By Ella Kipling.
Charlie Condell, one of Clifton College’s own, is currently on the adventure of a lifetime travelling the world. He is attempting to break the world-record for being the youngest person to cycle around the world unassisted and, despite facing several challenges, it looks like he could be on track to beat the record. Having set off in July, Charlie is now in America after traversing Europe, Asia and Australia. He is now on the home stretch, with the aim of returning to Bristol in March. I spoke to Charlie to find out how the trip has been going and how he has been coping with the difficulties of going solo.
Travelling alone through 20 countries with no support team is no mean feat, especially at only 18 years old. No doubt, this takes an incredible amount of planning, but surprisingly Charlie tells me that he didn’t particularly plan for the trip. He said, “I came up with the idea about a month before exams started and only got my bike two weeks before I left!”
‘What does an average day look like for you?’ I ask, interested to know how he spends his days thousands of miles from home, as only a few minutes of each day is shown to his Instagram followers (Charlie uses this social media site to document his travels, for those back home to see how his trip is going). “Sadly, there is very rarely an average day for me, every one is different! In Asia, I was waking up at 4am and doing 200km, whereas in Australia I was upping that to 225km. I always try and see everything that I can though, it is still my gap year!
Whilst in Queensland, Charlie’s bike got stolen from the youth hostel he was staying in, along with his passport, cycling gear and camping equipment. All he was left with was a t-shirt, shorts and a bag. However, Charlie made the most of it and appeared on approximately 200 news channels across the world and he is now sponsored by some fairly major brands.
When I asked Charlie if the trip had taken a mental toll on him, he replied, “some days I just feel like curling into a ball and sobbing at the sight of another hill, or having yet another headwind try and push me backwards, but it has also taught me to push on. I am only human though, and if I don’t eat then I get rather grumpy with everything that goes on!”
One can only imagine the mental drain of being away from loved ones for so long, as well as being so many miles from home, but now that Charlie is so close to the end he has changed tactics. Now that he’s in America, he can say that he is on his way home and every mile he pedals is one step closer to Bristol.
The majority of what Charlie posts online is positive. The trip looks amazing, and anyone who knows him knows Charlie always looks on the bright side, but when asked if he has had any scary experiences, he said there have been a few. “I’ve had some very dodgy experiences, ranging from attempted muggings to a car-crash. At the moment, for some reason, this desert is really freaking me out and I don’t know why!”
Judging from the photos posted online, in which Charlie appears in his cycling gear with just his bike, I can tell he carries very little with him. When I asked what he took with him on his travels, I was surprised to hear that all he had was camping equipment, shorts, a t-shirt and his toothbrush! Surely that isn’t enough to last eight months, I thought. But Charlie reassured me that anything he needs he can always buy. He doesn’t need much, he explained, just food and water.
Charlie has a Just Giving page where supporters can help him financially with his trip. Any money left over will be donated to Mobile Midwives, a charity that gives bikes to midwives in Africa. Nevertheless, it must be an expensive endeavour, and when I asked how he has found budgeting he told me he only spends money on what he needs. “I don’t suffer for no reason, but I’m certainly not extravagant!” he said.
Eighteen thousand miles sounds like a lot, and that’s because it is. Relatively, Charlie’s route is the equivalent of climbing 26 Mount Everests. Although, arguably, the mental impacts of such a challenge are undeniably large, one cannot neglect the physical impact that 18,000 miles has on the body, albeit that of a teenage boy. Charlie said, “My whole body aches and I’ve lost 20kg to date. I have put on body fat and lost muscle, but now I’m fitter than ever. It is an amazing feeling, almost super human!”
Super human, indeed. Charlie is, without a doubt, an inspiration. He has pushed himself mentally and physically, remains positive in spite of the setbacks he has faced and is living proof that if you can dream it, you can do it - and you can do it with a smile on your face!
I asked Charlie one final question. ‘If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?’ “I would use a motorcycle!” He replied.
This article is a sneak peak of the Clifton Herald’s second edition.