You’ve got to go back a few years to really understand why Derek walked out of his job one Monday morning – and took to his now unconventional life path.
“My mother died when I was 24 and two years later, my father died of cancer. I had moved back into the family home after my mother died and I was working in the bank, studying for stockbroking and marketing diplomas at night and looking after my dad. I was very resentful about life and having to constantly deal with bad stuff. There wasn’t time to grieve the loss of my mother”
After his father died just two years later, Derek decided to leave his job in the bank but that’s when things really got out of hand.
“I had become very negative and self destructive. I was drinking every night. I didn’t care about my career. I lost interest in football and music, and everything else that brought me joy. I even split up with my girlfriend of 2½ years and left Ireland to travel (escape). I just felt underserving of anything good and distracted by years of trauma. But my greatest mistake was blaming life, and everyone and everything around me. By the time I hit rock bottom – a dark, lonely and bleak place – I was mentally and physically beaten. And this was the first time that I had a kind word for myself and knew that I had to find something constructive to do with my life”
And, so Derek decided to go travelling again but this time, travelling by bicycle – carrying everything with him as he went – and camping at night. “I wanted to take this time to spend time alone and figure out where everything went wrong. So I decided to cycle from Cape Town to Cairo. The first few weeks were terrifying. I cried a lot. I was lonely and depressed and, every day, I thought about coming home. And I did go home, eventually, but not until I finished cycling to the Great Pyramids in Egypt”
It was the first of many long distance journeys and since then, he has also hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and Walked Around Ireland. Derek is now giving one year of free talks in Ireland about the many lessons, perspectives and stories from these outdoor adventures.
In 2013, Derek Cullen spent one year riding a bicycle through Africa, a journey of 8,000 miles through 11 countries. Following this adventure, he became fascinated with “slow travel” and the perspective that comes with exploring the world in such an old fashioned way. More recently, Derek has walked the Camino de Santiago, hiked the East Coast Trail in Newfoundland and trekked 2,652 miles from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. In October 2019, Derek finished walking more than 3,000km around Ireland.