and Having It All – aptly calls, and I am now fully aware of the need for, “fractional goal setting” and “fractional goal achievement.”
So begins massive positive change.
And you will begin to internalize it and seek to grow it deeper and higher once until you truly get started and get through the first challenges.
As you read this story, keep in mind this reassuring thought: you are going by motorscooter. Perhaps think of it as a metaphor for traveling. It’s powerful, compact, and relatively easy to transport… well, at least a lot easier than, say, hauling a behemoth all-conveniences-equipped RV or a big intimidating badass motorcycle. A motorscooter is a main mode of personal transport in many places you will be visiting. So you’ll blend in, right? You will be in the open, visible to all. You’ll be vulnerable. At times this can feel scary, but you will feel more part of your surroundings than if you were encased in a four-wheeled vehicle. You make yourself more open to the change you seek. You make yourself more approachable to those who want to help you.
The key is to visualize that figuratively as well as literally.
My scooter Melawend became the perfect international icebreaker. Conversations and even friendships began when people approached Melawend and me to ask about my scooter and my journey. The same could be true of you in creating your new path in life – it will draw people to you, including people who will help you.
But here’s the real kick-starter for you: You will begin to realize, as I did early on, that you are your own vehicle – comprised of your heart, mind, body and spirit – for all of your life. That will empower you to focus more on the journey itself – and you will drive yourself to see it through, come what may, and create the change you visualized, modifying it if needed as you grow and move forward through your life.
But what about dealing with difficult transitions in your beliefs, habits ,and values that you will have to make as you go? What about the unknown? Not to mention possible failure, setbacks and quite possibly devastating misfortune. How will you handle all of that?
Once you have come up with a mission and a plan, made your preparations, including getting at least some training and support, and you’ve taken that quantum leap of faith – actually get moving – you will soon encounter challenges that compel you to, as people like to say, “think outside the box”.
(SPOILER ALERT: You come to realize… there is no box! If you feel there is, it’s one of your own creation influenced in some measure by your genetics, parents, peers, environment, circumstances and so on. But in reality, it’s an illusion. In that knowledge, you become more adept at changing your own beliefs, habits, and behaviors and in dealing with those who try to “box you in”, as it were, as well as at seeking and finding those who will truly help you, especially with your higher purpose.)
I hope you’re beginning to see that the journey you about to share in is far more than just another tale of adventurous world travel.
This book stands alone as a guide for you because I wrote these 18 stories from the road – in real time, as I travelled and grew from each experience. Most of these stories were written with pen and paper – again, in pre-digital times. (There is scientific evidence that actually writing things down by hand is more effective than typing them. But that’s an essay for another time.) I wrote them in the solitude of my tent no matter the weather, in noisy hostels and in the luxurious quiet of five-star hotels, in busy executive waiting rooms, on remote mountains and beaches, along empty roadsides, at amazing events… wherever it worked to write them.
To keep moving forward, no matter what, I had to consistently come up with creative win/win solutions with others (often with people I had just met) – from international corporations that sponsored me to local people that hosted me – ideas, plans, and proposals I often wrote down and innovative strategies I developed on the fly, many of which you can transpose and implement into your own life… now! They are woven into these stories.
LIFE TIP: To help you achieve the successes you desire, do implement a win/win mindset into your life as much as possible!
And now about the second book I mentioned…
The book you have before you serves as a companion to the consummate book about the trip – IN THE LONG RUN: A Hopeful World Odyssey. You will find that book is ten times longer than this one – at 460,000 words, it’s almost as long as The Lord of the Rings trilogy combined. I wrote it from 2,000 pages of hand-written journal notes and 60 hours of audio cassette tapes recorded along the way, together with the 7,500+ photos I took. (This was in the pre-digital days when you had to pay for film and the developing of each negative frame and Kodachrome slide, so that you really had to make each shot count.) All of that was augmented by hundreds of hours of research made before, during and after the trip, which yielded another 8,000 pages of notes. The journey was made between May 10, 1986 and July 2, 1988. I spent the next 12 months collating all that material from the journey. The hardcopy materials filled 37 large three-ring binders. I felt like both student and teacher! And then I spent the next 12 years writing the book!
