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BECKY: It's been awful. It knocked me out for six. So I've gone from being like, “Yeah, I cycled all the way around Australia, huh! Look at me” to being “I don't even know if I can cycle and just do an overnight camp”. It completely knocked my confidence. So I'm planning on doing some sort of short ride before heading to Asia just to sort of build that lost confidence up again. Which I guess you probably don't want to hear on Seize Your Adventure, you know, I’m supposed to be gung-ho and everything, but the reality is that the med change-over just made me go “wow, I am so much more vulnerable than I thought.”
FRAN (in studio): Hello everyone, I am Fran Turauskis and you are listening to Seize Your Adventure. Thank you all for joining me again.
It has been a few months since the end of season one but in that time, you may have noticed a change in look - I’ve been personally redesigning the cover art and website so please don’t get confused and accidentally miss me. I have also been pulling together some really interesting stories from all across the spectrum of adventure. This season is going to have more interviews than last season, which means we’re going to see a wider range of sports and activities - as well as some more runners and hikers, I have spoken to surfers, cyclists and triathletes. And I’ve spoken to people scattered across the world - there are some more folks based in Canada and America, but it was great to find a few more UK-based adventurers as well. And I also managed to have some conversations about the psychology and physiology of doing sports with epilepsy.
So, that’s a taste of what’s to come. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear those ones later in the year. But to start this season off we are going as far away from the UK as possible and speaking about possibly the biggest, and certainly the longest adventure we have had so far on the podcast.
Today’s chat is with a lady called Becky Sampson. Becky is from the UK, but she hasn’t been based there for over three years now. She got in touch with me over a year ago when she was halfway through riding a bike across New Zealand. I was already pretty impressed and jealous of this fact, but she went on to tell me that she had already been riding in Canada and some of the US. And after New Zealand she was heading on to Australia and then planning to cycle the long way home through Asia and Europe.
We were messaging back and forth for a while, and I finally managed to convince her to chat to me officially for the podcast. There was so much I wanted to hear about, but specifically I wanted to talk about the logistics of travelling this long - in general, but specifically factoring in the epilepsy. I also insisted that she tell me at least one story about seeing a bear in the wild.
When we spoke a little bit before Christmas, Becky was actually going through a change in medications whilst living in a tent in Australia.
Now, as always, this conversation is Becky’s personal experience of epilepsy, medication and adventure travel. I hope that the chat is interesting and useful but it is not advice. Please do not use it to make decisions without speaking to your epilepsy team.
So here’s some of my chat with cyclist and world traveller, Becky Sampson:
BECKY: I might have exaggerated a little bit. I was currently based in a tent up until very recently, I'm currently really in a Warm Showers house in Perth because there's not very many places to pitch a tent in Perth itself. And for those unfamiliar with Warm Showers, it's a reciprocal host system for people that tour by bicycle. So a little bit like couch surfing. If you're cycling in a country, you can look up hosts and ask to stay with them. And then when you're at home, you can host people that are coming for your hometown.
FRAN: Warm Showers is something that I have heard about on a few other adventures that people have done, and it is specifically for cyclists, isn't it? So you have that connection.
BECKY: Yeah, there's instantly something you've got in common to talk about, so even if you come from completely different backgrounds, you definitely have things you can talk about, like tyre pressures and which is the best saddle to ride on. Like even if you have nothing else, you've got something really boring and technical in common. But it's also, it's just nice to get to know locals and they'll suggest a good riding route out of the town, sometimes they’ll ride with you. So, it's just a really nice way to connect with the country or area that you're riding through.
FRAN: You’re currently on a very-- an ongoing long bike ride. So if you could just tell us quickly about the bike ride in Australia?
BECKY: Yeah. So I started in Adelaide and went down to Kangaroo Island, which is just south of Adelaide and did a sort-of two week tour around there. And that was a practice run for Australia, just thinking, you know, get used to the bike and the weight of everything on the front. Because it's the first time I've had to ride with a huge amount of water on the bike. And it turned out that Kangaroo Island is actually the hardest part of cycling Australia in the entire ride - the rest of the country was relatively easy! Then, from Kangaroo Island went back to Adelaide and spent a week there buying food, phoning road houses, parceling up these boxes of food and supplies and then posting them ahead. Because when you get out in the outback, there is absolutely nothing for hundreds of kilometers, so you can't buy anything. You can't get hold of food or supplies or whatever you need.
