Derek Cullen is 1,800km into walking around Ireland and a million miles from a life that was once dominated by loss, alcohol and depression.
In 2014 the Dubliner was tired of his life and the many problems that accompanied it and decided cycling thousands of miles across Africa was a far better idea than struggling through a humdrum existence. In his blog, Derek described how he never really recovered from the death of his parents.
“I became very self destructive and made an embarrassing number of bad life choices. I was also drinking excessively and blaming everyone but myself for the result of these decisions.”
But at his lowest moment of physical and mental exhaustion, he realized that something had to give:
“It was my own fault and this was hard to admit. But I had no success with being self destructive, my drinking habit was literally exhausting and I knew it was time to try something different. Looking back, that was the moment I decided to live for my parents instead of trying to live without them, and to chase down the life I wanted rather than eking my way through a life that was falling apart.”
After spending the next year riding a bicycle from Cape Town to Cairo, he became obsessed with camping, adventures and spending time outdoors and set out to become a professional adventurer.
However, he received just one reply from hundreds of requests sent to prospective sponsors and decided to take a very alternative path toward his dream job. Instead, Derek went about creating an online income that would enable him to work from his tent and pay for his outdoor adventures.
What’s more, he trained as a safari guide and led camping expeditions into wildlife parks in Africa for the next two years. After climbing Kilimanajaro and many lesser peaks, he left Africa and went on to hike the East Coast Trail in Newfoundland before hiking another 4,500km from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail.
But how might someone rest and recover from moving around so often?
More than five years of adventures later, Derek returned to Europe and walked the Camino de Santiago before arriving home in July to start walking around Ireland. Since then, he has walked more than 1,800km from Dublin to Cork and all the way up the West of Ireland to Donegal. As part of the trip, he cooks on a small stove and often relies on the kindness of farmers for a place to pitch his tent. He also edits daily videos of the trip and three Irish companies (BDifferent Marketing, Elk Recruitment and the Hiiker App) have jumped on board to help cover some of the day-to-day expenses.
But Derek no longer takes these adventures with any grand achievement or purpose in mind. He believes that spending so much time outdoors has enabled him to manage his problems and anxieties so effectively. He also gave up alcohol three years ago and attributes his newfound “success” as an adventurer to a conscious effort to embrace his life with positivity and perseverance.
“I’m not out here trying to fix my problems anymore. I just like to explore on foot, to watch the land and seasons change, while enjoying the health benefits that come with getting outdoors. Spending so much time outdoors seems to have re-wired my brain and taken me down a much more exciting road in the process.”
You can follow the walk around Ireland Facebook (Derek Cullen Outdoors) or any other social media platform.
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