I will be giving a talk about Weave of the Ride and the importance of taking journeys at The George Pub, 213 The Strand, London on 20th June. The event opens at 7pm and I will be talking at 7.30pm.
Tickets are £5 on the door. There will be a raffle for the book, books available for sale and book signing. The events are usually sold out and are first come, first served. There have been many amazing speakers at previous events so I’m very happy to also be participating.
In addition to my talk will be Leon MacCarron talking about walking the Empty Quarter desert with Alastair Humphreys which promises to be thrilling. To top it over there will also be a live call with Matt Traver who is currently in Kazakhstan, setting off on a 2500km horseback journey through Central Asia!
Check out the Facebook Group for further information about the event. I hope you can all make it and I look forward to seeing you there.
Apologies for the beginning of the video, phone is rotated after a few minutes.
Notes from the Talk
There are tonnes of people doing bike trips so whats special about mine?
Hi I’m Andy Welch. I currently live in London but I was brought up in a small Leicestershire village, where I attended scouts, and ran around the fields having adventures with my friends which began my affinity with the outdoors. (pic of quaint village sheep)
I studied Ecology at York University and I spent many hours exploring the dales and moors in the mountain biking club. (pic of mtb club) in Yorkshire.
After studying I went back to my parents place, planning to start a design business. However, after 6 months I was sick of working alone in front of a screen and I wasn’t ready to take on the boring aspects of running a business, so I found a season job as a mountain bike guide with a company called Neilson on an island called Korcula in Croatia. (pic of korcula biking).
I ran 3 rides per day round the island and it was a tough but very rewarding lifestyle but there was something missing. Some friends made a trip, hiring a car and travelling round the island and it sparked my interest when I saw their photos of jumping off waterfalls. I had never considered travelling before but it triggered the idea that instead of cycling loops, I could explore other places using the bike.
I returned to the UK full of energy and enthusiasm but I couldn’t pass that energy onto my friends and family however much I tried. I attempted finding a job related to my degree but became disenchanted after making endless applications and anyway most related jobs seemed to miss the point of the ecological issues I had learnt about at uni so I ended up taking the first thing that came up which was an IT job based in a dingy basement office.
After 6 months working there, I felt a strong dissatisfaction with my everyday routine. I had a gut feeling that I was missing out on something bigger and it didn’t seem that anything was going to change unless I took action. People said I should be happy to with the work experience that I was getting and that every first job was bad but I wasn’t convinced.
I had a feeling that the world was out there and my path was diverting dangerously away from the opportunity to experience it and the the bicycle was the obvious way to access it so the idea from Croataia came back into my head. I could absorb a cross section of a country in a slow way. The change wouldn’t be that extreme and I could always bail out of the trip anytime (pic of bike representing freedom). There were no rash decisions that could be make and starting in Europe would be a gentle introduction.
I had been discussing the idea with my friend Tom and it evolved until one afternoon on a particularly blissful summers day stuck in the office, I sent him a text message saying ‘do you fancy cycling round the world’, to which he agreed.
We threw ourselves into preparation creating a website with lists of equipment and countries we wanted to visit and I started to write my thoughts in a journal. We found equipment sponsors by calling companies and the rest of the equipment came from eBay. The sponsorship and attention also helped to boost our confidence that the trip would really happen and also after a chance meeting by Tom with a contact from the WWF we also received support to film people’s stories about climate change.
It got to the leaving date and my bike wheels still hadn’t been delivered.
(pic of unbuilt bike)
Luckily, they arrived at the last minute and the bike took shape but it looked like an overloaded pack horse with far too much equipment and It is not recommended to go on a long tour on a bike you have never ridden.(pic of overloaded bike)
We had a leaving party and then in a very anti-climatic way pedalled slowly out of the village with a lingering hang over. (pic of leaving). There was a certain ‘leap of faith’ to begin it in the sense that at some point we departed from the safety of ideas and preparation and were opened up to the process. There was a huge relief to finally have left but I confronted with a deluge of new emotions. My preconception of the trip didn’t meet up with the reality ast first and I would have to become more open and less judgemental in order to not feel disappointed and moody.