So we did a week of logistics, sent all of that ahead, and then just started riding North and rode through the Outback along a track called the Oodnadatta Track, which is this off-road epic gravel adventure, ended up Coober Pedy, which is an opal mining town, got flooded in the desert. It rained for three days solid, and the road I'd come in on was then knee deep in water and couldn't get out for four days. I was like, “What is this?! This is meant to be a desert”. And then rode up to ??? [07:10], which was just magnificent and then around Kings Canyon and the West MacDonnell ranges to Alice Springs, and then up north to a little tiny town called Katherine and then turned left and headed to Broome. And that was the first time I'd seen the ocean since leaving Adelaide and then spent a few days in Broome and then headed south to Perth. Here I am. So it's been about 7000 kilometers, I think, riding in Australia. So a fair distance.
FRAN: A fair distance, to say the least. You make it sound so easy. I think for me one of the things that is most impressive, or the thing that puts me off that kind of journey the most is the logistics. So you're talking about having to organize all of your packages beforehand and having to send them forward and that kind of thing. Where did you get the information about doing that? Where did you start? And how long does it take to plan this journey?
BECKY: That's a really good question. It was actually a Warm Showers host on Kangaroo Island who had also cycleed the Oodnadatta Track and they drew-- I did that ride with my partner-- and this Warm Showers host drew us a hand-drawn map and marked all these tiny towns on it and road houses, and places where you could get water. They said “we did this, I think seven or eight years ago, and this is where we were able to post supplies or get supplies back then”. And so when we got back to Adelaide, we got on the Internet. We had a look at WikiCamps, which is an app out here which shows you supermarkets and things like that. We googled all the supermarkets in the areas that we'd be going. We contacted the road houses. So we just-- that's why it took so long. It took us a week just with maps and the Internet looking at where water was, where food was, and where there was neither, where could we get supplies posted to? So yeah, logistically, it was a little bit challenging, but it was also quite fun. It was also quite demoralizing when you looked at what food we bought and went, “Oh my God, we're just going to eat plastic cheese and crackers and, you know, mashed potato for weeks and weeks. So we did put a cheeky whiskey in one of the boxes and a couple of bars of chocolate for a little bit of a boost when we got the box.
FRAN: Oh, nice. Yeah, cheeky whiskey is definitely the way to go. I think that’s something that-- certainly, for me, being able to plan it with someone else would help with that kind of long one, I think. Obviously you have your boyfriend on this one. But you have done quite--
FRAN: Oh, sorry. Go ahead. Yeah.
BECKY: She’s my girlfriend, actually. Because I know she'll be listening, and she'll be like, “Oh, you didn’t correct that one!”
FRAN: I'm so sorry! Complete and utter blank in my--
BECKY: Oh don’t apologise, not a problem.
FRAN: I should have picked up on the fact that you said ‘partner’ as well. That's--
BECKY: Don’t worry, honestly.
FRAN: Actually that does give us one other thing to talk about because obviously-- I thought about this when I've been speaking to a few other people that are traveling with same-sex partners. If you are going through some countries, is that something that you are concerned about? Or is that something which you-- do you have a network of people that you can speak to see if there are any issues and in other countries?
BECKY: I think in most countries, certainly the Westernized countries, as we call them, like Australia and New Zealand, they're pretty LGBT friendly. And, we've not really had any problems with anyone. Going forward, we're looking at going into Asia and I think, whether I was traveling with Liz, my partner, or on my own, I would always respect the rules, the laws, you know, the culture of whatever country I was in. I think it's important to just know where you're traveling and, yeah, respect the culture regardless of your own sexual preferences or whatever it is that you do, does that answer it?
BECKY: And you know, if I was in Iran, I would wear a headscarf on and I wouldn't flaunt the fact that we're a couple. It's not something that would be wise to do. Even if you're a straight couple, it wouldn't be wise to do out there. So I think it's just important to know where you're traveling in and to respect the traditions and cultures and just act accordingly.