The hardcopy “First Print Edition” of the book, first self-published on January 1, 2000, was a massive, heavy and awkward 597 single-spaced, dual-columned, 8 ½” x 11” Cerlox-bound pages, which I limited to 500 copies. It sold for as much as US$99.99 before I halted its production – being far to expensive in time and money.
(I’m working on the far lighter and less expensive digital edition right now!)
What you will get in that book is far more personal and in-depth in ways you can’t be (for the most part) when writing as a roving reporter that is limited to one newspaper page per objectively-written story.
With both books together, you will benefit from the full journey experience: you will get it from the real-time and objective to the raw and uncensored mental, emotional, spiritual and physical responses to the things that I went through.
In keeping my journals as I travelled, writing the main book, and as I wrote these stories from the road, I kept in mind the words written about travel writing by Paul Theroux, perhaps the best-ever travel writer:
“As for the writer, it annoyed me that a traveler would suppress his or her moments of desperation or fear or lust. … The truth about travel was unexpected and off-key, and few people ever wrote about it. … When something human is recorded, good travel writing happens.”
Here is are a few more wonderful comments I’ve received on the main book:
“Dear Tom, Last night I had a chance to start reading In The Long Run and it’s really exciting! Thinking about after starting it (plus jumping ahead to see a few previews) the words, ‘He’s A Modern Marco Polo’ came to mind. That’s really what you represent. … I want to get back on it as soon as possible.”
~ DOUGLAS KIRKLAND – a living legend in photography. Hollywood, California. Just Google him!
And I’m grateful that the book appeals to women as well as men:
“I love your book Tom. There are no other words to describe it – it is full of wonders – inspiration – spirituality – history and so much more… Your odyssey has taken me on a journey of the spirit. You took one step further – you believed in your capacity and your dreams, and you drove through with determination and confidence toward your journey of life…..Your words have painted a canvas of the world for me, describing people, cities, and things…..I feel your emotions – fear, stumblings, pain, ecstasy, fantasy, luck, discoveries and amazements……Thank you, Tom, you’ve taken me back home again.… to follow your dreams, take a chance, and never give up.”
~ JO-ANN OLSEN – program coordinator at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC, Canada
Here is what a college teacher said about the odyssey story:
“I love it. I’ve stayed up reading it every night because it’s hard to put down.”
E-mailed update: “Hi Tom. I really enjoyed your book…I can’t believe all the tremendous adventures you encountered along the way!” P.S. Your book is so full of info, I’m going to have to read it again just to digest all the information it contains. 🙂 I can tell you put a lot of love, time and effort into it. You’re an excellent writer.”
~ BILL CHAMBERS, Rush Springs, Oklahoma, USA
And here is how a reader compared it to works by some of the most popular around-the-world-by-motorcycle travel writers:
“Tom, I received your book in the mail 4 days ago. I have one problem with the book – I can’t put it down! …You did a super job on the journey and writing the book.”
E-mailed update: “I just now finished reading your book. The last week has been; eat, sleep, read the book. …Your book has been a great inspiration. …Thanks for a great book!”
E-mailed update: “You have got me dusting off your book and reading it for the second time around. (Something I never do with books.) … I think your book blows the doors off Ted Simon, Doc Frazier and the rest of them. Yes, I have read them. While I think that what Simon and Frazier did is fantastic, your writing stands head and shoulders above theirs. Your writing really puts me in the saddle with you. I think your book would be a smash hit if the word ever got out.”
~DENNIS LATZY, water treatment plant supervisor, Cool, California
You can read more reviews on the website:
PHOTOS – I scanned the best negatives and slides, but there are far too many photos to include in an ebook. So to give you two ways to get the most out of this book – visualizing by reading text only (as Paul Theroux has in all his travel books), and photos to give you a real-time view of the journey, including the black & white photos used with these newspaper stories – I’ve posted several hundred of them on the books’ website: http://www.melawend.com/ You will discover links to each country visited – and photos taken there. Click on any photo for a larger version.
You might now be asking: “Okay, but who are you, Tom?”
Indeed. And why should you read either book from me in particular?
Well, have you encountered travel accounts that were not much more than beginning-to-end “I”, “Me”, “My” bitch fests about how backwards so many people, places and things are? Well, you will see, especially in the beginning, that I did complain in a few places, made some dumbass choices, or was just plain ignorant. But I usually ended up turning it on myself and learning from it. I learned to laugh at myself first. Even today, when I encounter a challenge, especially a sudden one, or do something in a klutzy way, I always laugh, or at least smile. That seems to take the wind out of any negative reaction, making it easier to respond and deal with it in a positive way. That includes making it easier to seek help when needed.
