“Happiness is the road.” My interview on the Glückfinder Podcast.

08.09.17 | Revolutions, Travel

From one year ago, this is a podcast with the wonderful Andreas Gregori for his amazing Glückfinder Podcast series. Listen or read below (a transcription is available) or on the Glückfinder site.

Listening time: 27 minutes. Transcript reading time: 16 minutes.

Glückfinder Podcast

“Happiness is the Road.” Glückfinder Podcast Transcription.

Andreas: Hello and a very warm welcome to the first Happiness Finder interview. Today my guest is Pete Martin. Hi Pete.
Pete: Good afternoon.
Andreas: Good afternoon. Thank you that you take time to talk with me and your audience about your way to happiness. Pete wrote a book. It’s called “Revolutions: Wandering and wondering on a sabbatical year”. He cycled … around the world?
Pete: Yeah, first of all thank you for inviting me. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here on the podcast.
Andreas: Thank you.
Pete: Yeah, so the book is out and published. There is some cycling; there is some travelling; there is some life experience in the book.
Andreas: OK and was it always your dream to cycle around the world? Or was there maybe … a situation where you decided to go for a ride? You lived a normal life? So you are from England?
Pete: So I am from England. Born in Liverpool, [in fact] born and bred in Liverpool so … really the book starts with a normal life. Back in Cheshire in the UK … normal life, “successful life” as you would call it (or we used to call it) – married, two beautiful daughters, big house, family holidays, nice cars. Within the space of two years everything collapsed, everything fell apart. My marriage collapsed. Even though through all this time I was an bystander almost. Everything collapsed – my marriage collapsed. My eldest daughter blamed me so our relationship fell apart. I had health issues in this time: three knee surgeries, a shoulder surgery. Things were going on around me [that] I just couldn’t control. My mother broke her leg, my sister in law died of cancer, my sister had a partial hysterectomy before she was 40 [and] a good friend of mine died in a cycling accident. You name it, it was happening. My money disappeared in the divorce. Even though my daughters were living with me, I had to pay a small fortune to my ex-wife. To cut a long story short, in summary, everything I had just collapsed, which meant I collapsed. There is only so much you can take. So I ended up in hospital with extreme exhaustion. I was stressed and depressed. That is how my life went at this point. Amazingly through it all … at this time I met Kathrin, my soul mate, who is now my wife. Somehow I kept my job, but in a job that was built on a family life, it almost became hollow. I wondered what I was doing there anymore. So, in the end, the job went too. I ended up negotiating a package to get out. That is really where the book starts … all this stuff has happened, everything I had and could rely on is gone. And so I am in Berlin of all places celebrating this freedom. But this freedom does not feel like I am free. This life I’ve led, which is what I thought was a normal life, it doesn’t exist anymore, so what do I do next? To be honest I was tired and scared.
Andreas: Did you ever think about … in which direction should I go? Is it maybe the end?
Pete: Absolutely. The key is … I should have been happy with this freedom but I didn’t have a voice. I guess my inner voice was just quiet. I needed some peace and quiet. I had two things. One, I knew I wanted to be in Germany with Kathrin, and [second] I knew I could never get the same job again because of  a non-compete for one year… this is where the title sabbatical year comes in. So I knew I could not get the same type of job, but I didn’t know what to do. So I did the most simplest of things – I couldn’t think of what else to do – so that’s where the cycling comes in. So I’d never cycled since I was ten years old. I did some rehab on my knee cycling in the gym. It just seemed something real and tangible [to do]. So my first journey was across the UK, coast to coast in England. A three day ride, nothing difficult, but probably the biggest journey of my life. I graduated from there to coming to Germany to cycle the Main, the Mosel, the Austrian Danube and then the big journey – the length of the Rhine. These were real. It was healing. It was therapeutic. It was fresh air. I could breath. I was out of the human race. I was out of the rat race and it felt good.
Andreas: Just one question, why cycle? Maybe you could go for a walk, maybe start painting pictures…
