“In October 2010, I set out on the journey of a lifetime – to cross the Eurasian landmass alone by bike.
This was to be a journey of over 17,000 km, that took a year and a week to complete.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far hath He removed our transgressions from us…
I’ve heard it, read it, believed it.
But just how far is that?
I decided to find out.”
Theodore Brun is a former lawyer who left his job in Hong Kong last year to cycle across Eurasia back to his home in England. He graduated from the RZIM OCCA program in 2009 and is making this journey to raise support for Wellspring International’s Bombay Teen Challenge Children’s Shelter. Wellspring International had the opportunity to interview Theo about why he left his job as a lawyer to ride nearly halfway around the world.
Wellspring International: You embarked on a cross country bike trip for charity, where did you get the idea to do a cross country bike trip?
Theo Brun: I was living and working in Hong Kong when the idea first came to me to do an overland trip back to my home in the UK when my contract came to an end – crossing the entire Eurasian landmass by foot. I even bought a pair of hiking boots (which proved too small). But soon after I started taking the idea more seriously I met a guy in Hong Kong who had cycled from London to Hong Kong. He was full of great stories about his journey and described meeting a German in Montenegro who was walking home from Nepal. It had taken him two and a half years so far. “Hmmm,” I thought. “It seems my scribbled calculation on the back of a postcard that it would take me about 18 months was obviously way off.”
In the end, looking at maps of the vast tracts of land in Central Asia I would have to cross convinced me to do the journey by bike, not by foot. At the time, I thought that was a cop out!
WI: You were a successful attorney for a large Biotech firm, why do this now?
TB: I had for a long time struggled to find my niche in the law. I think I had a good hard look at my life in Hong Kong and what I wanted to achieve. What were my goals? What did I want to see when I look back on my life in years to come? Nothing about what I was then doing resonated with me. I got tired of meeting people in Hong Kong who were passionate about what they do. I know I am a passionate person, but my legal career just left me absolutely cold. Instead I want to write, and given my personality it probably makes sense to take some kind of teaching seriously too. But overlaying all of this, I have an adventurous spirit. This has had some destructive outlets in the past, but I felt this trip was a great way to transition into a new direction in life. One of the thoughts in my head was a desire to “become the story”. To really live the kind of adventure that my imagination loves to feed on. In fact this journey has acted as a great catalyst for writing and growing as a person. After feeling all boxed up in my legal career, that is exactly what I needed.
WI: You chose Wellspring and specifically Bombay Teen Challenge as one of two projects you wanted to benefit, how did you hear about Wellspring and why did you choose that project?
TB: I chose Wellspring because I have for some years now had a connection with RZIM (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries). I have benefitted a lot from Ravi’s teachings, and in 2008 I was lucky enough to participate in the RZIM one year diploma in Apologetics and Evangelism at Oxford University in the UK. I was aware of RZIM’s humanitarian arm, Wellspring International, and wanted to take the opportunity to support an organization that I had some personal connection with and which I believe marries a convincing and powerful witness to faith in Christ with the practical expression and application of His love and support for those in need.
I wanted to support the Bombay Teen Challenge because it is addressing an area of need of which I have some (very small) personal experience. In 2009 I spent some time at a children’s welfare centre in Pondicherry in India. A different city and different organization, but applying the same principal of helping severely underprivileged children at risk from exploitation, hunger and disease. I saw how much difference even a small amount of attention and care makes to these kids, and how a relatively small amount of money by Western standards can go a long way in India. For this reason, I was happy to support the Bombay Teen Project in particular.
WI: How did you determine where to travel? Did you plan every part of your trip beforehand?
TB: There were a few considerations. Things like visas, terrain, seasonal weather, languages, politics. In the end, I wanted to pass through countries where the Russian language is spoken (or at least understood) as much as possible, because I can speak it to a reasonable level. But I also had to factor in a long stopover during the cold winter months when it is impossible to cycle across the deserts in Western China in freezing conditions. For this reason, I chose the city of Xi’an in central China as a winter home for four months. I got a job teaching English there and learnt a bit more Mandarin, as well as using the time to arrange some of the visas I needed to carry on through Central Asia.
As for the whole route, all the way from Hong Kong to the UK, I did have a plan, but I was ready to adapt it. In fact, the actual journey has proved amazingly close to my original plan. I’m quite surprised by this….and of course very grateful. It’s meant that most days I’ve been riding in sunshine!
WI: What has been the biggest surprise on the journey?