Does that make sense?
So I believe you will see personal growth between the beginning and the end of the journey. That’s the way life is if you’re growing with it rather than shrinking and hiding from it or just drifting along. No matter how well you prepare yourself for making massive change in your life, you won’t know it all when you begin, even if you have a great mentor. I sure didn’t. You’ll likely experience growing pains. And unexpected challenges. You realize quickly that you just have to suck them up and learn from them. Put a positive spin on anything comes at you in a negative way. You will most likely become stronger, empowering you can keep moving forward faster and easier than before.
When things get really tough, remember this quote from Ernest Hemingway:
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.”
I hope you will see a bit of yourself in this story.
From the concept of the odyssey through the writing about it, I kept you, the reader, in mind, and how my journey would benefit not only me but you, in the long run. That alone filled me with hope and purpose then as it does now.
Here is where you and I can identify with each other: I believe you will find that in many ways, I’m a lot like you. I was an everyday person who faced such a crossroads dilemma, big-time. I was not some prescient, globe-trotting adventurer, a noted scientist, a medal-adorned athlete, or a famous whatever. I was not rich. (In fact, I was nearly broke.) I had to seek sponsorship and other help as I travelled. And I did not have a “tear-jerker story” as one foreign journalist put it when he ultimately refused to do a story on my journey. As mentioned, I had never ridden any kind of motorbike before, nor had I been outside what I perceived as the protective womb of North America.
As mentioned, my life experiences had led me to know I needed new perspectives on life and love, on career and on personal accomplishment in general. Of the greater good, I wanted to do something to promote friendship and communication. So, along with mentorship, I went for long solitary soul-searching walks, generated ideas, made plans, created my project, blocked in some time, went for it… and succeeded! (That included lot of trial and error misadventures and calamities along the way! And growing pains.)
So just as changing direction in your life will be new and challenging to you at your crossroads, this was completely new and challenging to me. It sure entailed getting way out of my comfy owner-built cocoon – just planning this global project, for starters. The inherent risks gave me nightmares. But the build up of successes along the way ramped up my courage, confidence, motivation and determination to keep going and see it through. It also strengthened and enhanced my overall optimism for people and the world.
HOW TO GET STARTED: Get going on these two things:
- Take an inventory of what you have going for you at the moment and what you feel you might need… and
- Get mentorship.
Here is what worked for me…
ON WHAT I HAD GOING FOR ME…
I discovered that all the fear, failure and frustration I had experienced and was then feeling actually presented a fantastic opportunity. I could not yet define it, but I became increasingly certain of this: I can and will make all this happen!
Have you felt such positive vibes like that in difficult times? And loved them despite not being clear on what you would actually do about them?
Most important, I wrote an inventory of the good things I had going for me that I could develop and act on. Two of the best were having lots of time on my hands and having my passions, which included research, writing, and natural-light photography (I had some photography credentials which I go into more detail about in the main book – but they were modest.) And I had what I perceived as my strong points, including these: being realistically optimistic, curious and open-minded and thereby also creative, caring about what others felt, committed and tenacious (what some might call “stubborn”!), a love of good conversation (especially one-to-one), being self-reliant and a team player. And I was definitely getting more focused on what I truly wanted to do with my life.
I also studied books by people who had made world journeys – albeit by bicycle… up until that training accident changed my mode so drastically.
Just doing that basic stuff made me feel stronger – more confident in myself and more focused.
ON GETTING MENTORSHIP…
But I knew I could not do this alone – I needed mentorship. Here’s a bit about three of my mentors for the journey.
The late renowned photographer IVOR SHARP, co-founder of CAPIC (now the Canadian Association of Professional Image Creators) and my sponsor to it – a photography mentor from Toronto – had recently suggested to me, rather matter-of-factly, that to grow as a photographer – and as a person – “Go around the world.” He had done so at the beginning of his amazing career and showed me the big, time-worn portfolio he made from it and had lugged around to art directors.
Can you imagine how his suggestion sounded like one of those “Yeah, right,” fantasies?
