“the need to get out, to test yourself, to flush out the system, and, above all, to have some fun…”
So Al Alvarez writes in his book “Feeding the Rat” about climber and adventurer Mo Antoine.
A friend of mine lent this book to me years ago, when I first started to rock climb. It inspired me with tales of adventures and dedication and daring, all of which still seemed far beyond my grasp at that point in my life.
A few years (and many of my own adventures) later, this book continues to speak to my heart. Alvarez describes a rat inside of each of us, and every time we have an adventure, or challenge ourselves a little bit, we feed it. The more adventures we have, the more we feed it and the fatter it becomes. The fatter it is, the more it needs to be fed, and so the greedier we become for adventures.
I am lucky to lead an amazing life, one in which I have been living, working and traveling abroad for the past few years. But the time has come to challenge myself that little bit further, to test the limits of my physical capabilities and mental strength.
And so, with Arron, my friend and colleague from APA in Hong Kong, we will attempt to cycle from Turpan, in the north-west of China, to the UK.
On a budget of £3.50 each per day.
‘Why?’ You might ask. Well, I will leave you with Alvarez’s words, as he puts it better than I ever could:
“Every year you need to flush out your system and do a bit of suffering. It does you a power of good. I think it’s because there’s always a question mark about how you would perform. You have an idea of yourself and it can be quite a shock when you don’t come up to your own expectations. If you just tootle along you can think you’re a pretty slick bloke until things go wrong and you find you’re nothing like what you imagined yourself to be. But if you deliberately put yourself in difficult situations, then you get a pretty good idea of how you are going. That’s why I like feeding the rat. It’s a sort of annual check-up on myself. The rat is you, really. It’s the other you, and it’s being fed by the you that you think you are. And they are often very different people. But when they come close to each other, that’s smashing, that is. Then the rat’s had a good meal and you come away feeling terrific. It’s a fairly rare thing, but you have to keep feeding the brute, just for your own peace of mind. And even if you did blow it, at least there wouldn’t be that great unknown. But to snuff it without knowing who you are and what you are capable of, I can’t think of anything sadder than that.”