I am an Irish adventurer and probably best known for riding a bicycle through Africa or walking around Ireland. I like to share stories on social media about my life experiences and often speak about fear, anxiety and finding a meaningful path in life. But let me tell you why I began taking these trips…
You’ve got to go back more than 15 years to really understand how a spiral of self-destruction – which ended in me walking out of my job one Monday morning – began and led to my now unconventional life path. My mother died in my early twenties and two years later, my father died of cancer. I was working in a bank and studying for stockbroking and marketing diplomas at night. After their passing, I felt very resentful about life and having to constantly deal with bad stuff. There wasn’t time to grieve the loss of my mother and then my father was gone. I also lost interest in my career, and this led me down a path of self-destruction. I blamed life, everyone and everything around me and by the time I hit rock bottom – a dark, lonely and bleak place – I felt mentally and physically beaten. But this was also one of the first times that I had a kind word for myself.
One Monday morning at my workplace in Dublin, I was feeling so tired and depressed that I walked outside and stood next to River Liffey. I put my hands on the wall and stared down the river as tears ran down my cheeks. It was at that moment when I heard a compassionate voice in my head, and it began asking some questions: “What is wrong with you? Why are doing this to yourself? It was you that made all those decisions, right? Yes, some bad things have happened but that’s just life, Derek. Now what are you going to do about it?”
With an immense feeling of urgency, I walked back into my job and told the manager that I was going home and that I would not be coming back. I also made a pact with myself that by the time I walked home, I would have a plan to go away some place where there were no distractions and try to figure out how I could turn things around. But I also know that some sort of challenge was necessary, and I would need to “do something hard” in order to make some meaningful changes. In spite of having no experience with either cycling or camping, I decided that I should fly to Africa and ride a bicycle from Cape Town to Cairo. The first few weeks were terrifying. I cried a lot and I was lonely and, every day, I thought about quitting. But I just kept getting up every morning and going a little bit further and after doing this for one year, I arrived at the Great Pyramids in Egypt.
Since then, I have gone on to take many more long-distance adventures including a 4,500km hike from Mexico to Canada and a 3,000km walk around Ireland. I now write for websites online to pay the bills and organize trips on which my followers can join me on big adventures around the world.