Oct 26 2010

The Joy of Random Gadgets (upon which one might travel)

‘What is it with you and all these random gadgets?’ asked Al, who I’d just bumped into on a Waterloo back street inciting a most puzzled look to appear on his face. I was stood high on a brand new contraption called a Freecross, which had been developed by some stereotypically efficient Germans to replicate the physical benefits of a cross trainer - but in the great outdoors as opposed to a stuffy gym.

Al, having cycled around the world and walked across Iceland amongst other things, is not avoid of experiencing fresh air or enjoying adventure, but I can see incredulity in his eyes. And I get his point, I’m used to it. In the past I haven’t always chosen to travel in a way that would satisfy the purists. Skateboard, Aquaskipper, and now this. A Freecross? Really?

Well, yes. You see, if you can travel in a new way, everything else becomes new and different, the planet gleams in clean light. Give me a road with some ups and down and trees at the side. Let me skate along it, stood sideways when not pushing. And then I’ll go back and cycle the same way. And then again, perhaps on a pogo stick. Varying experiences, each one. Same road. Your body reacts differently to the stresses of alternate travel, those who pass by double-take in entirely different fashions, even at a simple level; I see the road from a different height and speed. As someone who bores easily, travelling by new means is a drip of happiness, one made easier by my indifference to anyone who might consider me to look like a plonker.

Al had been out for a wander, looking to pass a few minutes before a meeting, so the game was set. On a Freecross he jumped. A familiar, initial confusion at how it works, and then he’s off over a speedbump and down the road. We’re all cautious at first, unsure of how it balances, turns and progresses. But then it clicks, how fun! He was smiling when he returned, although it might have been a silent laugh aimed in my direction.

The Freecross is next on a long list of non-motorised methods of transportation that I’m preparing to take one thousand miles. After four years of grafting away at individual projects, Expedition1000 has given me long-term focus in my Adventuring career. Twenty-three more journeys await, they will take me all over the world to every continent, both poles and across every ocean. This isn’t a suggestion, it’s going to happen. I will occasionally become acceptable by jumping on a bicycle or rowing a boat, but there will be times when I stray from the beaten track and cross an ocean by pedalo, or, as we will see in March 2010, I might ride a Freecross 1000 miles through Europe.

Which leads me to an answer for Al’s question. Firstly, I have forged a career out of travelling, writing, speaking, filming and, most importantly, playing with new toys. That sounds quite fun, doesn’t it?! I love that I can walk down a high street in London as I did in Camden one month ago and spot from afar a thing on wheels that looks like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Then, before approaching and assessing the situation, I feel completely at ease when deciding to travel 1000 miles on this thing that is still about 50 metres away. I made the decision, I approached, thankfully I liked the look of it, and this time next year I daresay that anyone visiting my website will be much more familiar with a Freecross because it will have been the focus of a quite enjoyable - if not sometimes difficult - expedition. To start you off, and to finish the blog in one foul swoop, here’s a video of a group of us enjoying the Freecross experience on London’s Southbank a couple of weeks ago. Thanks to Tobias Mews for the edit.

We’re still researching a route through Europe for the Freecross journey in March, and for this I’d like to hand the reigns over to you. Competition time!
The challenge: Devise a 1000 mile route through Europe that takes in urban centres (good for promoting the Freecross), beautiful scenic countryside (good for filming) and ideally stays off busy roads as much as possible (good for staying alive).
The prize: He or she who provides the best and most fanciful route will receive several goodies in a bag, including an Original Buff, a BoardFree hoodie, a Lake Geneva Crossing documentary on DVD, and more! A perfect array of Xmas presents, some might say!
How: Draw out your route on a googlemap and email me a link to the finished map, along with your name, phone number and any other details you’d like to share. Good luck!