Why I am Doing This Journey
My name is Theodore Brun. I am 34 years old. Just young enough still to be doing something mildly absurd like cycling halfway across the world. Personally I wouldn't want to be any older - I have enough creaking joints now as it is.
I suppose you could call me a lawyer. At least intermittently that has been my profession, and indeed it is what I am trained to do. Despite this, my heart has never really been in the law, and this for me is fatal. If my heart is not in something I do it very badly as a rule, and I'd rather not be a lawyer at all than be a bad one.
On the other hand I am a very accomplished dreamer. I can dream all day long about many different subjects. My heart is very much in that. And this trip really emerged as an idea at the interplay of these two facts.
In October 2009, I moved to Hong Kong to take up a job as an in-house lawyer with a Biotech company. Although I believe I worked hard for the Filligentsia - as I like to call them - there were and are a number of things I want to achieve in life, which continuing on that particular path was not going to allow.
These are in no particular order: write a book (or two), preach a great deal, teach history (perhaps), have a family and somehow find time to be a tour guide in Paris. This last is perhaps a little strange but I like the idea. What these had in common was that they required a return to Europe.
As my mind turned over this idea, I would occasionally find myself staring into space imagining not just jumping on a plane back to London but returning overland. And overland not by bicycle but by foot. It seemed like a day-dream, albeit an appealing one, and I never took it very seriously.
However, during a conversation with a friend in Hong Kong, these ideas all came up and she asked me what was stopping me from just pulling on a backpack and setting off for the West. I couldn't actually give her an answer. More than at any time during my life I am unattached. No wife, no family, no girlfriend, no mortgage payments, not even a lease. There literally was nothing stopping me.
Suddenly it occurred to me that a dream I had harboured in my heart for a long time - perhaps 15 years - actually was there for the grasping. So I started to take it seriously. And within probably only a couple of days of that conversation I had decided this is what I would do. The idea quickly morphed from returning home to Norfolk by foot to a bicycle, when my brother Christian, his wife Christina and I got out his Times World Atlas to peruse a possible route. When we got to Kazakhstan, Christian turned over two double-page leaves of beige nothingness that is the Kazakh steppe. There was silence for a few moments, before Christian said, "Are you sure you don't want to do it by bike?"
I was not. And so I am doing it en vélo. I would like to think my family and perhaps some others are more enthusiastic about the idea of not seeing me for several months than for several years, so I am pleased to indulge them also.
But what was exciting about doing it? I should explain that, within my chest, beats a heart heavily influenced by a number of different characters, both literary and literal. Central Asia has held a fascination for me since reading the Flashman novels - unsurpassable historical fiction which leaves every other writer trailing in MacDonald Fraser's wake. But this led me on to studying a Master's at Cambridge on the subject of British and Russian influence in Central Asia during the 19th century (come on - what could be more intriguing?!), and so to characters like "Sekundar" Burnes, Eldred Pottinger the Hero of Herat, Lieutenant Sir Richard Shakespeare (undoubtebly the jammiest dodger of the bunch whose fortunate timing meant he escaped the snake-pits some of his companions suffered and made it home for tea and medals), Captain Burnaby and his legendary ride to Khiva to name just a few. Add to these historical figures some fictional characters like all three of the Brothers Karamazov, Rashkolnikov, Levin, Sidney Carton, Sigurd the Dragon-Slayer, Aragorn and co., and you can probably begin to understand the compost heap out of which my imagination has fomented (to steal Tolkein's image). And yet another layer exists. In January 2005 I became a Christian, and since then - especially recently - I have been fascinated by the blazing determination and fiery will of great heroes of the faith like St Francis, St Brendan and St Boniface, not to mention St Paul. (If you're interested to know why this came about, click here.)
Most of these have little in common other than they were all driven on into the unknown - into adventure. Perhaps they are all charaterised by some level of inner conflict and a life of quest. Whatever it is, the impression their influence has left on me is of a deep desire to embark on a great physical quest - a journey - and to see it through to its end.
Evidently, this journey fulfils that desire. And this is an opportunity that I had given up hoping for long ago. That it arose as a possibility now, I consider a great blessing.
Over and above this, there is my faith. A number of people understand this trip as fulfilling a need to "find myself". I don't consider that a motivation at all. Instead I do go to find someone but that someone is my God. For those who don't share my faith, perhaps you can bear with me for a paragraph or so - but I would certainly be leaving something out of the picture if I didn't mention it. The prophets and saints of old did not go to the desert to be alone. They went to be alone WITH their God - to know Him better, to meet Him face to face, and to be changed by Him. And from these encounters they changed the world. (You may perhaps think for the worse - I think for the better). So I am not alone on this journey. And if, in making this voyage, I intend to find anyone, it is God and not myself. Yet in finding Him, I will be changed and I will know myself better too. If I can emerge the other side a more authentic person, then so much the better for all around me.
As any good adventure must have, there is, I suppose, a romantic reason for disappearing into Eurasia as well. It doesn't feel very long since my heart was broken from a failed engagement to an amazing girl last year - albeit of my own doing. Without doubt, this journey will provide a pretty substantial period of healing and of facing up to the hard realities of what needs to change within me to break out of this cycle.
These deeper internal motivations aside, I am just fascinated by maps, and more particularly, drawing lines across them to mark where I have been. I wonder whether I can actually do this - get myself from Hong Kong across 8 times zones back to the UK simply by pedal-power. We will see.
Finally, I will use this opportunity to raise some money for TWO separate charities. This way if you feel like giving you have a choice. The first is Wellspring International which works hard to identify and fund projects which help under-privileged women and children. The other is the Harry Mahon Cancer Research Trust. Harry was one of my coaches when I rowed at Cambridge University and it is great to be able to support something in his memory which is such a physical endeavour, which I hope he would have appreciated. You can find out more about either of these organisations here.
So for all these reasons - this is why I go.
I hope that over the next year or so, some of what I write and post on this website is entertaining or interesting for you.
Thanks for visiting!
- Notes from the Road
- Join Me for the Ride!
- Press Articles & Clips
- Causes for your Support
- Voices in the East
- Distance Done
- Kit Inventory
- Maps of the Route
- Video Clips
- Norfolk Superheroes