TB: How incredibly beautiful the land of China is. One imagines travelling to China to appreciate the culture, its history or marvel at its big cities. Rarely would people travel to China to see its natural beauty. But I’ve found that the landscape in between China’s vast cities, which is of course best seen from a bicycle since you naturally meet people along the way, is continually changing, often into unexpected and quite breathtaking forms of beauty.
WI: How has this trip enhanced or changed your perspective?
TB: A lot has happened emotionally on this trip. I have swung from ecstatic bursts of joy to a general contentment and peace, through boredom and loneliness to the very depths of dark anger and bitterness in my soul. It has been quite amazing to experience this range of existence, and I think a lot has come out that needed finally to be expressed (often when raging at the wind in the middle of a desert!). But I think over time this has resolved into something very positive.
For me, the key is to see every little detail of life as a gift. A man’s needs become very simple on a journey like this. A bottle of water, some warm food. A hot shower. A friendly conversation. These might be obvious gifts for which a person can be grateful. But this journey has made me appreciate the difficult things as gifts too. Often I have very quickly been able to look back at a setback and see how it led to something positive or helpful. I guess as a believer in Christ even the biggest potential disaster of death somewhere on the road is not without hope. So all the setbacks – big or small – can be seen in a different light, in the light of this ultimate hope. A difficult person, physical exhaustion, a cold shoulder, loneliness or sickness. Can you even be grateful for these things? Grateful for how they change you or challenge you? How you can overcome them or how they may strengthen your character?
It is very difficult to be both grateful and miserable. Just try it. I think this is one of the secrets behind the boundless joy of all those old saints like St Francis of Assisi. When I see everything as a gift, I find myself continually describing everything as beautiful. I mean how often have you described an ice cold bottle of coke as a thing of great beauty and wonder?! I am sure this perspective on seeing beauty more easily arises from a willful choice to be grateful. And out of such visions of beauty joy naturally flows. Who wouldn’t want that?
After 17,000km cycling across Asia and Europe, I find that the world is not such a big place after all. People are generous, interested, humourous, hospitable, open. Of course, there is much in the world and the countries I have passed through that is broken, and wretched. Political and religious manipulation, economic and environmental exploitation and their effects are all visible. But the world still looks to me like a beautiful image that has been shattered. I have faith in its original beauty, just as my eyes are open to its current brokenness. If we focus on what it is beautiful about the world and each other, we may be able to help heal what is broken.
Finally, this trip has altered my perspective about who God is. My perspective has been expanded. For me, God has revealed Himself in so many ways as the God of Providence. As this year on the road draws to a close, I feel that I believe much more that God really is involved in every aspect of my life – and in the life of the world – and that He is working for my good. That He really is in control, despite the freedom He has given us. It is a mystery, I can’t explain it, but it has increased my faith in God and what He can do.
WI: What are you hoping that you and others who have followed your adventure will gain from this experience?
TB: Well, for me I was pretty clear what I wanted – to put the past behind me, embrace an epic adventure, meet God on the road, use these experiences to become a better writer, create an opportunity to improve my language skills and grow into a more authentic person.
For those who have followed me, I hoped to entertain them, interest them, inspire them, paint bright pictures of the world in which they live, tell stories, encourage fellow believers and if possible ignite some sparks of faith in those who do not yet believe.
In a word, I wanted to present myself as a man of faith embarking on this adventure, believing that God might reveal Himself through that.
WI: What advice or encouragement do you have for anyone else who wants to make a difference in their own way?
TB: All of life is an adventure story. If God is the author then we are His characters. When you open yourself to living your life with Him, you step into a realm of existence beyond your imagination. It doesn’t have to be a crazy bike ride across the world (although that is fun!). It could be as straight forward as raising a family, or keeping your business running, or finishing your studies, or caring for your patients. But there is a story that is only yours to live – that only you can live.
When you see someone living life like that, there is something quietly glorious about it. Whatever difference you want to make, or are inspired to bring about, I am sure there is a good reason it has been put on your heart. Not only for your own good but for the good of the world around you.
The Psalmist said, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
That is why I think it is important to understand the dreams of your heart, and have the courage to reach out for them.
“The glory of God is man fully alive.”
Click here to sponsor Theodore’s Eurasia Bikeride; select Bombay Teen Challenge Children’s Shelter and your donation will contribute towards providing housing, education, and comprehensive care to 65 children previously living on the streets and in brothels of the Red Light District of Mumbai.
Stay tuned for more on Theodore’s ride for Wellspring International!