Posted by: Admin | July 3, 2010


Adventurer, Brian Gibbons

Journey for Hope

Brian’s Northamptonshire bungalow seems strangely empty as I settle onto the leather sofa and pick up my notebook.  There are one or two half-packed boxes still lying around, but otherwise it has an unlived-in feel, a sense of abandonment.  Brian himself appears slightly bewildered.

“I’ve stopped sleeping now it’s time to go,” he tells me.  “I keep waking up and making more lists.”

The bungalow is rented, the bike – a BMW 650 single cylinder – is waiting in the back garden to be shipped to Anchorage, Alaska. Brian, I suggest, can be forgiven for last minute nerves. It’s not every day that you quite literally pack up your life, put it into storage and strike out alone on the journey of a lifetime. For Motivational Speaker, Brian, (56) this is a case of walking his talk, putting into practice all the theories surrounding personal development training that have formed the basis of his seminars and training courses.

Starting in Anchorage on 13th June, the plan is to ride, alone, along the western coast of the Americas, as far south as the weather allows into Chile and Argentina.  En route, he’ll take in The Pacific Coast Highway, (Route 101), several National Parks and hopes to call in on Machu Picchu as, since he’ll be passing, it would seem rude not to.

Which immediately makes me ask: WHY?  As in, why alone?  Why at all?

I tackled the latter first.  “You can only regret in life the things you haven’t done.  Life is getting shorter by the day and I never want to say: if only…”

But this is a bit extreme, isn’t it?  Most people take up golf, or ballroom dancing and call it a new challenge.  I don’t say this out loud.  You don’t tend to say these things to a man with a determined glint in his eye.  “Couldn’t you run a marathon?” I venture. He shrugs.  “Done that.”  “Climb Kilimanjaro?” He raises an eyebrow and I realise he’s done that too. Bri has, in fact, been setting himself physical challenges on an annual basis for some time now.

He’s also spent the last two Christmases helping out at the local homeless shelter, the Northampton Hope Centre, which gave him added motivation for his trip.  “I think there’s a huge need for hope in this world,” he says.  Which is why he’s calling his odyssey “Journey for Hope”.  Whilst he’s aiming to raise money for the shelter – you can donate on his just giving site – this is by no means a purely altruistic venture as Bri is quick to point out.  This is about personal development, pushing outside his own comfort zone. Alone, it seems, is the only way to go.

“There’s a travel company,, that travels this route, but it was just a bit too quick,” he explains.  “The bike I’m riding will limit my speed as well, which will make me take my time.”  So that’s the key to his motivation, I suggest, slowing himself down? Partly, it seems.  Mostly, it’s about learning to go with the flow.

Bri, it seems, like so many of us, lives his life by the clock.  By his own admission, he’s always been in a hurry, always been driven. Now he wants to test himself, see if he can adjust.  So it’s not just a mid-life crisis, I challenge him gently.  Maybe.  This is real “meaning of life” stuff, a man pushing himself to develop and become the best he can. Moving outside his comfort zone, he’s trying hard not to make anything other than loose plans, to go with the flow.  I can see that the lack of a timetable is an uncomfortable proposition. “I hope the trip will teach me patience, to be more philosophical.  Making myself vulnerable is the challenge.”

I ask about preparations.  He’s learned a little Spanish and a bit about motorbike maintenance from a local mechanic who’s been extraordinarily generous with his time.  Otherwise, he’s relying on the generosity of strangers. “There’s a camaraderie amongst bikers,” Brian tells me, and he’s registered with online resource Horizons Unlimited.  “I’ll carry a tent for emergencies in the US and use cheap motels once over the Mexican border.”  He’s also part of the couch-surfing community.  Friends of friends have stepped forward and offered him a place to stay when he’s in their area, so it seems he’ll never be too far from a warm welcome.

The whole venture has sent my imagination into overdrive by now, and a part of my brain is planning where I would go (on four wheels, it has to be said, not two). I’m inspired by Brian’s scorn for playing it safe, then reality kicks in as I visualise my last bank statement.  So I ask Bri how much it’s going to cost (ok,ok, that’s not very British, but I figure we all need to know these things!)

“I reckon the year will come in at around £20k,” he tells me. So how is he funding it? (I’m on a roll now).  “I considered re-mortgaging, or cashing in my pension, but in the event I didn’t have to.” I raise my eyebrows and he tells me a heart-warming little story involving a grateful former delegate and a gentleman’s agreement. I am by now convinced that Brian would have found a way to take his trip one way or another.

As I post, he’s already dipped his toe – literally – in the icy waters surrounding Prudhoe Bay having come off his bike on the Dalton Highway, and is now heading South, carrying a tent, a netbook and a camcorder – but no schedule. No need.




  1. Just to add he is ok only slight bruising to show for it ; ). Just recently he has come across three bears and a heard of buffalo crossing the road!!! Bri has been advised to buy ‘bear’ spray, or possibly a gun for protection from the very wild animals!!!!!

    • Crikey – Brian with a gun…!

  2. I think it’s absolutely brilliant what he’s doing, but I wonder how many people would really get the chance to do something like this. You were absolutely right to ask those searching, un-English questions because, with the best will in the world, most people would have neither the time, the money nor the paucity of commitments to be able to undertake such adventures. Salsa dancing or life drawing would be the best they could hope for.

  3. Fair point, WH, but we can always dare to dream and sometimes, just sometimes, we can find a way.

  4. […] our very first “Saturday Interviewee”, Brian Gibbons? He’s now in Mexico, having ridden from Alaska, through Canada, California and […]

  5. […] of you who have been with project50 from the start will recall my very first Saturday interview, with Brian Gibbons, who was about to embark on the journey of a lifetime. Brian is now back in the […]

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