FRAN: Yeah, no, I think that's really important for people to hear. Like I say, it's something that, from a kind of a very privileged point of view of either traveling-- you know, I've never had a problem with it. And I've never been to a country where it might have been an issue if me and my boyfriend were traveling without being married and that kind of thing. So I do just find it interesting to know what people worry about or don't worry about when they're traveling. Because it comes back to the thing with the epilepsy as well, with some of us. Sometimes I worry about it, and sometimes I don't. And I'm sure it's the same with you. So you're traveling with your girlfriend. Does it make you feel a little bit better having her around? Obviously, because she knows about the epilepsy and she knows, kind of your full history with that.
BECKY: Yeah, it makes me feel more secure knowing that she's there. So should anything go wrong, I've got someone to pick me up off the floor, quite literally. Having said that, she's never seen me have a seizure, so neither of us know how she'll react if I was to have one. I'm pretty confident she'd be brilliant, but, you know, you just never know, do you? But it's definitely a nice comfort blanket, I suppose, knowing that you've got that support when you're traveling, especially when you're doing something in a country where it's remote or you don't speak the language. And you're on a bike so you already stand out a bit anyway, so, yeah, it's nice to know that someone has got your back.
FRAN: Yeah. When was your last seizure? When was the last one that you had?
BECKY: So the last seizure I had was in September 2016. And I had been traveling solo for about six months at that point and it was the second seizure I'd had in those six months. And the first one I'd had was in Canada. I'd been cycling through Canada, and I'd stopped for the night, camped up, woke up the next morning, felt a bit funny, then had a seizure. And then was just-- I wasn't aware that I'd had a seizure, but I woke up running, if that makes sense? It was just the weirdest thing. I felt like I was in a zombie apocalypse movie and I was just running through this forest and I had, like, blood on me and vomit on me. And I was like, “What is going on?” And I just had that fight-or-flight instinct and I was just like “I'm running. That's all I know. I feel awful. And I'm just going”. And then I came across this honeymooning couple and I sat down on their picnic bench and I was like, “I don't know what’s happened, but I do know that I need help”, and they were like, “we’ll get a Ranger.” And so that was quite awful. It was fine, you know, I went to the hospital, and by the time I got there, I was like, OK, I had a seizure. It's fine. I know what's happened. The second one happened in Hawaii and I was staying with people, one of which screamed and ran out and wouldn't speak to me for three days after. She was a little bit immature, shall we say!
BECKY: And the others who sort of cooed over me and took me to the hospital. And I was like, “No, no, no, I just”-- I knew what had happened that time. And I was like, “No, no, I'm fine. I just need to rest and sleep it off.” But they insisted, and then I got a nice $1000 bill for a cheese sandwich and a glass of water at the local hospital. Thank goodness for travel insurance! [LAUGHS]
BECKY: But, yeah, so I've had seizures traveling solo, and I know that I can deal with it. I mean, seizures are never fun whether you're on your own, or you’ve got people around you. And I've now forgotten the question, sorry!
FRAN: Well, I think you answered, you answered it. I think it was just when was your last seizure and yeah, how--
BECKY: Oh yeah, that was it. Yeah.
FRAN: No, that's absolutely fine. You mentioned the travel insurance there, obviously something which I encourage people to make sure they're getting the right one. Because sometimes it doesn't cover everything and, I think we both have talked about before, how annoyingly expensive that can make it.
FRAN: So how have you found it with travel insurance? Especially doing these longer trips. How do you go about making sure you've got the right one?
BECKY: Travel insurance has been a real pain. Before I left the UK, I went with-- I think it was Epilepsy Action has some recommended travel insurers and I went with one of them. So I had, like, a year's worth of cover or something like that with them. And then I had a second year’s worth. And then they said “You've been out of the country too long. We can't help you anymore”. So I put on Facebook, “Help! Need travel insurance. I'm not going back to the UK and I don't know how long I'm going to be away. Can anyone recommend anything?”. And one company do insurance for if you're already traveling and they also do it-- they cover you if you've got a medical condition. I've been away now for three and a half years and I'm not gonna be back to the UK for a year and half. So five years in total. I contacted so many travel insurers and they said, “Yes, we can cover you, but you need to come back to the UK” and I was like, “I'm in New Zealand like, no!”
