Go west, young man! So he did.

18th January 2012 by

Matt Wicks has been writing about his life-changing experience on our Wild West 2008 cycle tour for our friends at the splendid Do the Green Thing, who hit on the brilliant idea of telling the personal stories of people who have had incredible travel adventures without getting on an aeroplane. Here’s what Matt had to say.

Back in 2008 I saw an advert for the ‘Wild West’ cycle tour. I applied, raised sponsorship, and in August found myself in a field in Brigstock, where I met the 17 other participants. I was excited but nervous – I had never done anything like this before and was way outside my comfort zone.

My main interest was cycling. The previous summer I had cycled to Paris with friends and had a lot of fun. I also already had a keen passion for the environment, and was lucky to be able to take six weeks off from my job as an energy advisor. The tour turned out to be a great opportunity to meet new people and share experiences and knowledge.

For the next six weeks I worked, played, cooked, ate, and cycled with such a loving, interesting and fun group of people – everyone very different, but equally passionate about wanting to make positive change in the world. Friends for life.

Along the 700 mile journey we met so many inspiring and generous people, we camped in some wonderful locations, and ate so many fantastic meals. We performed and held workshops at schools, and at youth groups, communities and festivals through the Midlands and Wales. As a group we learnt about sustainable living through skill sharing, and through visiting permaculture farms, social enterprises and one Tracey Island style energy research centre. We also learnt about bike maintenance, cooking for large groups and consensus decision making.

At the end of each day, as a group we shared our highs and lows. The concept of sharing emotions and experiences in this way was something I was not used to, and almost alien in society today, but it was something that became very valuable. There were so many highs of the tour, and of course a few lows, but even the lows, when you look back, really added to the experience, to the adventure.

Although the tours are run and organised by the Otesha team, you still have great room to influence and shape the way the groups lives, from the food you eat to the route you take. We cycled in groups of four or five carrying everything we needed in panniers and our three trailers named Bob, Not Bob and the Slug. What freedom!

Our first week of cycling was pretty intense. We travelled all the way from Brigstock in the East Midlands to Crickhowell in the Brecon Beacons, some 150 miles as the crow flies. I think we probably cycled almost double that as we weaved are way with visits to projects in Leicester, Coventry, Worcester en route.

We arrived in Crickhowell for the the Green Man Festival where we were due to perform our play only for the second time since training week. All went well (apart from the rain and mud!), we sang, danced, and had much merriment. From there we headed to St David’s in Pembrokeshire, then to Carmarthen, Swansea and finally Merthyr Tydfil.

For me the most daunting part was performing the ‘Morning Choices’ play. I was no theatrical type, in fact I was so worried about this side of the cycle tour that I blanked it from my mind – well, until training week anyway. I did it, and although I may not be found at the local dramatic society just yet, this was a great experience. The buzz of performing was something I had never felt before, at least not since my year 6 school assembly!

Since taking part in the Otesha tour I have joined the board of trustees. I have continued cycle touring, and I have been involved in a number of local projects. I will always look back with great fondness on the Wild West tour 2008.

If you would like to sign up for one of our extraordinary summer 2012 cycle tours, click here.

Matt’s article is also available here. If you’re after still more inspiring travel stories, you can also read about a bike ride to Morocco and a Pacific sailing adventure.

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