Intrepid explorer Charlie Walker spoke to Phoenix Academy about his round-the-world cycling tour
Charlie Walker spoke to Phoenix Academy’s year 10 pupils about his recent adventures cycling around the world.
Charlie Walker has written for the Guardian, has his own website, and has recently published a book about his journeys, Through sand & Snow, which is available through Amazon and other leading retailers. Five signed copies of these books were given to Phoenix Academy for pupils to read and enjoy. When talking about Through sand & Snow, Walker told me his book “covers the long journey from Britain, and is about growing up and finding a purpose in life.”
Walker told the year 10 students how he wanted to be challenged and have new experiences, away from his quiet upbringing in rural Somerset. He set himself the ultimate challenge of cycling 5,200 miles from the UK to the furthest points of Europe, Asia and Africa, and then home again. The challenge was an ultimate test of resilience, motivation, and endurance, something which Future Academies promotes in all its pupils.
While he missed the companionship and some of the comforts of home, he told the pupils how the experience was worth the price. He met some very friendly people, including a family in Tibet who saved his life when he had found himself lost in -40 degrees temperatures; and a family in the Democratic Republic of Congo who lived in such a remote part of this African nation that it took them six months to learn there was a civil war on!
He said he enjoyed Mongolia immensely, for its remoteness and splendid beauty. It was like one massive national park, with tonnes of land and space for each person, and nothing for miles around. He was also pleasantly surprised by Afghanistan, which far from the image of war usually projected on our TV screens, was actually an incredible country, with beautiful landscapes, extremely hospitable and friendly people, and some of the oldest cities and buildings in the world!
Walker advised Phoenix pupils on how to approach challenges. He told them how he broke his journey down into smaller goals to make them more manageable. This gave him the motivation to keep going each day. He didn’t feel pressured to follow any set plan, he just kept his end goal in mind, even when days were really hard.
The massive journey was not without its challenges. At one point he contracted malaria and typhoid, a deadly tropical disease; he also nearly died in conditions well below freezing. Later, he had his bike stolen, and had to put a new bike together from donated parts; and he also had to flee an ebola outbreak in Africa. Through all this his will prevailed, and he kept going, spurred on by the challenge, and all the experiences he was having.
To the students he promoted the value of travel, as further enrichment to their education. He advised pupils who might be considering taking a gap year, or doing a challenge or trip, “Do it! Travel provides people with important life skills, encouraging them to get out of their comfort zone, and experience new things. Travel can really help you to see the world in a different light, and better understand how we might change it.”
The talk, which was gifted to the school by Future Charity, was part of the school’s enrichment programme, which encourages students to participate in challenges and extra-curricular activities, such as Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, inter-school challenges, and residential programmes. Future Academies hopes the talk by Charlie Walker will inspire students to set their own challenges, and inspire them to get out of their comfort zone.