There is a new kind of addiction growing rampantly in our hectic and draining city lives: Travelling. Many are taking to the road to protest their mind-numbing city lifestyles; and escape into nature, immerse into different cultures, and hear stories of people far and wide. One such adventurer and explorer dedicated to exotic adventures is Leon McCarron.
After I returned from the approximately 22,500 km solo bike ride, I realised that what I wanted to do was tell stories.”
Leon McCarron is a Northern Irish expentionist and filmmaker. A Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, he specialises in long distance, human-powered expeditions. One with a strong wander-lust, he is also a storyteller. Leon’s first book – ‘The Road Headed West’ about his bicycle journey across North America was released in July 2014. It is now an Amazon Top 10 Bestseller.
And there’s more. At the end of 2012 Leon traversed approximately 1,609 km of the Empty Quarter desert (Rub’al Khali, Arabian Peninsula), roughly following the route of Sir Wilfred Thesiger (English explorer and travel writer), while pulling a cart loaded with supplies. In May 2012 he concluded a 6-month, 4,828 km expedition, walking the length of China, from the Gobi desert in Mongolia to the South China Sea in Hong Kong. National Geographic produced a 4-part TV series capturing his journey. Leon’s other travels include a 22,530 km solo unsupported bicycle ride from New York to Hong Kong; a folding bike trip around the British Isles to climb the Six Peaks; a human-powered descent of the longest river in Iran, the Karun; and a crossing of Argentine Patagonia on horseback. Most recently he walked 1,600 km from Jerusalem to Mount Sinai to explore the other side of a misunderstood region.
Adventure was the vehicle for finding the types of stories that interested me – things that people could identify with, but which were unusual and often under-reported.”
So what inspires this expeditionist to take on these ambitious journeys and risky adventures? Leon says, “After I returned from the approximately 22,500 km solo bike ride, I realised that what I wanted to do was tell stories. Adventure was the vehicle for finding the types of stories that interested me – things that people could identify with, but which were unusual and often under-reported.” But, just because Leon had some good stories, his life as an author and storyteller didn’t simply fall into place. There were times when he recalls barely scrapping through. “I spent a long time making almost no money at all. I slept on sofas of friends, and I ate a lot of toast. It probably took three years before I could subsist from the work I was producing.”
Unpredictable days, calculating moves to find a route, they are all part of the adventure for Leon. But, responding to what the word adventure means to him, the explorer says, “I see it as a mindset. Adventure, in my world, is choosing to do something challenging and different. It’s a way to look at the world, to choose to meet things head on and be ambitious and willing to take on the unknown.”
This storyteller’s heart is that of a nomad by choice. Leon says, “This was what I really cared about, and I couldn’t abide the idea of working 40-50 hours a week doing something that I neither liked nor was any good at.” So instead he shares the stories of his travels through books, films, and documentaries. He is currently working on his second book, and a trilogy of films about his latest journey on foot from Jerusalem to Mount Sinai. When asked what next, Leon replies, “It depends entirely on the next story that I come across that grabs me and doesn’t let go. It could take me anywhere in the world.”
Leon shares his views on the changing structure of the work system in our society, and the evolving career prospects, “The world works in a different way than it did 10 years ago, and in another 10 years people will be doing jobs that don’t even exist today. Take that as encouragement – it is democratising, and allows us to build our skills and create our own platform for work.” The adventurer further adds saying, “Hard work, enthusiasm and a fair amount of struggle are fundamental to most endeavours like this, but if you’re good and you get a few breaks, there’s no reason why you can’t make it.”
Leon McCarron is connecting the world in a novel manner. Documenting the under-reported lives and sharing stories from all over the world, he proves that some addictions are in fact healthy.