Pete: Good question and I am not sure I know the answer; it was the right thing to do at the right time. So I had done some cycling for the rehab on my knee. Walking wasn’t good for my knee, so I knew it was going to be good physically for me. It wouldn’t do any damage and it would get me fit again. I needed to be outside. I need the fresh air and I needed the peace and quiet. When you are stuck in these bad times, they never seem to end. Your monkey mind just rattles and rattles and rattles. Somehow the cycling was just peaceful. I was at ease and it was fun. So that is what I did. At the same time I was learning to live. Out there alone alongside a river, what else could I do? What else was I missing out on in these years of work and family life? I realised I hadn’t really lived. So I decided to have some fun and to enjoy it. There was nothing else I could but enjoy life anymore. So that led to going to learn to meditate, to learn to motorcycle as you do. I went up to Scotland which wasn’t a good idea … because of the weather. I took a road trip with my youngest daughter across the US. Kathrin and I went to the Caribbean. I was really learning to enjoy life again; to be and to enjoy it. Along these journeys and this life experience … in the bad times a coach and a councillor encouraged me to journal, which means getting all the frustrations out, and then you can deal with it – you can throw it in the bin, you can attack it, do what you like. So I continued to journal and I realised the journals were capturing these huge changes. They were also catching some incredible journeys. So because I could, I then went to India – spent some time in India – cycled around Sri Lanka, then did an Ayurveda retreat in the Indian mountains; again all captured in these journals. The Ayurveda was incredible, as we said before when we were talking before this interview, it’s a time when you can learn to just be, which is probably one of the most difficult things that I have ever experienced.
Andreas: Sounds like the easiest things in the world.
Pete: Very difficult. Like the cycling was and then you graduate to going to do yoga and meditation and learn to be who you are. Very tense experiences and not what I had expected to happen when I was in Berlin afraid. My journeys continued. At the end of this first year of freedom, I did a trip completely around the world. So I circumnavigated the world. No cycling this time. I left Frankfurt by train to Moscow; on the Trans Siberia Railway across Russia. A stop in Lake Baikal – minus 20 degrees, fully frozen. Culminating across the ocean on a container ship as the only passenger, then train again across the US, boat across the Atlantic and finally back to Frankfurt by train. Again all captured in the journals and some incredible times that I didn’t expect to have. That really is the story of the book. When you journey, they say a journey on the outside is also a journey on the inside and the changes I went through are captured in the book as well as some incredible places.
Andreas: What has your family thought about you when you decided to do these trips? They all said, “Good idea, Pete”?
Pete: Not quite … as you would expect. Most people, a few friends … what’s interesting is when you go through the bad times, there are people you think you can rely on and you cannot. You find other people you can. So my social structure collapsed but then stronger and better relationships developed … good friends, my wife, and they were so supportive of the things I needed to do. My family for example … my mother still thinks I am crazy to this day. I’m just back from three months in Africa, she still thinks I am crazy, but that gives me a good sign that I must be doing something right. I think it’s Mark Twain … “When you are on the side of the masses, it is time to stop and think.”
Andreas: Great, what is the thing you talked a lot… to people in all the countries; you have a lot of time with yourself. What is this thing you learned, you understand?
Pete: I don’t think there is one big answer. For the meaning of life then you need to find a better guru than me to give you these answers, but I can give you some small things. Quite often in life it’s the little things that matter. The first lesson I learned is … I used to think writing a book was for writers. I used to think these crazy journeys were for crazy people. Maybe I am crazy, but all of us can do these things. Particularly the around the world trip. There was some planning … Kathrin tells me I spent days and weeks working out how to get which ship to which country and which days they operate. I don’t remember doing any planning, it just seemed to work. So that is the first thing: we can do the things we want to do, everything is possible.
Andreas: If the wish is big enough.
Pete: If the wish is big enough. I found particularly the places where people said you shouldn’t go to, or the places I was most worried about, so, for example, Russia or Japan, oh they don’t speak English – those people were the warmest. In Japan I was so worried because I don’t speak Japanese but every train has English signs. I basically didn’t have any guides at all. When I was in India and Russia I had a guide to help me in certain places. In Japan most of it I did by myself and it was wonderful. There was never a problem and the people I did meet were wonderful. The people I struggled with were the people in the US and English people abroad.
Andreas: So you have had a picture of the country where you go and you thought it was not so good?
Pete: Absolutely.
Andreas: What do you realise when you were there … it is much better than you thought.