FRAN: That defeats the point!
BECKY: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So, yeah, travel insurance has been a real pain. And I know that a lot of long term travelers, they will get their first year, and then they'll just say, “nah, we're gonna take the risk”. But having epilepsy makes me that little bit more cautious. And, I think it's worth having, especially traveling on a bike. And you never know if, you know, you're going to get hit by a bus or, I mean anything wrong. So I just think it's a good thing to have just in case.
FRAN: Yeah, completely agree. Completely agree there. It does make you think about it more when you have that long standing condition, that big kind-of ‘what if’ hanging over you a little bit more. Thinking about going to America, and when I went over for a week or so, it was an absolute panic of checking the insurance I had and checking. “Oh, does it-- what exactly does it cover me for? Does it cover me for all of the activities that I'm gonna be doing?” and all of this kind of thing. So many caveats when you're doing adventure insurance in general and then, as you say, making sure that it covers the epilepsy, or whatever long term condition you have. It does make it a bit trickier.
BECKY: Definitely. And like you say, it's not cheap.
FRAN: Yeah, I was gonna say, do you mind me asking how-- has that price changed when you've been traveling? How much do you pay for it?
BECKY: It's about £550 for 18 months, and that doesn't include the pre-existing medical certificate, which is another 20 quid on top, I think. So it's almost £600 once you've ticked all the boxes and stuff. So it isn't cheap, at all! And factoring that into a budget when you're trying to do things as much on a shoestring as possible, it's a huge chunk of money. You know, we’re sort of-- we’re on average, spending, I think, £35 a week in Australia.
BECKY: Maybe even less than that. And then suddenly, having a £600 bill for insurance come out of your bank account, you go “Wow, how many weeks could we be cycling on that?” [LAUGHS] It puts everything into perspective.
FRAN: It does. It does, but as you say, totally worth that. You have had a few issues with your forward planning in terms of the medication that you take, haven't you? So can you just talk me through the medication that you have been using and what the difficulty was with that going forward?
BECKY: Sure. How long have you got? [LAUGHS]
When I first got diagnosed, I refused point blank to go on medication. I was like, “No, I've only had one seizure. Don't want it.” And the neurologist said “you must. You must. You must.” And I sort of made a deal. I said, “Look. If I have another seizure in the next 12 months, I'll go on meds”. And 11 and a half months later, I had a seizure, and I thought, “oh no”.
So I went on Lamotrigine for a long time, probably about 14 years. But I was still having seizures fairly regularly. Like, I'm quite lucky. When I say ‘regularly’, it would be three or four months, and then I’d have a seizure, and then three or four months later, I'd have another. So I'm really lucky in that respect. They're not daily. They're not weekly.
And then when I was in Hawaii, I was talking to a couple of traveling nurses and they said, “Oh, Lamotrigine? Hmm. We give everyone Keppra.” And I'd never heard of Keppra before. And so I went briefly back to the UK, talked to my neurologist, and I said, “I've been told Keppra is the way forward. Can I have it?” And she said, “are you sure?” and I was like “yep, i want it!”. And she said, “the side effects are really bad” I was like “I don't care. I want it.” So she prescribed me Keppra and said “I can give you three months, but after that you're on your own. You need to find another doctor wherever you happen to be and get meds from them.” And I was like, “Okay, fine”. Got to New Zealand. Found this lovely doctor who was happy to prescribe me medication while I was there.
In Australia, I've been able to get medication here as well, but I'm now changing again from Keppra to... I can't remember what it’s called...
FRAN: I think you said Sodium Valproate?
BECKY: Sodium Valproate! Yeah, that one. You know my meds better than I do!
FRAN: Emergency contact right here. Just--
BECKY: Excellent. I’ll hold you to that!
