New Adventures, Creative Projects and Commitments for 2014

Part One of this ‘annual review’ blog series was a critical retrospective of 2013, based on looking at what went well and what didn’t go well. Part Two was a reminder of how this blog came to be and how it developed into what it is today, 7 years later.

This is the third and final part, in which I’ll be looking specifically at what 2014 has in store along the various strands of my life. It is worth regularly pausing for thought in this way, even if only to confirm that the direction we’re going in reflects our true priorities. The festive season provides ample opportunity to do so, and I’d encourage you to do the same, taking one final moment to establish where you’d actually like to be a year from now before the world of work sucks us all back in. (This happens to self-employed adventurers too).

Adventures

Practicing and promoting an adventurous ethos for life is at the absolute core of what I do. In less than a month’s time I’ll be leaving on a brand new journey, and I’ve dropped a number of mildly irritating hints over the last few weeks as to what it might consist of.

I have not yet discussed any ‘official announcement’ plans with my partner for the trip, so please do excuse me once again if I am necessarily vague; however I can confirm that it’ll involve returning to Iran for a fifth time, that the journey will be human-powered but will not be by bicycle, that my core objective is to put last year’s resolution to the ultimate test… and that it’ll be bloody freezing! Here’s a photograph I received yesterday from a friend in Esfahan:

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It has to be said that – despite living in the Lake District – 2013 was rather thin on the ground in terms of substantial adventures, and I can feel the effect of this on my mind and body. So during the coming year I’m making a commitment to myself to get out more.

Sod it, let’s put a figure on this: I hereby commit to spending a minimum of 3 of the next 12 months on the road, in whatever form it might take, including at least one respectably sized bike trip.

There. You can hold me to that.

Tom’s Bike Trip

In the Part Two of this series last week I wrote of my objectives for this blog:

“…through storytelling (inspiration), the sharing of knowledge (information) and attempting to serve people’s needs (creating action), my aim has simply become to get more people out travelling by bike – and to have fun doing it.”

My mission for the blog remains this: to get more people out travelling by bike. What’s going to change is the way in which I approach that mission.

The resources section of this site will see a major overhaul and expansion, reflecting the fact that it has grown beyond a mere handful of how-to articles. This’ll be happening sooner rather than later; it’s the time of year when we’re starting to dream up big plans for the summer (apologies as always to the antipodeans amongst you), and I’m keen to get this part of the site ship-shape in good time.

I’ll continue to tell tales of adventure, but I’ll be focussing on doing so in a more sustainable way than simple blogs, photographs and short videos. Longer-form storytelling, in whatever medium, has proved more rewarding and ultimately more effective than ‘trip blogs’ themselves, which tend to be published and then lost forever in the archives. Going forward, the blog will serve the purpose of drawing attention to timeless long-form creations.

Writing

Directly complementing the resources section will be the launch of my second book, which will be nothing at all like the first.

It’ll be a guide-style book, focusing in detail on one very particular aspect of bike trip planning – one that I get asked about more than any other. It will be of particular use to those who’ve already got trip plans bubbling away for the coming year, and (if I do my job well) it will also become a very useful resource for newcomers in the future.

Ironically, the topic is one that I’ve often said gets far more attention than it deserves. This digital-only ebook is being written in response to that, offering perspective to those who feel that they’re getting bogged down in a needlessly complicated area of bike trip preparation. The result of reading it will be confidence in decision-making, followed by the ability to move on to more exciting things (such as leaving).

I’m planning the public launch of the ebook for early April, but I’ll be making it exclusively available to members of my mailing list for a very limited time window at the end of January (and at a significant discount — told you there were benefits to joining!).

This is primarily because I will have finished creating the guide by then, and I want it to start being useful as soon as possible, but I’d rather not attempt to administrate a big public launch and all of the emails and questions that come with it while on an expedition in Iran!

If you’re not on the list and you do want to get early access, you’re welcome to sign up now — just make sure you do so before the end of the month when the announcement will be made.

