Welcome back everyone! Series six is here to keep you company through your adventures.
The guy wading through crocodile-infested waters is Richard Bowles.
Richard has some endurance CV, with a bunch of world records to his name. The first person to run Australia’s Bicentennial National Trail, a monster 5,330 km along Australia’s Great Dividing Mountain Range, the longest marked trail on our planet. Richard finished his run through this rugged wilderness in just five months, after traversing rivers like this and having a gun shoved in his mouth by a farmer. He's also run Te Araroa in NZ, Israel’s National Trail and around the base of an erupting volcano in Indonesia, after the Government had evacuated 80,000 people.
But we aren’t talking so much about long miles or world records.
Right at the end of 2019 Richard took on something different. He left for Calcutta in India, to live for as a rickshaw wallah, experiencing a daily working life of extreme poverty. Pulled rickshaws are human-powered, driven by runners who draw a two-wheeled cart seating two people. Almost all come from Bihar, one of India's poorest states, travelling to Calcutta in search of work, leaving their families behind in the villages. A hard, lonely existence. Hauling people and goods for 18 hours a day in the heat and the rain, Richard lived on less than $2.00 a day, like the pullers. He witnessed the horrifying health issues and living conditions wallahs endure and explored the political controversy around what has been outlawed and described as inhumane work.
“I believe that true empathy is to experience it for yourself, and even then you would be arrogant to believe you understand."
He was followed by a documentary film crew, and I’m hoping to be able to share this further down the road.
So the episode is a before and after with Richard; before he set off for Calcutta in late 2019 and picking up the conversation just yesterday to hear all about the experience. Clearly Richard could always get up and leave to travel back to a more comfortable life, unlike the wallahs, but his ability to learn about and share their lives is truly valuable. I was fascinated by his unique perspectives on the comfort zone, community, safety and strategies for adapting to chaos. We also got into Richard's mindset on fear, vulnerability, adventure planning, his approach to public speaking and what it’s like living in Melbourne during the unprecedented bush fire crisis.
If you enjoy what you hear I’d love you to share the episode with a curious soul and encourage them to subscribe to the series. Check the show notes below for more on Richard.
A huge thanks goes out to Richard for taking the time to speak twice.
Next week I’m resuming each episode launch on Fridays at 8am, tune in!