So yeah, I saw a neurologist when I got into Perth, and I said “Look, I'm taking this Keppra and it's going to take me 18 months to get back to the UK on my bicycle. Please, can I have at least a 12-month supply?” and he was like, “uh no”. And I was like, “what am I supposed to do?” And he said, “Well, can you try and get it in other countries?” And I was like “I don't speak Thai, I don't speak Chinese. I don't speak any of these other languages like it's really difficult. It would be much easier if you just prescribed me, like, a year's worth. And then I can sort myself out when I get into Europe. That’s not a problem”. And he said, “Well, why are you on Keppra? This is a bit of a hardcore med.” So he said, “Go on this new stuff”. And I did a quick Google search, and you can get it in most countries in Asia, and you can't get Keppra in most countries in Asia. So I was like, “Oh, well, that makes life a lot easier”. He said he can try and prescribe me 12 months. No guarantee. But he can at least get me six months and then I can try and get more of it in the countries I go through. Whereas I can't get Keppra for love nor money until I get to Europe, really.
BECKY: So that's the reason for the med change over. But it has been hell on Earth [LAUGHS] And I'm so glad I've been able to sort of have a safe house in Perth just while I do that. Because originally I was gonna walk the Bibbulmun Track. I don't know if you've heard of that.
FRAN: I haven't actually, no.
BECKY: It looks amazing. It's 1000 kilometers, and it's a hiking trail from Perth to Albany, which is in the southwest corner of Australia. And I thought, “Right. I'm gonna get to Perth. I'm gonna quickly, like, see the neurologist. Just make sure that I can get 12 months of stuff, and then I'm gonna go hiking”. And, my meeting with the neurologist didn't quite go to plan. And I said, “Well, that's fine. I'll start the med change over while I'm hiking”. And he said, “No, you won't”. And I was like, “Yeah, I will. It's no problem. I'll just take the pills with me”. And he was like, “No, you'll be too tired. Just don't”. And I sort of thought, “I just cycled all the way in the Big Horseshoe loop from Adelaide to Perth. I can hike a few kilometres!” Famous last words; I spent three weeks asleep!
I literally managed to sort of get out of bed, to shuffle into the kitchen, and perhaps shuffle to a sofa, and then perhaps shuffle back to bed again. It's been awful. It knocked me out for six. And I just-- not only has it knocked me out physically, but it completely knocked my confidence.So I've gone from being like, “Yeah, I cycled all the way around Australia, huh! Look at me” to being “I don't even know if I can cycle and just do an overnight camp”. It completely knocked my confidence. So I'm planning on doing some sort of short ride before heading to Asia just to sort of build that lost confidence up again. Which I guess you probably don't want to hear on Seize Your Adventure, you know, I’m supposed to be gung-ho and everything, but the reality is that the med change-over just made me go “Wow, I am so much more vulnerable than I thought.” Because Keppra-- I haven't had a seizure since 2016. And I'm just like, “Yeah, I’ve solo-traveled before. I've cycled. I've had seizures on my own. Not a problem”. And then all of a sudden, I've just come off this amazing trip, gone on these new meds, and just stayed in bed for the best part of a month. Yeah, it's just been a nightmare. I'm feeling a lot better now. I mean, if you’d have tried to call me a month ago, you’d have just got …[LAUGHS] rather than any conversation and probably a few snores. I’d have probably fallen asleep on you, so. I'm doing a lot better now.
FRAN: Glad to hear it. And I absolutely want to hear that side of it as well, because I think it's very easy for people to listen to the good parts of our stories and go, “I could never do that”, or “that's all right for them”. But everyone has those up and down times. I've not had a seizure for nearly five years, like I was saying, but I still have those moments of, “Oh, if I did have a seizure here, that might be quite bad actually”. [LAUGHS]
Fran: So it can very easily throw you. And I think it is good for people to hear that, so long as it doesn't completely ground you.
BECKY: Yeah, I'm not letting it stop me. I think I'm just-- I'm a lot more aware now than I was a month ago.
