“In me Liverpool home”. Interview on the Sean Styles Show, BBC Radio Merseyside.

17.03.17 | Revolutions, Sabbatical, Travel |

Whilst back in my hometown, I popped in for a chat with the wonderful Sean Styles on BBC Radio Merseyside.

Listening time: 8 minutes.

BBC Radio Merseyside
Sean Styles

Interview on BBC Radio Merseyside, 15th March 2017. Transcription.

Sean: Now then, you know when life gets you down a bit it’s tempting just to pack a bag and leave it all behind. We’ve all thought about that haven’t we? But I tell you what, one lad, Pete Martin, done it. After a difficult time, he took a year out and he went on a trip around the globe and he kept a journal which is always important and he’s got it in a book now and he popped in for a chat. What a nice lad.

Pete: I was at my lowest ebb, you know, I’d been through a heavy divorce, lost the custody battle for my kids, three knee surgeries, shoulder surgery, loads of illness in the family, you know, I was in … I went into hospital with depression, exhaustion and, by the end of it, I just couldn’t do my job any more and, to be honest, I was in Berlin in Germany trying to learn German, because I had just moved to Germany to go and live there, and I sat there going ‘Well I need to something, I need to kind of rebuild’ and I decided to do some cycling rather than travelling initially and the cycling just set me off and just got me interested in life again.

Sean: Because you’d never done it before had you?

Pete: No, no, no cycling really. I started cycling only for rehab for the knee and I realised I enjoyed cycling rather than going to the gym. So I kind of just started cycling past the gym and going further and further, but the travel bug has always been there, and so with the cycling I started to do bigger rides. And so the first real journey in the book is cycling across the UK. So sitting in Berlin trying to learn German, I was just at my lowest ebb as I say and it was just, ‘What do I do? I need to do something different.’

Sean: How old were you then?

Pete: So, this is three, four years ago. I was just about to turn forty five and it was something symbolic for that birthday and it was across my birthday weekend, the end of May, to cycle across the UK. I’d never really done it before but, you know, I booked a company – I hired a bike from a company, they booked the hotels for me, they took my bags for me, so it wasn’t a great journey but for me – it was a huge step. And from there I thought okay I like the cycling, it’s out in the open. You know, you meet people who are doing this stuff all the time and I wasn’t, and I suddenly realised other people are having fun and I’m stuck in this miserable life still being, you know, sad for myself. And then I did a trip, I cycled the length of the Rhine. This time, this was a thousand kilometres. Lake Constance in Switzerland through the French, German border through Holland to the Hook of Holland, at Rotterdam, but this time I didn’t book anything. I didn’t even have a map.

Sean: You just took it as it came.

Pete: I took my own bike, I had one bag on the bike which had cycling stuff in, a bag on the other side which was Jesus boots, shorts, T-shirts, sun cream and I just went and every day I found a hotel. Sometimes it was easy, sometimes it was difficult but that’s the way life is and I got there in the end. And that one was a bit more difficult and that really opened my eyes to go, ‘Hang on, I’ve quit my job, I’ve got no ties, I’m free, just do something.’

Pete: So the book cumulates in a trip around the world by train and boat, so no planes. Setting out basically to go slowly, to enjoy myself along the way. And, of course, it cost some money. I didn’t scrimp and save, you know, this was a trip of a lifetime, but believe you me it doesn’t cost what people think it does. I hear people buying new cars, okay, I can maybe do two or three trips around the world for this.

Sean: Really?

Pete: Yeah, you know. You can fly first class and spend a fortune but I didn’t. The Trans-Siberian Railway, there’s no pretence on this train.

Sean: It’s exciting but I suppose scary by the same token, isn’t it?

Pete: Yeah, but the more you do the less fear there is or you just deal with the fear better. Out of all of the trips I’m describing, you know, people talked about ‘Wow, going to India by yourself and the retreat in India or the Trans-Siberian Railway in the middle of Russia in winter, minus twenty’ … to be perfectly honest, the first trip across the UK by bicycle was by far the hardest because I’d never done it before and I was so fragile.

Sean: You always followed the footy when you were away didn’t you, you’re a big red aren’t you?

Pete: Oh absolutely, I am big red. I mean living away from Liverpool these days, as I said earlier I live in Frankfurt these days, you’re proud of both teams. Obviously prouder when Everton are beneath Liverpool and … But, yeah, I’m a big football fan and even the book, going across the Trans-Siberian Railway, for example, I had no wifi, no internet. I shared my compartment with a Russian policeman and he’s online and he got me the Liverpool score one night. Then in Japan the game is in the middle of the night so trying to find the score was difficult again.

Sean: Did you get homesick at all?

Pete: Not on these trips, I mean obviously I’m back in Liverpool this week and it’s great, absolutely great to be back, see family, see everybody, its lovely. On these trips – no. I think the only time I was a little bit homesick was cycling in Sri Lanka. I’d been alone in India and in a retreat and all of a sudden I’d met a bunch of people to cycle with and it was meeting people again and that was the only time – funny with people though, I was quite lonely. The other time I was lonely when I did the trip … so I crossed the oceans by ship. The first ocean, the Pacific Ocean, was by container ship. I was the only passenger. Never felt lonely at all. Twenty-seven crew plus me. That was all. Ten days plus the extra day you get – not lonely at all. I crossed the Atlantic Ocean by cruise ship – two thousand passengers, but they were just … they just ate food all day. I don’t know what [else] they did. I was lonely then. They called it the ‘over fed and the nearly dead’.

Sean: Did you make notes when you were travelling?

Pete: Yeah, absolutely. So one of the bits of advice when I was going through the kind of dark days, one good counsellor said to me to journal – it gets your emotions out. So, all the way through, you know, all the bad things that happened, I was journalling anyway. So I continued to journal as I did for these journeys. Sometimes it was easier, things like [being] on the container ship when there’s nothing to do all day I caught up on all the journals so that was perfect. But journalling is very different than somebody reading the book, so there was quite a lot of effort of taking the journals and putting them into the book. And the reason I did the book was because so many people asked me, ‘Wow we saw you a year ago, you were, not on deaths door, but you were pretty at a low ebb and now look what you’ve done.” And so that’s why I turned it … and so, the book itself, it is a traveller’s tale and its fun. There are some funny tales in there.

Sean: It’s an inspiration tale because you’ve almost used it like a healing process, haven’t you?

Pete: Absolutely. It’s the healing road. If somebody reads this and they go and do their dream that’s so good for me. You know, a really good friend of mine read it and immediately booked a couple of fishing trips. I’m just hoping his wife doesn’t blame me but you know but that was quite inspirational.

Sean: You know what as well, you know people listening to this today, you’re happier now than you’ve ever been aren’t you?

Pete: Absolutely and I think it’s just tasting that freedom and at first it is scary because you don’t know what to do but if you just embrace it, just be positive about life, what a different it makes.

Sean: What a nice lad and what a story. It’s called ‘Revolutions’, check it out. It’s in all good book stockists. Pete Martin’s journey, journey of life really, I suppose, and as he said a journey of healing. Things weren’t going so well and he ended up travelling the world and he’s still enjoying every minute of it now. Lovely fella.

My thanks go to Harriet Gulliver and Sean Styles for such an amazing job in conducting and producing this interview.

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