Just a quick blog post this week to update you on a (vaguely) new endeavour.
I recently read The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau: Find the Quest that will Bring Purpose to Your Life. While I don’t necessarily feel like my life is currently lacking in purpose, I was curious to read the stories of people who embarked on quests in a bid to find meaning in their existence.
Unsurprisingly, many of them were physically challenging and sounded downright unpleasant, although admittedly enlightening. The classic type of thing that the word ‘quest’ conjures up. Doing something physically challenging over a great distance, for a lot of time, while going through a lot of pain.
I never have and, I imagine, never will be a fan of this kind of Suffer Fest. I take my hat off to the likes of Nate Damm, who walked across America in eight months, and Martin Parnell, who ran 250 marathons in one year. These achievements are ridiculously impressive and they should be jolly proud of themselves for having completed their exceptionally difficult, and presumably blister inducing, quests.
While these achievements are undeniably remarkable, I have absolutely no interest in putting myself through that type of hardship. I hate cardio, lack endurance, and only enjoy type-2 fun in short doses.
It was the people who created quests in their day-to-day activities that intrigued me. I found inspiration in the people whose quests were about making the everyday aspects of life a little less ordinary.
My favourite was Sasha Martin, who once a week made a meal from a different country until she’d rustled up a feast from every nation in the world. She started with Afghanistan and kept cooking until she got to Zimbabwe. Sasha managed to turn a potentially mundane activity into a creative quest, which she shared with her friends, family, and even a well-timed Bulgarian salesman who knocked on her door at the opportune moment.
This was the kind of quest I could get behind. It didn’t require much in the way of blood, sweat, and tears. The words “ultra” and “marathon” were nowhere to be seen. And it helped to bring a bit of spark and motivation to an aspect of normal life.
Coming up with a similar idea for myself initially felt rather tricky. I wanted a quest that would make something day-to-day feel more meaningful but also leave the door open for more creative contributions to the overall goal. It had to be the right level of challenging while still being realistic and achievable. And the suffering to enjoyment ratio had to be tipped in one very specific direction.
The idea came to me while watching Richard Osman’s House of Games. In this episode I learned that the circumference of the earth around the equator is 40,075.02km. For some reason my brain latched onto this number. Maybe it’s because it is pleasingly close to 40,000km, which is a satisfyingly round number and quite easy to remember. Similarly bafflingly, my brain also concluded that that didn’t sound that far in the grand scheme of things.
Maybe, given enough time I could travel that distance under my own steam.
A few minutes of butchering formula in Excel later, I had a rough idea of how many kilometres I’d have to travel a day if I were to cover this distance in five, six, seven or eight years. I then tracked the distance I covered either on my bike or on my feet over the course of a typical week and concluded that five and six years were completely out of the question. This would have meant moving my arse (and the rest of me) approximately 24 and 20km a day respectively. Seven years felt achievable (17km a day) but dangerously close to tipping into Suffer Fest territory.
Not only did eight years, with an average of 14km a day, resemble something I thought I could actually do, it meant I would complete the quest near or on my fortieth birthday. The idea of rounding off my thirties by completing a lap of the world sounded absolutely splendid.
Here are my stats as of April 13th, 2022.
In the 96 days since January 7th, when I began my mission, I have cycled or walked 1,423.93km. That feels impressive until I calculate that it’s a mere 3.55% of the circumference of the earth around the equator.
In order to complete this quest, I must walk or cycle another 38,651.27km in 2,762 days.
My hope is that this quest will encourage me to make healthy choices and be more creative when potentially lazier and more boring options are available. Rather than relying on the bus to get me to work or the climbing wall, I can now get on my bike and move a few more kilometers around the globe. When my regular dog walks get repetitive, I have even more reason to wander further or more randomly afield as I inch my way around this funny little planet of ours.
No single part of this quest feels unachievable, which I anticipate will help me stick at it. It is very much in line with my wish to be healthy and active for as long as physically possible. And it provides me with opportunities to incorporate bigger (but not too big) adventures if the mood takes me.
To quote a (not so) wise man who got sacked by the BBC for punching a colleague over shoddy catering, how hard could it be?