Chris was born in 1978. When he was fifteen, he spent a year in Germany as an exchange student. At eighteen, he rode a bike around Australia in eleven and a half months. He is currently studying psychology at Australian National University and plans further travel with his wife Natalie. Chris recieved the 1997 Young Adventurer of the Year Award for his around Australia ride. Together with Tim Cope, he also received the 2000 Spririt of Adventure Award for the Siberian recumbent journey.
Tim accompanied Chris for 14 months when they set out to cross Russia, Siberia, and Mongolia by recumbent bike. Their relationship was often turbulent but also constructive and has resulted in lasting friendship. Chris is the co-author of Off the Rails the Book, and resides in Canberra. Contact Chris and find out more
Interview With Chris
1. Where did you grow up and what did you get up to as a kid?
I grew up on a farm in Tasmania, for a short while anyway - long enough at least to get my first memories.
2. How did you find your senior years of School? Did you know what you wanted to do?
I had no real idea of what I wanted to do. I was sort of steered towards Science by parents and teachers, and also by what I was good at, but what I really wanted to do was travel.
3. What was something important that sparked your decision to launch into dreams of adventure and exploration?
I guess that one inspiration was the (now discredited) Peter Treseder. I remember reading of his trip around Australia in the AG magazine and going 'WOW!'. Other than that, I just knew that I wasn't ready to go straight into university, and luckily enough, my parents didn't have a problem with that (although they were pretty uncertain when I said that I wanted to spend my first year out of school riding a bike!)
4. What is it that makes you come alive the most?
Right now, it's anything that presents a really lively challenge, a test of capabilities and an extension of boundaries. I've just started into the field of school motivation/training seminars, and not being a natural public speaker, such things really get the blood going. Also, being outside, especially with my wife Nat. We love the feeling of testing our physical abilities in a context free of complication or hassels.
5. Any advice for young people who are wondering how they can aim for their own dreams?
The only advise is to go for it. Find people who don't discredit you - like those on this website - and use their encouragement to really spur you along. Remember that not going for your dream will be by far the easiest option at every single turn. It'll probably be hard work, probably be frightening, probably involve some risks and many uncertainties, but if you don't go for it now, you probably never will! Remember, even if it all goes wrong, it will have been worth trying...
6. What do your parents think about your adventures?
At first, they were a little terrified, and a lot uncertain. Over the years, though, as I've pedalled and pedalled, and nothing (too) bad has happened, and I've made sure they don't hear the worst, they've been lulled into a sense of security. They accept what I'm doing now, and are fine with it.
7. What would you say are the low points and high points of your adventure travel lifestyle?
The low points come when it all seems too impossible, too much - when you are fighting with your travel partner, don't want to be there, have just been robbed and rained on for three days straight, and can't get the fire going to cook a decent meal. That definitely sucks. The real low points come, or rather came, when I was really questioning my reason for travelling - trying to decide what I really wanted to do in life. If I hadn't left home, these questions, and the hard times could have been avoided, but that would have led to a less certain, less rewarding now. The high points come in two kinds. There are those moments of exhuberation when you have finally reached the top of a mountain, and can only see snow capped peaks around and below you to the very horizon! Those moments are highlights that stand out in memory to be cherished for years to come. The other kind are those times (not moments) where the travelling lifestyle blends into a kind of euphoria. When the days become indistinguishable from one another, the routines automatic, and the days filled with higher contemplation, fresh stimulation, and lots of learning. Those are the times that get me back out there again for the next journey.
8. In really hard times what is it that gives you the motivation to go on?
Knowing that things will get better, and not wanting to give up because of tough circumstances.
9. What is the worst situation you have encountered and how did you get out of it?
There's been a few different types. There were times when the bike was broken down in the middle of nowhere, and I wasn't really sure about how to fix it; there were times when I was robbed, or hit by a car enroute; and there were other times when I was pissed off and fed up and hated the trip and wanted to go home. Usually, the resolution came through others - serendipitous happenings that solved otherwise unsolveable problems.
10. What are the good and bad points of travelling with Tim? Any dirt you want to share?
Tim has the art of burning porrige down to a fine art. He can burn porrige in any one of about 50 different flavours of burnt! And if it isn't morning, he has the knack of stirring the dinner pot without watching so that about half the contents slop out onto the fire. Those things were trivial though (and time may have embellished these memories a little). The worst part about travelling with Tim was not really Tim himself, it was me. I was always torn between wanting to travel and enjoy the experience, and wanting to keep on moving to get back home to my fiance Nat. Tim, on the other hand, was really keen on extending the trip for as long as he could. This was the real source of most of our friction. I think that I can see, now, that all the little, trivial disagreements and fights stemmed from this fundamental difference. The best part about travelling with Tim for me is that he is less socially inhibited than I am. I'm not saying that I'm a huge introvert, just that Tim doesn't mind approaching any stranger and asking them for just about any kind of help at all, staying in their house, inviting himself in for a banya and a meal. These are things which I had trouble with (less so now after the trip) but things which are really useful when you are travelling, opening doors to lots of fantastic experiences. Also, it was great to have his company, share his reflections, be challenged by his perspectives and his views, and now, to have someone knows the Chris of year 2000, and knows the details of all the experiences we shared together, better than anyone else ever will.
11. Ultimately, what do you love about adventure travel?
I love the learning, the chance to challenge myself, extend my boundaries, live to the limit of my abilities and expand my views and conceptions about the world and its people. 12. What was one of the funniest moments you have shared during a journey? I think that the funniest time I had, looking back now, was the week in Babushkina, while Tim and I were recovering from frostbitten toes. The endless laughter and infectious humour of Baba Galya and Mama Tanya had me in stitches for hours.
13. If you had to pick one highlight to date what would it be?
The highlight of my trips to date, ironically, is getting home to Nat and Australia at the end of cycling Siberia. One adventure had ended, sure, but to me, getting home was the start of a much bigger adventure than any I had ever tried before. That adventure is still going, and it's great.
Thanks Chris, and good luck! More about Chris