Yet, in knowing now that I had to get way out of my own way and create massive change in myself was to think bigger than I ever had about what I wanted to do in my life… well, what Ivor suggested made sense.
As mentioned, I had intended to go by bicycle in part because it seemed the most down-to-earth and least expensive way to accomplish the journey. And taking such a light “vehicle” seemed to make it more possible for me to secure sponsorship along the way. I had studied books on round-the-world trips made by bicycle. That had given me enough knowledge thereby courage to approach a potential sponsor – that became interested.
As you know, by bicycle was not to be.
So that fall-through-the-ice knee injury was in its way a blessing – it exposed me to sudden calamity, forcing me to take action on alternative ways to achieve my overall goal of making the journey around the world… resulting in a choice that was far better than my original plan.
For guidance (and perhaps a contract), I turned to Bob Gilka, then Director of Photography for National Geographic magazine. He was kind in his response talked about how they engaged photographers and writers, but he suggested I go by motorscooter. So he put me in contact with JIMMY BEDFORD, then professor and head of the journalism department of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Jimmy had made a journey around the world, much of it on a Vespa, and wrote a book about it: Around the World on a Nickel. He sent me reams of newspaper stories he had written about his travels. And he made a valid point in asking me would happen at the end of along day of bicycling if I heard that something important was going on 20 miles farther down the road.
ERNEST HEMINGWAY’s works had made him a recurrent mentor for my writing. He had thrown himself into things he had passions for, some being international, and he wrote truly about them in his books and for newspapers. I took with me on that trip a paperback of the book – BY-LINE: ERNEST HEMINGWAY Selected Articles and Dispatches of Four Decades. So I thought, Hemingway will be there to help guide me along the way!
There were a few others, in big and small ways… but I leave that for you to discover in the main book.
I knew it would be hard to explain my project to anyone, let deal with the guilt I’d feel being away from my daughters. But I had this huge window of opportunity in my life to engage and pursue my deepest passions full-on, which I had huge hopes would make me a better person all around for myself and thereby others, in the long run.
I loved my hometown – Ridgeway, which was part of Greater Fort Erie, Ontario, a border town across the Peace Bridge from Buffalo, New York. It was the last site of armed hostilities between Canada and the USA – there had been peace since 1812. But I was dismayed by all the negative international news you saw so consistently on TV – so much violence and hatred around the world, a constant broadcasted bombardment of scary, discouraging, disheartening stuff including terrorism in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East – where I would be heading. But I thought there must be common benevolent ties between what we call everyday people, wherever you might go –the masses who did not make the news – and they just might feel the same way and want to share friendship and communication.
So the Peace Bridge served as a personal symbol for my journey: the hope that someday, peace would bridge all nations and all people.
I also felt disgusted by so much human-generated environmental destruction on our planet so rich in its diverse, fragile and beneficial beauty. And just 13 days before I left, Chernobyl happened. I got pissed off when thinking about getting drenched by acid rain wrought from everyday air pollution. One of my passions was to photograph and showcase even the simplest of beauties in the natural world along with aspects of the symbiotic coexistence between humans and nature.
Like I said, I did have my own comfy owner-build cocoon, yet, though such a journey frightened me in part because I had never done anything like this, I still felt somewhat prepared for this journey of a lifetime.
My mom said that as soon as I was old enough to sit up, when a lot of toddlers would rip magazines handed to them, I would sit on the floor transfixed by the images I’d discover as I carefully flipped pages of National Geographic magazines on my lap. And when I could read, I loved the Geographic’s great stories and learning about the Earth – the planet we all call home. It instilled in me love for photography and writing, together with all aspects of our world.
But of the impending journey and all the negative shit going on in the world, I often felt the need to step back a bit: Am I nuts? What the hell am I getting myself into?
Have you ever felt like that when what you were considering doing something that seemed just too far-fetched or scary to make it happen?
Nevertheless, I felt that I was getting closer to creating a bold, new and more evolved direction for my life – and a real plan to make it happen! But I knew that for it to create massive and lasting change, I would have to engage all my wants and needs, all my strengths, and, perhaps especially, my weaknesses and fears – what I perceived as my personal limitations that I would have to face and conquer. Plain and simple: I would have to take risks. No pain, no gain and all that stuff. But pumped myself up by feeling that just getting started would help give me the courage and inner resources I would need to take on even unexpected adversities.
