2011 kicked off with a spur-of-the-moment winter adventure. I threw my bike and kit on a bus to Oslo and set off on an ill-advised thousand-mile bike trip through northern Scandinavia to the Arctic Circle.
Running a daily blog from my tent added generously to the challenge. Temperatures dropped to –33°C. People thought I was nuts. But it stands out as one of my favourite experiences of all time. The blog story picked up interest, and by the end of the month, thousands of readers — more than ever before — were vicariously enjoying the adventure.
Storytelling took centre-stage on that journey through the frozen forests and lakes; a combination of solitude, long nights, a good story and the technology with which to tell it. On a whim, I put together a (very) short film, ‘Letter From Lapland’. It’ll be broadcast across the Middle East next year on Al-Jazeera Sport as part of the ‘Better Than Four’ cycling series. (Easier to watch it now on Vimeo though!)
It’s storytelling that has been the theme for the whole of 2011. I’ve spent more time on book-writing than on any other pursuit. Nobody’s paying me to do it, but it’s been far more rewarding than any number of pay packets could ever be. By the summer I’d finished the first draft of the book, and I’m currently mid-way through an 87,000-word second draft. It’s a work of non-fiction, obviously, but with so many memories to choose from when spinning this long and complex tale, it has actually become a most creative endeavour.
More immediate has been the development of the documentary film, which I blogged about throughout the year. This was always going to be hit or miss, so I’m really happy to be able to say that — for me — it’s a hit. It could so easily have gone the other way. Entrusting four years of footage to someone else’s editorial judgement was never going to be easy, but James has done a truly fantastic job, and I’m genuinely proud of the 78 minutes we’ve created together.
And it was humbling to receive so many great ideas for a title for these two projects when I put the question out on my blog. More than a hundred people contributed to the brainstorm — by far the most comments on any article I’ve written — and we eventually settled on the title ‘Janapar’, which will apply to both the book and the film, as they tell the same story and will hopefully complement each other well.
So, if the years 2006 to 2010 were about adventures, and 2011 was about spinning adventures into stories; then 2012 will be the year of refining and telling these stories, connecting with people, spreading messages, and simply providing a bit of enjoyment and interest from all these journeys I’ve made.
It’s a nerve-wracking prospect, to say the least — but it’s going to be another exciting year. Do sign up for the newsletter below, if you want to stay in the loop!
How was your 2011? What was your highlight of the year? What’s in store for 2012?