BECKY: Before I was just like, “I’m an adventurer and I have epilepsy but I don't let it define me”, you know? It’s just something I have and I take a pill in the morning, and I take a pill at night, and that’s the only thing I have to worry about. Whereas now I’m like, “Actually, changing over medications has made me more vulnerable”, I guess, is the best word I can use. And, I get tired a lot more easy, and I know that it's not gonna be forever. I know that eventually, once the meds are sort of properly in my system, I'll be feeling a lot more me and better. But it was just a bit of a shock to suddenly go, you know, from cycling 100km a day to barely being able to do 10km and then having to sleep for four days afterwards. And, it’s like, “What has happened to me?” [LAUGHS]
FRAN: No, it's completely understandable. It would be quite useful, actually, if you could just go through your diagnosis a little bit and what type of seizures you have. Because obviously everyone has very different seizures. And I think when you say seizure, there's a particular form that people get in their head. Is tonic-clonic that you have, or do you have different variations as well?
BECKY: Yes, it's definitely the tonic-clonic. So I'm the sort of ones that’re shown off in Hollywood. You know, where you’re just sort of writhing about on the floor and being sick, and it's not very pleasant to watch. So that's what I have. I believe I get occasional absence seizures. Or maybe I'm just absent-minded and don't listen to people as often as I should. [LAUGHS] But there's definitely been times where people have talked to me, and I've not really taken it in and sort of maybe blamed the epilepsy, perhaps. [LAUGHS] But tonic-clonic is definitely the main seizure type I have. And that was not officially diagnosed for--- well, even till now, to be honest. They said, “You have tonic-clonic seizures, but we don't know if it's epilepsy”. I don't know how possible it is to not know whether something is epilepsy or not. Either way, the result is the same. I'm on medication. I got diagnosed, well not-- I got not diagnosed at 17 which is when I had my first seizure and I was taken to hospital and a neurologist saw me and said, “Yeah, we don't know what you've got, but hopefully this is a one-off”. And it turns out it wasn't. So I've been on medication pretty much since I was 18. I'm now 36, so half my life. So really long time.
FRAN: It's amazing how often you hear a very similar story, not that different to mine. The one-off that turned into a two-off and then…[LAUGHS]
BECKY: Yeah, yeah, And then, “Oh, right. This is your tenth. Mm, maybe it's something more”. Yeah.
FRAN: I just want to talk about very quickly as well...you kind of created your own kit to your own specifications, didn't you?
BECKY: Sort of, yeah. So I got the bike-- for anyone that's interested it's a Surly Disc Trucker, and it's basically a beast of a machine that can carry anything you put on it. And I got that, but it comes with handlebars that I don't like, and it comes with a rubbish saddle, and it comes with not very good tyres. And all of this kit costs an absolute fortune in New Zealand because it is, you know, in the middle of the upside down of the world. [LAUGHS] So it was a lot cheaper to get my saddle posted from England - my dad sent it across to me - and to order handlebars and tyres that I actually wanted from Europe. So the handlebars came from Germany. The tyres came from the UK. And then I just got a mechanic in New Zealand to put it all together with a few other bits and pieces. So it's not an off the shelf bike, but it's not bespoke either. But one thing I love about it: I got a dynamo on it. So when you're going at six or seven km an hour or more, then it charges your phone or your iPod or whatever. It's got a little USB in it. So as you're riding you’re creating your own power, which I just absolutely love, so that's really cool.
FRAN: That is genius. That is the best invention.
BECKY: Yeah. It’s not so good in New Zealand because there are a lot of hills and you spend most of your day climbing up hills on you’re not hitting that six or seven km an hour mark, and then you zoom down the other side of the hill and that takes you about three minutes. So you don't really clock any power in New Zealand. But in Australia, like, it's really flat. And, yeah, I'd have a fully charged phone and fully charged iPod within an hour, like it's been amazing having that. It just means that you can go more remote for longer times, because I use my phone for maps more than anything else, and for photos. And on really long, boring stretches of highway, of which there are many in Australia, podcasts, such as Seize Your Adventure, kept me sane.
BECKY: Otherwise you're just going along and it’s just the same scenery, the same, the same, the same. And occasionally there'll be an emu, which is really cool, or you might see a kangaroo. But most of the time it's roadkill, rather than alive, and dirt and dust and not much else. So yeah, having an iPod and having podcasts was just brilliant and being able to charge that and not have to rely on finding somewhere to do that? Yeah. Dynamo: worth its weight in gold
FRAN: That’s genius. I love that. I think it's again that the idea of something that didn't quite work for you with the bike where you just fixed it to your means essentially, and I think that is a very good metaphor for adventuring in general. I think people will look at other people's adventures and go, “Oh, well, I wouldn't do that”. But it doesn't mean that you can't change it and change things to your own kind of style of doing things a bit more.