Initially the journey was tough – even those first few miles that first day when the scooter felt suddenly wobbly under its heavy load for the first time – What the hell? But I gradually toughened up and rejected negativity by developing and focusing on a more powerful positive and determined mindset: I can and will do this, dammit!
I often dumped caution. I went totally out of character to create and carry out, solo, a global travel-generated project that would accomplish my goals and benefit others in the process. That enlarged my purpose – to serve a greater good. Still, it was weird to think of myself trundling my soft, thin zippered briefcase up to people at embassies and foreign government offices all the way around the world.
I had already created a role for myself – that of a self-appointed ambassador-in-blue-jeans, bringing greetings and an offer of an information exchange between my hometown and communities and regions I would visit. The journey was entitled Cycle for Life: World Odyssey. I would become a self-taught photo-journalist who would take photographs and write stories about the journey as I went, and I would follow up with a book and more afterward.
Some people I told about it thought I was nuts, or I had no track record for this and that I would get started but likely quit early on. That was one reason an editor at a major newspaper gave me for rejecting my offer of stories from the road. And a few other potential sponsors echoed that rejection, some being diplomatic, other less so. “All they (a couple) did was put one of our company stickers on their bike and had fun riding around the country,” said one potential sponsor. “How did you get my number?” said another. Despite multiple mailings and slogging my briefcase of ideas around and getting polite rejections, a few came on board – with goods and services – but none financially.
I was grateful. Still fear set in big-time in realizing I would have to “go in cold” for sponsorship, hospitality, and other help for two solid years – and do all that stuff so often and so far from home at that.
Where’s my remote!
Yet while it did seem so utterly crazy and risky and an even a bit irresponsible, it also seemed so full of potential.
I thought: To hell with it! I’m going to do it!
Then I committed to my plan publically – the editor of our local paper was captivated by the concept and put out an announcement. That sure put me on the spot! Former law clerk and his scooter to take on the planet! All at once, I became accountable to more than just myself and a few others. That was a huge step for me!
(That could work wonders for your plans too!)
Though I sold most of the material possessions I had left, I started out with just $600 seed money and a good deal on the scooter from a local dealer.
And two years later – despite a whole whack of obstacles along the way including three crashes, injuries, debilitating disease, and lots of misunderstandings and logistic challenges – Melawend and I made it!
(I know, I’m repeating myself – but hey, I am still proud that Melawend and I made it!)
I called it a “hopeful” world odyssey, because hope is a great place to start any worthwhile change. If you can see there is hope in something, you can visualize more clearly the potential for it. If you pursue it passionately, you will develop faith that it will work out in the long run. As you move forward, you feel incrementally the inner changes you seek. You get stronger in heart, mind and spirit. Your confidence and determination increase dramatically. You see new opportunities more easily and you get more creative. You find reconciliation with the past. More important, there comes a stronger and more fulfilling connection with yourself, with others, with the world… with the present and the future.
How awesome is all of that?
But without follow-through, hope remains wishful thinking that can lead to lost opportunities. Have you experienced that?
Again, as you read, be mindful that many of the challenges this two-year global journey presented happen in everyday life – so the story is not so much about terrestrial travel as it about moving forward in your life, pursuing your dreams together with setting and accomplishing your goals.
HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF THIS BOOK
(as well as the consummate book)….
- Make this journey your own!
- As you read along, check out how I handled challenges – for better or worse. How would you have handled the various situations?
- Discover through my efforts and successes those which you identify with and could thereby benefit from.
- Highlight passages that resonate with you.
- See if the story helps inspire in you new ideas and perspectives from which you can:
- better determine and visualize what you truly want,
- recognize and passionately pursue new opportunities,
- determine what mentorship, training, and new skill sets you need to pursue your goals.
- Write notes.
- Turn notes into clear, specific short- and long-term goals for yourself, your loved ones, and the greater good. Write them down.
- Create and write down actionable plans to achieve those goals, and then…
- TAKE ACTION on your plans!
If you’ve been with me this far, I know you’re ready!
Your friend and guide
Thomas (Tom) Martin Smith
“The Scooter Crusader”
Victoria, BC, Canada
PS… If you would like to receive updates including strategies, tools, products and programs to help you on your continuing odyssey through life, go to www.melawend.com and sign up – it’s FREE! And feel free to share this with your family, friends, and colleagues!