I shook off the chains of my regular commute last night to blast up to Bennington, where the church hall was packed to hear a talk by Austin Vince, renowned maths teacher, raconteur, authentic round-the-world motorcycle adventurer, author of Mondo Enduro and maker of the follow-up film, Terra Circa, about spanning the dreaded Zilov Gap in Siberia.
Austin has to be among the most entertaining speakers I've ever had the privilege to hear - ironically, more for the things he can't tell you than the topic of the evening, like his passion for spaghetti western posters. Yet his irreverent comparisons of life in far flung countries to daily English life are a tonic for the credit crunch blues. And his insistence that facing a challenge with nothing more than the bare minimum of equipment required, a sense of humour and a commitment to resourcefulness should be enough to inspire even the most dedicated 'weapon of mass consumption' to try eating life rare rather than well done.
Mondo Enduro traces the seemingly impossible round-the-world journey by a bunch of guys in their late 20's without experience, sponsorship, support vehicles, camera crews or even Ewan McGregor. I learned with some regret that it began in April 1995, a time when I'd recently arrived here at the same age, wondering what the hell I was going to do with myself. Listening to Austin, I could've done a lot worse than hop on a bus to Mill Hill that fateful April morning.