BECKY: Yeah, that's true. I hadn’t thought of it like that before. I like that.
FRAN: I'm not a massive bike person. I did the mountain biking with Outdoor Mindset, which I fell off.
BECKY: Ooh, ouch.
FRAN: Yeah, I wasn't going very fast, so it was not that big a deal. But I actually tried two different bikes, and the first one just didn't work for me at all. And the second one was much better. So it is--I do think it's interesting with the equipment you use. That can really make or break your experience essentially.
BECKY: Oh yeah, absolutely. I originally started cycling New Zealand on a mountain bike because I thought a lot of New Zealand is quite rugged and you’re off-road. And I was going really slowly, and I was having a sore back and shoulders and I thought, “This is not fun”. And, I rode this bike for quite a while, the whole of the North Island, basically. Then on the South Island Liz said, “Here, try my bike”. And I did and it was just-- it was amazing. It was like sitting in an armchair, but being propelled forward. And I was like, “Ah, this is more like it. Now I see how she gets up hills and how she's always like 10km ahead of me!”.
And so I sold the mountain bike and got the same bike that she was riding because I was like, “If I'm gonna be cycling--” I don't know how many thousands of kilometers it is to get back to the UK. Many. But I thought, “I want to be doing it in comfort”. So yeah, I think there are some amazing people out there who-- they'll just go and get a bike from a scrapyard and they'll cycle the world on it. And, I admire them. That's not me. I don't want a sore bum and sore legs, and, you know. I'm the wrong side of 30 for that!
FRAN: You’ve been in so many places before you went to New Zealand. So you were in Canada for a bit, and you left the UK...
BECKY: That's about three and a half years now. Yeah, three and a half years ago. So a while back.
FRAN: Would you have any must-sees or anything that you really would suggest, or really enjoyed whilst you were out there?
BECKY: I would say the Icefields Parkway in Canada is just the most beautiful place I've ever been to. It's got glaciers, and these turquoise lakes, and snow capped mountains. It’s just stunning. And it-- wow. I rode my bike from Banff to Jasper, and then I turned around and rode back again in the opposite direction because it was just beautiful. And, I would go and do it again. And there are bears there and-- lots and lots of bears, so you'd love it!
BECKY: My first ever encounter with a bear. I was quite scared of bears. I still am, to be honest. Like, I was a bit of a wuss in Canada. I didn't camp. There's these wilderness hostels that are spaced around 50 to 70 kilometers apart along the Icefields Parkway, so they're designed for cyclists really. It's a day's ride between each one. So I just thought, I'm just gonna get myself a dorm bed in these hostels rather than risk pitching my tent. And, so I just hostel hopped the entire way, which is great. And I have my bear spray, and I sort of had an idea of what to do if I came across the bear but wasn't really confident. I'm whizzing down this hill - mountain even, you know. And I'm like, clocking up ridiculous speeds. And I'm, like, singing at the top of my lungs because someone had said, you know, if bears hear you sing, they run . Anyway, so I'm singing, I'm coming at silly speeds down this hill, and there's a bear in the road. And I'm like, “Aah!”. And I thought, “There's absolutely no way that my brakes are gonna stop before I get past-- like to this bear. What if it runs at me? Should I just swerve around it? What if a car comes on the other side?” Like aah! And me and this bear, just clocked eyes at each other. We both pulled exactly the same expression of horror, and the bear ran into the woods. I swerved out of the way of the bear. And then sort of turned around and it was standing in the woods, like, looking at me. And, I'm sure like we both kind of went, “Phew! Didn't have to deal with that one!”.
FRAN: The idea of slow travel is starting to become a bit bigger, in terms of the environmental factors of it as well.
BECKY: Yeah. Yeah it is, isn’t it?
FRAN: Yeah. Do you have any ideas on that side of things?
