Much happened since Derek Cullen from No Hanging Around followed his gut feeling and decided to cycle through Africa. His intuition led him to something he didn’t even expect in his wildest dreams! Read here the amazing story he wrote for our collection of inspiring Travel Stories.
Following the death of both parents some years ago, I reached a crossroads in life on which I found myself entirely confused, afraid, depressed and disillusioned with life in the office. It was a compulsive decision to quit my job and ride a bicycle through Africa which changed everything but never in my wildest dreams could I have expected the journey and career which would transpire as a result. Looking back, I truly left home with nothing but in the end, I would find everything.
Derek Cullen (33) Dublin, Ireland.
How following my intuition led me to a better life
It’s 5 am and still cold as I remove myself from the tent and begin stirring another pot of porridge on the campfire. Stars flicker through the branches above but my mind is fixed on the next place I will lay my head – Mwanza on the southern shores of Lake Victoria in Tanzania.
The bicycle ride
I had never wild camped in this part of the Serengeti before and the sound of hyena calling from the bush was a sobering reminder that I needed to be careful in these places – meaning “marking my territory” next to the tent anytime nature called and peering through the tent door before stepping out in the darkness.
My lifestyle may have changed but things are different now and I can still remember the first time I followed a gut feeling and went camping alone in a wildlife corridor. Botswana felt isolated and scary at night but then every sort of wonderful when the morning arrived. I would stir a small bowl of porridge, just as I do now, yet there was something missing back then – I was riding a bicycle through Africa but was no more sure of what I was doing on that trip, than what I would do with my life when it was over.
Truth is, I suffered with severe anxiety issues since both parents died and had now left a job in the city for a bicycle ride and a gut feeling that it would somehow lead to a better life. It was daft and wishful but as I would come to learn on that journey, sometimes fortune really does favour the bold and the simple process of following my gut feeling would uncover parts of me which I never even knew to exist.
Through riding the bicycle across scorching deserts and steep mountain ranges, I found satisfaction in challenging myself. In meeting the locals of Africa, I would learn how everyone is faced with the same anxiety problems in their own journey. While lying alone in the tent at night I would understand the deepest depths of what fear really means and through endless experiences on a fascinating continent, I uncovered a burning love for writing, exploring, travel and Africa itself.
Returning to Africa
That was more than two years ago, although I now find myself in Africa once again and the middle of the Serengeti, except this time with a much larger pot of porridge and surrounded by even more tents. You see, I began that bicycle journey two years ago with no real idea of what I was doing other than following a gut feeling but it was this process which changed everything. Instead of returning to spend the rest of my days in an office, I choose uncertainty again by chasing a new profession and rather than settling for the security of conventional living, I sought fulfillment in something I had truly come to love.
My journey to become a travel writer and adventure tour leader in Africa would have seemed the most unlikely outcome a few years ago but as the hyenas call and a group of fresh-faced travellers take their place around my campfire, I stir the pot of porridge, tell them about our next destination and thank the lucky stars above that I am no longer alone and still following a gut feeling which has changed my life entirely.
If you’re interested in more stories by Derek and the incredible (inner) journey he made, have a look on his website No Hanging Around and follow his new adventures in Africa on his Facebook page and/or on Instagram.