2) To be alone. Will it be lonely? Of course, but I'm happy in the knowledge that a loving family and a great bunch of friends will be there when I get back. Loneliness is all too often dismissed as entirely negative when it can actually be one of the most inspiring forces in our lives. Some of the most beautiful art has sprung from loneliness. I'm certainly no artist but the inward reflection that time alone allows, or even forces, is an important process of catharsis. Also, it teaches you to truly appreciate company. I have no doubts that my life after I return will be immeasurably more fulfilling than my current existence for this very reason.
3) To be away from everything; all the anxieties, pressures and responsibilities that life in the developed world brings. I'll find news a luxury to be relished rather than a bombardment by trashy rags littering tube stations. I can become disconnected and feel wonderfully distant. Horatio Clare writes in his book A Single Swallow: "The self-containment of the solitary traveller gives you an other-worldly, off-to-one-side lightness of being. You have not the slightest bearing on events. You cannot even converse about the business of the day, supposing you have heard about it on the radio. You do not matter. The irrelevance of the traveller, your absence of responsibility, most of the time for anything but yourself is a strange condition. You might as well be a ghost."
4) To challenge myself. The extremes of physical and mental endurance that will, at times, be necessary will push me to limits that I've never experienced before. Whether it is battling into a force 4 wind in -40°C or just finding the mental stamina and strength of character to continue and not give up after weeks and months of not speaking English or washing or sleeping in a bed. In essence, I want to see if I actually am capable of what I believe I am. People often talk about "that youthful feeling of immortality" where you're sure you can do anything. I want to protect that feeling and savour it for as long as possible.
5) To avoid the potential monotony of stability. I don't want to get settled into a career in Britain without giving myself the best possible look at the rest of the world. There is a time for everyone to settle but this isn't mine. I don't think I should decide how the next 40 years of my life will be spent until I know what else lies out there. You are born in one place but nothing says that is the place for you. Basic circumstance should never dictate the course of your life.
6) If I must make a living then this is how I would like to do it. Travelling and writing. If I can do interesting things then I can try to make a living out of making other people interested in them too. To that end, tell your friends about me...
7) To write. I love to write and think that travel provides some of the most remarkable and free-flowing inspiration. Authors with writers block often travel to cure their affliction. Inspiration comes from experiences which are found in abundance when you hit the road.
8) To finally grow a beard big enough to scare me into stopping growing dirty beards.
To those who are still not satisfied (and therefore, probably never will be), I repeat: Why on earth not?
As the time of my departure steadily approaches (under 20 weeks to go), I'm starting to reflect on the adventure to come. A thrilling mix of intense excitement and mild anxiety fills my idle moments which are thankfully few at the moment. Itchy feet are a frustrating affliction.
My current priority is to get hold of a bike capable of carrying me the distance. Any thoughts on this matter would be welcome. Something sturdy enough to endure the battering by inevitably bumpy roads but also able to maintain a good pace on decent roads. If anyone knows anyone who knows anyone who might be interested in sponsoring me a bike or could possibly help me on this front then please get in touch.
Another mini project that has been brewing in the minds of myself and my friend Harry is the possibility of crossing the English Chanel on a pedalow at the start of my expedition. This would not only be consistent with the pedal-powered theme of my journey, but would also get me off to a strong zero-emissions start by avoiding a ferry crossing. Any thoughts on this would also be welcome.
I've just started reading Benedict Allen's inspiring book Into The Abyss on his epic dog sledge journey in Siberia's worst winter in living memory. This book is particularly fascinating for me as he covers the potentially treacherous route which I will attempt to follow when I reach Far East Russia. For anyone mildly interested in travel literature, I strongly recommend anything by Allen. His first book about his 1985 Amazon expedition, Mad White Giant, is mind-blowing.
For now I'll leave you with a snooty traveller's quote:
"Don't tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you travelled" - Mohammed the prophet
Welcome to www.charliewalkerexplore.co.uk. I have just launched this website today and would love your thoughts. Welcome
On July 1st 2010, I am setting off on my bicycle for four years on an epic journey through Europe, Asia and Africa. I shall be blogging on this site and posting constant updates including photos and footage of my adventure.
For now I'll just leave you with the following food for thought:
"A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step"