BECKY: I'm all for it. I think the more we can do to, like, reduce the carbon emissions in the atmosphere, the better. And the more people are seen to walk or cycle or, you know, take alternative forms of transport, the more visible it becomes and the more ordinary becomes. So then people just start doing it, as opposed to just going, “Well, look at that person on their bike. Why aren't they driving?” You know, once something is normalized then everybody else starts going, “Oh, it's okay to do that. I won't stand out and look a bit odd”. And I think it's brilliant that slow travel is, as you say, it’s becoming a movement. People want to go back to sort of just taking it easy, seeing things. I think in a car you miss so much. On a bike, or on your feet, you don't just zoom past stuff. You're in that environment. You can smell it. You can see it. You can hear it. You can-- all of your senses are engaged. And sometimes the smells are horrible; it’s roadkill. But sometimes, they’re beautiful; they’re like really rare spring flowers. And you have to have both of those to sort of appreciate everything that the world has to offer. In a car, you've got a radio and air con and you're going at 80-90 kilometers an hour. And you don't see the lizards that are just sunbathing on the side of the road. And you don't see the camels that are hiding in the sand dunes. But, you know, you just see an empty stretch of highway and you just get bored. But when you’re self-propelled and you're just using a human powered transport, you're in it. You're part of that environment, and it's just fantastic. So the more people that do it, the better.
FRAN: I agree. Quite agree.
FRAN (in studio): Speaking to Becky was so incredible. She mentioned to me at one point how nice it was to be able to speak to someone else who gets the epilepsy/adventure mix and that she had never met anyone who fit into that category before. I’m lucky. I did six interviews for the first season, and I’ve already done another six for this one. But I still end up talking for hours with most of the guests.
And I realise that some of you might wonder why, if I speak to the guests for several hours, you only get a half an hour interview. It would be a lot less work for me to put them out slightly less edited. But there are reasons I do edit the interviews so much. Part of it is that I am always going to create the content that I would listen to and I do prefer shorter, structured interviews. So I cut out things that may be repetitive, for example.
But the main reason the episodes are much shorter than the actual chats is that I am very aware of the responsibilities and the ethics of creating content about a health condition like epilepsy. I obviously do not want to share misinformation about medications but I also don’t want to share too much anecdotal stuff about doctors or hospitals appointments. There is also a responsibility needed when talking about adventure sports, and there are ethics around sharing content about my guest or myself that is personal or any stories that involve anyone other than ourselves.
So yes, it takes me a long time to edit the episodes. But this season, with your help, I can devote more time to doing this regularly. Seize Your Adventure now has a Patreon account. This lets you set up monthly donations to give me that breathing room needed to make this kind of creative content. If you do find value in the work I do, you can support me at pareon.com/seizeyouradventure. That’s p-a-t-r-e-o-n dot com forward slash seize your adventure. If you are in a position to support me, you can become a patron from as little as $3 a month. I’d like to give a small shoutout to my very first patrons: Catherine Coppinger, Peter Johnson, Damiana Day, and Jeanie Sroka. You are all my very first patrons and you have been added to the Patron newsletter and your names are on the website. Thank you so much! I now have enough money coming in to pay for the Seize Your Adventure email every month, so it really does help.
The next episode is actually another bonus episode. My chat with Becky was over four months ago now, so I phoned her again last week for a quick catch-up. And, you might have noticed, I completely forgot to ask Becky what adventure means to her. But one thing we did talk about in the interview was how epilepsy, rather than limiting her world, actually opened some doors to some amazing adventures.
So I’ll leave you with that thought from Becky. And, until the next episode, Safe Adventures everyone.
BECKY: The epilepsy diagnosis was actually a good thing for me because it made me discover different ways to travel. So, I don't know if I'd be riding a bike halfway across the world if I could still drive and have access to, you know, ‘normal’ things that people can do. Because originally I got myself a little Vespa and I was gonna bike around Italy. That was my, sort of, big plan. As in, motorbike around Italy. Now I'm not able to do that. So cycling's opened up many doors, and epilepsy opened up the door to cycling. So it's been really a positive thing, having a diagnosis, in a weird kind of way.