I’m 67 and not particularly welcoming of formal retirement. I have no intention of putting on slippers after a day of tending tomato plants, or puffing a pipe in front of a log fire. I’m not going quietly.
One of the first things I did after retirement day was to walk part of Spain’s Camino de Santiago de Compostela, 350 kilometres from the Pyrenees to Fromista, a small town on the Meseta Alta west of Burgos. I have a great love of the Camino and have walked it many times.
After that, I and 17 friends from my hometown of Greystones in Co.Wicklow, Ireland, climbed three show-capped Swiss mountains, each a shade over 4,000m high and one, Pointe Burnaby, first scaled in the 1880s by a remarkable Greystones woman, Elizabeth Hawkins-Whitshed. We climbed to raise awareness and money for cancer research, supported by the Caroline Foundation, led by Ireland’s leading oncologist, John Crown.
Since July 2007, I have ridden a BMW GS motorbike on most days – routinely in and out of work, as well as around Ireland or the UK, and on galivants across the Balkans, France, the Netherlands, Spain or Romania, and in Brazil and Chile.
My last five years in paid full-time employment were spend away from editorial management and back in the Irish Times newsroom working, at my request, as a reporter, without a title or specialisation – writing about the events and people I wanted to write about, chasing stories in other words, instead of managing budgets (or failing to) or editing the writings of others.
Tip2Top is a continuation of that “back to the future” stage of my life. I’m doing this epic journey alone because I want my focus, and hence the source material for my writing, to be on the places I visit and the people I meet.
My route, roughly but not always along the Pan-American Highway, will take me through some of the most dramatic, awe-inspiring scenery on a planet, much of it under extreme climate change pressure. I will travel through countries, such as Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela, where civil unrest is challenging governments. I will traverse the length of the US/Mexico border, where hope and yearning for a better life sometimes meets ugly rejection, but also empathy and sympathy from people determined to help.
After that, it will be through a United States trying to decide on four more years of Donald Trump or someone else, and on, via the Yukon, to Alaska, where the US president’s contempt for science and the environment is threatening some of the earth’s most pristine wilderness.
All along the way, I will be writing here and in The Irish Times, as well as posting on Instagram and Twitter. Come with me by reading my reports. . . and maybe suggest a few people and places for me to visit along the way.
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