There were 3 of us traveling: Mark (a friend’s of Toms from uni), Tom and I. It was enriching to be in a group because each person added their point of view and narrative. However, there were three set of desires and strong personalities so we ended up fighting most of the time.
To resolve this we tried created roles. We have a cook role, navigator, and dogsbody. This worked sometimes but could be described at times as a ‘concept over experience’ in the sense that some were better at some roles than others.
Early in the trip not even out of England on the first or second night, Mark took his water bottle and asked a someone for water. We were very surprised to not only have the water bottle filled but be invited in, given food and even a place to sleep. We continued to use this excuse to make connections and we were regularly invited in.
However, this bought up the dilemma of whether to accept the invitation at the expense of making the distance to our destination. Nevertheless, we did accept most of the invitations which enriched the experience and got me thinking about the difference between between taking a journey and completing a big challenge. However, because we still had a definable aim it meant that people responded positively to that goal by opening up about their dreams and stories. (pic of campfire)
When you cycle, you move slowly and people find you approachable. We spent plenty of time hanging around waiting for others to do something; buy food, go to the toilet or just rest which meant that there was more chance for something to happen. This method of ‘hanging around’ can be lost in todays' culture of knowing exactly where you are going and doing, but there is magic in prolonging the moment. | change here
A journey tends to be open to happenings and chance, whereas a big challenge is focussed on taking linear steps to reach a predefined goal. I felt I had gone from a linear existence, meeting the same people, seeing the same environments to a much less structured, open and free-flowing existence, meeting many types of people, from different backgrounds. This increase in my life experience felt intuitively right somehow.
Another thing I noticed about the journey was that my perception of time completely changed because my world had grown with the addition of more meetings, places, and thinking than before when I had been travelling every day to work.
When I was travelling even familiar objects changed in a subtle way: like the tarmac on the road, the kinds of plants and trees, languages, people’s faces- there was always something different to notice if you were aware and looked closely.
Also I was always I was moving relative to objects all the time instead of being inert surrounded by inert objects. I was in presence of the change of the sun and the seasons so there were many more ways to recognise that time was passing. (melting clocks?)
Some interested photos from the whole trip and short caption here.
Places would appear completely differently to the research I had done about the trip in guidebooks and research beforehand. The stronger the pre-conceived image of the place the more it seemed to depart from that image.
It was rare, due to watching tv and the internet, that I had no idea of what to expect of a place but that’s what happened with Georgia. It was as if I had entered another world; a broody, wild, real, snowy, magical mystery land of cheesy katchapuri, dancing, shouting and partying people and I immediately fell in love with the place. I took a flat and started writing my book looking out over grapevines on my balcony and the mountains.
It was a place that had a different system; a former soviet country that had a sense of wanting to be European, but was geographically a mix of east and west; not quite in Central Asia or Europe. I loved the mountains for biking and the people were really warm, open and friendly and I soon made friends.
(pics of Georgia -mystical mountains)
Whilst in Georgia, I decided to continue to cycle to India. (pic from iran) because Tom and I had discussed cycling alone so we went our separate ways. There was a mystique about being alone but in reality it created new and took away possibilities.
Couple of pics from trip to India with short captions
Being alone I could push my own physical capability but I didn’t have that benefit of different points of view, or being forced to hang around. Instead of being about relationships that part of the journey was about the experience of being alone and I also became more aware of ‘road culture’ (chay whalas, truck stops, and the constant din of traffic) and the desire arose to take smaller roads, and deliberately take diversions…( into small villages to see more of the family life and agricultural way of being) which probably lead to the conclusion of leaving the roads entirely and cycling in Mongolia.
I have finished the first draft of the second book which includes the trip from India and Mongolia so please keep tuned in for that. (pic of mongolia)
The journeys I have taken have defined me. Such coming of age experiences can take any form but often there is a dissatisfaction, a need to break from the norm and take a leap into the unknown. Journeys can be very personal experiences but there is always something to learn from what people take from their own experience which I think is at the essence of education and learning and I think in fact that a journey is an excellent learning environment.