Pete: Absolutely and most people are basically the same as I am. They want some social interaction, they want to chat, they are proud of where they are from, they want to show their city or their country off and I am there to see their city … to learn and take stuff in. One of the big lessons, just being back from Africa, is not to judge. We have all these preconceptions of different countries and different people. It could not be further from the truth. And so learning not to judge, just to be and to observe and to enjoy is basically my lesson from these travels.
Andreas: When you are travelling, maybe along the river Rhine, what was in your mind? Nothing?
Pete: That’s what cycling did for me. It was to take out this monkey mind, this chatter, and just put it to one side. Cycling in the end became a meditation almost. There are the horrible days uphill in the rain or with the wind in Holland – not pleasant days! But when there is a nice breeze and the sun shines, beautiful scenery, my mind is shut off like a good meditation. Those were the best days and I think without the cycling, without the Ayurveda – learning just to be – I would not have enjoyed the trip so much across the Pacific Ocean in a container ship as the only passenger. Nobody to talk to all day – yes there is the crew, a wonderful crew, but you join them for dinner and for breakfast but the 12 hours in between were my time. It is the time where you can just relax and enjoy who you are, where you are and every day the waves were different, the sunrise was different, the sunset was different. It was heaven on earth.
Andreas: In the time before and after your journey, the world hasn’t changed so much; a tree is still a tree. But it seems as if you are looking now from another point of view – the direction of your view.
Pete: Absolutely, and it was quite difficult from an around the world trip. Kathrin met me in Paris and we did the last leg together to Frankfurt. It was quite strange in Frankfurt, in the 80 days around the world, nothing had changed. The same people with the same job in the bratwurst stall, the same train conductor on the same train. But I’d had this huge experience around the world, but now you’re back and nothing has changed. But it had changed, because the tree now was a bigger, brighter, better tree. I seemed to see things from a different point of view. I guess I have relaxed so much more.
Andreas: I know that some of the listeners from the interview maybe now thought … okay to get this I need to travel around the world; would you agree?
Pete: Yes and no. It is a good question. I think some people do and some people don’t. We are all different. It seems that I have learnt over the last couple of years that I do benefit from physical travelling. It seems to resonate with me. The physical movement allows my mind to develop, my inner being to develop. But it doesn’t mean that everybody should. A few people have read the book [and say] “Wow you have done the Trans Siberia Railway, it means I don’t have to go”. Well great, I am glad to be of service. If you don’t need to go, that’s great. Some people can do a meditation, a long meditation or shamanic meditation, and they can get the same lessons that I’ve got. It doesn’t matter; we all grow our own way. I guess I am quite happy that I need the physical journey because I enjoy them.
Andreas: If I met Pete Martin 10 years ago and I would have said to him that he would have a journey and to just be and now you see the world with different eyes, would you agree?
Pete: I would laugh. It was inconceivable that I would be here right now having done the things I’ve done. For me, the lesson from this is to let life flow. I wouldn’t advise going through such bad times as I did to anybody, but sometimes they are there for a reason. Maybe it took me longer to get out of these because I needed to be in there longer to learn the lessons. I am at the point where we are who we are. We are having this conversation right now because we should be. We get the right coaches at the right time. We read the right books at the right time. We should just accept it and enjoy it.
Andreas: And enjoy it, yes. After your journey you went to Africa?
Pete: Yes.
Andreas: And there you learned another lesson about happiness?
Pete: Yes, again something we just chatted about earlier was that I’m still digesting and synthesising the trip to Africa because it is so different to here. The thing I noticed the most was their social interactions and their happiness. It only struck me being back in Germany and I was back in England two weeks ago too. We are all on our smart phones! Ok, it is a secondary interaction … but sitting there miserable on our trains. In Africa everybody had time for each other. Time in the west doesn’t exist the way it exists in Africa. Everything is slower, everyone will stop and they will spend time with each other. They will touch each other. They will be tactile. They will smile. It was amazing to see. Especially the stories we get from the West about Africa: about there is no food; they are all hungry; they are not educated. It couldn’t be more different than I expected … this slowing down, spending time with each other, greeting old friends, was wonderful. Hopefully in the book these small insights will come through. Back to your question, did I think I could do this? No. Almost the theme of the book is we can do these things. When things seem so difficult and so dark and so scary, just have some faith and you can do these things. If a guy from Liverpool can do this, anyone can do this.
