Fifteen countries. Nine thousand miles. One bike. Camping in the wilderness with many a danger lurking in the dark. And one extraordinary man with a purpose in life – to travel.
Something that sounds more like a movie plot is set to become reality, thanks to Tommy Scargill’s undying passion for adventure and his plans for a year-long solitary cycle ride to China to raise money for cancer research.
With fewer than ten days before his scheduled ride, Scargill, from Warlingham, admits to having to do a little bit more planning, but he committed to the challenge wholeheartedly long before giving it much practical thought.
“I wanted more craziness and decided to cycle to China, I didn’t think it through and I think that’s the best thing, not to always plan things!” he says.
It was when he started to reflect on it more, that he thought he should also raise money while embarking on a mission like that, and he chose The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity – the very same hospital that cured him of cancer twice, first aged just four and then 17.
This remarkable idea first occurred to Scargill around late August, when he was trying to come up with multiple ways to start travelling again. He was very close to booking a flight to Bangkok and start teaching there for a while, because it was something that he enjoyed the first time he visited it.
Our hero jokingly states that he’s mentally prepared as much as he can be, but could certainly be in a better physical condition. Nonetheless, it’s all part of the challenge. So far, he’s been on bike rides every other day, but admits that it isn’t much of a preparation in terms of setting out on a 9,000-mile ride through 15 countries.
He doesn’t seem to be as concerned about having to live on only £3 a day throughout the duration of the cycle, though. Scargill bravely says that it’s actually quite a lot: “In the first world we’re used to splashing money left, right and centre. If you eliminate accommodation from the equation it’s incredibly feasible, with a diet of rice, oats, vegetables and meat, if I’m lucky.”
He hopes accommodation will be free every night, either camping in the wilderness or staying with locals through a great community for cycle tourists called “Warm Showers”. He adds: “Overall, if you stick to the basics and the essentials and stray away from luxuries, it’s possible. I always feel guilty popping into a coffee shop now and grabbing a coffee that costs me around £3!”
He would like to achieve a couple of things from the cycle ride: first of all, raising as much money for The Royal Marsden as possible to help improve its services in treating cancer. Scargill would also like to inspire people – be it only one person – and make them realise that anything is possible with just the right amount of willpower and despite the odds that may not always be in your favour.
He’s also hoping to understand himself more through the amount of loneliness he’s expecting to be exposed to, “to show how kind people in the world are and hopefully how safe countries are, and not to mention how beautiful our world is.”
Scargill might also attempt to take part in a Cambodia-Vietnam bike ride for The Royal Marsden at some point. Being a passionate travel blogger (on www.thehopefulvagabond.com) apart from everything else, he hopes to write a book about his adventures.
Other non-travel-related plans include writing adventure books for children and a photography exhibition on his return, which will include images of his favourite country, Myanmar.
“There was one place in particular – Kyaukme, it’s an off-the-beaten track gem in my eyes”, he says. “I went to a monastery and had a chat with a monk for an hour or so and then also wandered around the town and ended up getting invited into a locals house and them feeding me, I spent hours there. I was the only traveller in town. It was surreal. Beautiful. Amazing.”
Scargill might seem like a superhero, but his main goal is one that many people would share – happiness, “To be truly happy is something that excites me, I only get it with complete freedom.”
That’s why he’s not afraid of the many dangers that await him during his cycle ride – he chooses to focus on the positive, rather than the negative. This desire manifests itself quite clearly in Scargill’s life’s motto, which is “Don’t just exist. Live”
“It’s straight to the point,” he smiles. “Too many people are happy being a cog in the mechanics of life, letting opportunities pass by, hoping to be this, to do that, but don’t ever become it or do it. It’s time to start living as you don’t have another chance.”
To donate to Tommy Scargill’s fundraising page, visit https://www.justgiving.com/TheHopefulVagabondC2C4C/
By Joanna Kosmala