When I came to writing the book I was surprised how much I could augment my journal with my memory. The journey improved my memory because it connected events and objects together in a meaningful way and the nature of the experiences meant I was more conscious at the time and they were etched more strongly into my mind.
I documented with photos, journal, voice and video on my trip. I found a problem with digital media was that it was possible to collect so much. This built up in my mind as a daunting task to process it all. You may have seen the film Janapar which was a feature length film cut down from 300 hours of footage which was an epic and expensive task.
Through my studies I read something by a philosopher called Roland Barthes once spoke of photographs that have a quality that ‘advenes’ which is obviously connected to the word adventure which meant that they animated him to further explore in his journey into photography and I think this is a good way for me to think about my photos.
- I started writing Weave of the Ride in 2009
- My best time to write was in the early morning.
- I took the approach (inspired by my favourite Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek) to get my ideas down and then edit them and not actually do any writing. This resulted in the creation of 200, 000 words which I edited down to 90, 000.
- The book was initially edited by cycle courier Emily Chappell in exchange for making her website (insert pic here- emily and website)
- The cover was designed by a friend in exchange for helping him put up subversive overlays for light box adverts around London (insert pic here).
- The design for the book cover became a website via a cyclist designer in Tokyo who I met on a freelance website (pic) and a launch page via another cyclist designer in London (pic)
- The main edit was done by an aspiring editor Eva Arnold working for a small publisher.
- All this was done either via skill exchanges or small payments.
I enjoyed the writing process and one of the main things that I noticed was being able to assess my own biased opinions and revisit the experiences with the eventual hope to pass on my learning experience to others.
Preparation is important in that it creates something that animates and feeds back to you and others who hopefully encourage you and push you towards your goal. It gives confidence to act and sets up starting points from which experiences leads.
Having a date set to start doing the thing is important particularly because a choice has been taken and attention focussed on working towards it, and looking forward from your present to the future.
Equipment is important in the sense that it affects the experience; a road bike will allow you to cover distance faster than a mountain bike, but a mountain bike is comfortable and less likely to break. A GPS can locate settlements for food and water, but its also means you are less likely to ask people for directions. (pic of mongolia).
I have always been interested in philosophy and my journeys created a desire to develop this so I studied an MA in Design Critical Practice in London. I realised that you go through the education system and get spat into the world and often what you study is not what you will end up using in a specific role in a job. (pic of on one side lecture hall and other great outdoors). Exploring knowledge in various mediums is important but it is invaluable to have ‘in the world practical experience’ and envision the possibility of using your knowledge and skills for perhaps more profound ends than often is the case for many standard jobs.
Whilst travelling, I was presented with the need to earn money and I taught English and made websites and found jobs, but I came to the conclusion that I selling my time would not be an efficient way to support myself working for low wages so I would have to concentrate on making things.
I decided to study a MA Design to discover about the process of making and since studying I have also realised that schools tend to prepare people to sell their time in a predefined job role and there is a lack of learning about how to craft something of value and offer that to a community.
Society it seems wants you to fit into a neat role whereas taking a journey means that you have to become a generalist to get along. It also gives you a chance to think outside of doing work that has an intended outcome.
Alfred North Whitehead once said that ‘adventure is the vitality of ideas’ and I was pleased to discover a parallel between the concept of the linear challenge and the exploratory journey and design thinking.
A tutor had written a paper talking of the characters of the Apollonians and the Dyonyssians from Greek Mythology. The Dynoyssians live similarly to the way of the exploratory wayward journey, accepting all invitations and going by intuition, celebrating along the way whereas the Appollonians are more like th big challenge, following logical steps to reach a goal .
However, it seems they both work and act together; both are required and they have what is called a ‘dialectic’ relationship.
There are many philosophers who claim that the world is becoming skewed towards the Appollonian side stuck in a way of progressing similar to the linear challenge, I previously mentioned and there is a need for more exploratory way of being.
I continued to study this and I found inspiration from a group called the Situationists who advocated the use of walks to explore the city space only for the reason ‘just to do it, and follow all events that arose from meetings and events along the way.
I am in the process of creating some tools based on these ideas I am creating a guidebook and some apps… If you would like to find out more information please visit my website….