Andreas: This is a wonderful last sentence. Before we leave, I have the Happiness Finder questions for you. Pete, for you, what does it mean for you to be happy?
Pete: So again another complex question which, with my crazy wisdom, I will try to give a simple and practical answer to. To be happy for me is simple; it means I have more happier days than sad days. I have more happy moments than sad moments. Kind of a little bit advanced of that is trying to react nicely to the bad moments. Try and react well to the people who are not acting well. That is all I can do – that is my little bit back.
Andreas: Thank you. What is responsible for your happiness? What do you think?
Pete: So I think we are each responsible for our own happiness – absolutely – and we shouldn’t be responsible for other peoples. But I do think again we should have the ability and we can create happiness for each other. I think what you do with these podcasts is a great example of this.
Andreas: OK, thank you. This is the Happiness Finder podcast so … do you play the lottery?
Pete: No, I don’t play the lottery. In my view, it is a total waste of money.
Andreas: What do you think, does money bring happiness?
Pete: No, it doesn’t. I think of all your interviews that say it doesn’t. But money can be an enabler. Money can help us find our way. It can help us experiment.
Andreas: Would you please complete the sentence? I am happy because …?
Pete: I am happy because it is better than the alternative. Being happy, believe me, is much better than being sad.
Andreas: That is a really good answer, thank you very much. If time travelling would be possible and you could travel back in time, is there any advice you could or you would give your younger self?
Pete: This is a great question. So firstly time travel … I have mastered travel but not yet mastered time travel. It is the butterflies and hurricanes question so … we talked earlier, we are where we are … so even the bad times we have gone through to get where we are. If I was to give any advice, particularly to myself in, say, my twenties and early thirties, it would be … just to slow down and to enjoy things, particularly the little things. Stop rushing around.
Andreas: OK. Are there any books, podcasts or seminars you would recommend to our listeners?
Pete: Well as a kind of bookworm and now a writer this could be a long answer, so I will try to keep it short.
Andreas: I will put the links on the homepage of the Happiness Finder where we can find your book.
Pete: Thank you, I appreciate it. Podcast is easy – your podcast is wonderful, thank you kindly. The German ones take me days to get through because of my poor German. Now I am looking forward to Happiness Finder in English, so thank you doubly. I am a big fan of Tim Ferriss’ podcasts too. Books – I started off with science fiction. Orson Scott Card is a tremendous writer. I recommend anyone read his stuff. Travel – well, the greats, Bill Bryson, Paul Theroux, are wonderful. The books that inspired me to travel – I would say Michael Palin. There is a guy called Michael Crichton, who wrote Jurassic Park, the Emergency Room TV show. He wrote a book called “Travels” which inspires me to this day. I read it every second year, still to this day.
Andreas: You read it before you start your journey?
Pete: Yeah, always read it. There is another book called “Ghost Rider” by Neil Peart about his healing journey and these books are just moving. I recommend them to anyone. Books for how to live my life – there are probably three I would recommend to your listeners. One is Wayne Dyers’ interpretation of the Tao Te Ching. There’s a small, funny book called “Who Moved My Cheese?” about change. Finally, I would recommend two negotiation text books. It sounds ominous but they are small, they are practical ways to negotiate which we do every day in every conversation almost. One book is called “Getting to Yes” and the second one is “Getting Past No”. They are wonderful books by Fisher and Ury from Harvard Business School.
Andreas: OK, I put the links on the Happiness Finder homepage. The last question. If someone would like to know more about you, or get into contact with you, could you please give us your homepage address?
Pete: Sure I can. www.wander2wonder.com. I would like to say Andreas thank you. It has been a pleasure; please keep doing what you are doing.
Andreas: Yes I will. It was a great experience for me. The first Happiness Finder to make an interview in English. I hope the native speakers out there can understand what I have said to Pete. Pete, your work, great. This was the Happiness Finder interview podcast, the first one. Thank you very much Pete and have a nice day and a great week. Thank you very much, bye bye.

 

A big thank you to Andreas Gregori for this great interview.

If you like this interview, you may enjoy this post too … “Finding happiness with “The Power of Now”: a short essay.”

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