Hong Kong to Norfolk – the long way round
26 September 2011 | By Vanessa Wozniak
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hen it comes to a healthy commute, cycling to and from their place of work is about as far as it goes for the average office worker.
And it is safe to say that, come winter, even the most hardened cyclists are tempted to leave the bike at home in favour of the sweaty warmth of the bus or Tube.
One lawyer, however, is unfazed by Mother Nature’s dealings, and has taken commuting by bike to another level.
Theo Brun, 34, gave up his job in law last year and is currently cycling home from work - his home being Norfolk and his former place of work being a not-so-commutable Hong Kong.
Brun began his legal career at Clifford Chance in London before moving to Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer to work in the firm’s international arbitration group in Paris. He then stepped into an in-house role at biotech company Filligent in Hong Kong.
So what possessed him to not only give up a lucrative job but also to make a dramatic exit that was destined to take him across countries that few people could point to on a map - by bicycle?
“I’d always struggled to find my niche in the law,” Brun admits. “When I was in Hong Kong I got tired of meeting people who were passionate about what they were doing. I realised that I could never get excited about my job. The thought of getting towards the end of my life, looking back and saying, ’That was Theo the lawyer’, didn’t resonate at all.
“The idea for my journey came out of this transition. My intention was to return to Europe, but I had no rush to get home. Then I happened to meet someone who had cycled from London to Hong Kong the previous year and it opened the door to this plan. It quickly started to feel like the right thing to do. And now, with it almost over, I can see it was.”
After starting out on his epic journey in late 2010, Brun has now reached Ukraine and says he has had a relatively smooth ride so far, although the small matters of ticks, dogs, exhaustion and attempting to climb a 4,200m-high pass in the Tian Shan mountain range come top of his list of grievances and inconveniences.
“People’s responses to me - particularly throughout China and in Central Asia - have been almost universally warm, and many have shown me sincere hospitality,” he says.
“However, I did meet a Dutch guy who’d been robbed on the road in Turkmenistan and two Frenchmen who were attacked on the Kazakh steppe. So, of course, things can happen.”
And what about his sanity after cycling solo for days on end? Brun confesses to it being tested at times. “I’ve gone through an amazing spectrum of emotions on this journey - from ecstatic joy to anger and even hatred, especially when under extreme physical duress in the desert wastelands, exposed to the wind. But it’s been good for the soul and that’s what was really lacking in my legal career,” he says. “At any rate, I think I’m going to make it home without howling at the moon.”
Brun, whose blog www.asfaras eastisfromwest.com charts the highs and lows of his adventure, is scheduled to reach his family home in Norfolk next month.
After nearly a year on the road, covering 16,000km and raising more than £11,000 for charity, what does the future hold for the intrepid cyclist?
“I want to write a couple of books,” muses Brun. “One will be condensing this journey into a single volume and the second is a historical novel, which I have already started writing. But that’s another story.”
For anyone tempted to follow in Brun’s wheel tracks he has a few words of advice.
“The hardest thing is deciding to do it and then setting out,” he says. “Once you’re on the road you’ll find it remarkably easy as you adapt to your new reality. If you have an opportunity to do something like this, take it. You’ll find the world is not such a big place after all.”