“You never feel more alive than when you’re about to fall off a cliff in China.” said ‘cycling reporter’ Leon McCarron, who, in the last two years has travelled 17,500 miles, by bicycle and by foot.
After being held at gunpoint, cycling through a tornado and being arrested up to 16 times on his travels. McCarron has documented his journeys through filming for National Geographic and in writing for The Sunday Times and The Guardian.
His audience tonight (Wednesday 3rd October) was at the first Open Lecture at the University of Kent, where he is an alumnus.
He told the auditorium: “I did not grow up wanting to be an adventurer” but said that it grew organically after completing his film degree in 2008 at the Canterbury campus.
He remembered how he began planning a trip of the UK with friends at the age of 15 from Northern Ireland but it did not succeed. Then at 16, he travelled around Europe.
After university he then flew across the pond to cycle through the US. Starting in New York he travelled with a lot of baggage and $5 a day to spend, where he soon learnt the reality of his ‘Big Adventure’.
McCarron said: “I wanted to give up and just go home, but I kept on going.”
The 25 year old added: “I thought things couldn’t get any worse.”
His journey continued and he experienced tough weather conditions, a bear visiting his tent and the Testicle Festival of Montana.
He completed his tour of the US and was given a free plane ticket to New Zealand by the tourism board. He then progressed through the outback of Australia and Thailand before finally finished in Hong Kong.
Altogether he achieved 14,500 miles and 100 punctures on the way.
In less than six months his next project was underway as he and a friend decided to walk 3000 miles from Sainshand in Mongolia to Hong Kong.
He had initial reservations for the trek but spoke about opportunities coming in different shapes and forms.
He concluded he should, ‘embrace opportunity and embrace change’ and accepted the challenge.
It received the backing of National Geographic, which brought new pressures as they had to capture 'quality broadcast footage'.
McCarron summed up the length of the journey with this analogy on the plane trip to Mongolia.
For every three minutes on the plane it equalled one day of walking.
The six month walk threw up many challenges; from the language barriers to the dipping temperatures from -20 degrees in the daytime to -30 degrees in snow blizzards.
At Christmas time and halfway into the journey McCarron was informed that his footage was blurry due to a camera default.
He said: “We had messed it all up and we didn’t have a TV show.”
The pair was undeterred and for 195 days they walked consecutively and reached Hong Kong, on the 26th May this year.
McCarron called the moment ‘overwhelming’ but announced that he has plans for another trip, from Oman to Dubai, a 1000 mile trip, in six weeks.
He concluded his talk by answering questions from the floor.
His film entitled ‘Walking Home From Mongolia’ will be shown on National Geographic at Christmas.
For more thoughts see my blog http://lifeaccordingtoc.blogspot.co.uk/