(By the way, if you read the article last autumn about my next writing project – working title ‘How To Free Your Inner Adventurer’ – you may well be wondering what became of it. As I worked on the project, things became rather confused and haphazard, and it soon became clear that a single book could not do justice to the sheer scope of the topic. I finally elected to break the scope down and devote one book to each major subdivision. This ebook is the first in the series, and the one I felt would be the best to get out into the world first.)

Filmmaking

January 28th 2014 will see the official launch of Janapar on iTunes and several other global video-on-demand platforms, just over a year after our own independent launch of the film. I’ll be in London that week to do some publicity, and then I’ll be heading directly for Iran (they can’t get to me there!).

This is as big a step towards ‘mainstream’ as the project will ever take, and in terms of personal ambition is far beyond anything I’ve ever been interested in. Ultimately, however, the film itself does not belong to me, even if the story does, and there are other people and ambitions involved in this decision.

I’m unsure what (if any) response to expect, but what it really means, to my mind, is that Janapar‘s future will be out of my hands, still doing what it was made to do, only doing it elsewhere. Meanwhile, I’ll be able crack on with something entirely new!

There are currently two new film projects on the table for which the footage has already been shot, and two more potential films at the development stage. I’m still unsure which of these will see the light of day this year, but I’m committing to directing and producing at least one of them by the end of 2014.

As with so many big leaps in life, perfect circumstances do not exist, but having spent several years now shooting film footage of my adventures I feel that it’s time I took the leap and attempted full-on directorship of a feature film.

I find filmmaking a more enjoyable creative process than writing, but it generally requires resources and collaboration far beyond a quiet room and a laptop to create something of real substance, and that commitment really does require a story worth telling.

Finding the next story, then, is the first step in deciding which of these potential projects to press forward with. That’s a work-in-progress.

‘Life’

In my roles as husband, son, friend and family member, I feel that I can do much better this year. Financial stress caused some problems in 2013, as I explained previously. My biggest commitment for the year in this sense is to do more than simply subsist, to ensure that creativity is not stifled by stress, and to be able to invest in people and projects I care about.

Specifically, many of my travels later in 2014 will be concerned with re-establishing links that have been neglected or lost. I recently met up with Mark, one of my original cycling partners for Ride Earth. It was the first time I’d seen him since he left the expedition in Budapest six years ago. He’s since emigrated to New Zealand, and within minutes it seemed we’d hatched a plot for adventures in Lord-of-the-Rings land.

And I’m often asked if Tenny and I have plans for future travels together. Typically for diasporan Armenians, she has extended family all over the world. We’re planning an extended journey for 2014/2015; one which will be broadly based around finding them. That’s as far as we’ve got, but the seed has been sown.

I’ve always said that I’ll keep travelling for as long as it remains personally relevant. These plans are a reflection of that concept. Watch this space.

2014 beckons: Onwards and upwards! (And don’t forget to get on the mailing list – things always happen there first!)

6 Responses to “New Adventures, Creative Projects and Commitments for 2014”

  1. Ollie Slee

    Hi Tom,

    I’ve been following your blog for about a year now – Great site!
    Intrigued about your next Iran adventure…I’m currently in Istanbul, waiting to pick up my Iranian visa – me and a friend will be cycling through there in about 5 weeks. Currently on today’s ‘to-do-list’ is ‘make a stove’….my primus has broke, so your video is going to guide me through making a new one in a minute.

    Thanks for all the great articles on here, they make great reading!

    Ollie

    http://www.supersizedadventure.com/

    Reply
  2. Dave Baxter

    Hi Tom,

    Is it a difficult process getting your movie on iTunes ?

    Am a app developer and obviously anyone can upload apps, I think it s the same with books aswell but music and movies it’s not.

    Wonder if Apple would ever open them to sections up to anyone.

    Dave

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      You’re right – Apple generally only accept music or movies from distributors with whom they have a partnership, which excludes independent filmmakers without representation. In part, as far as I have been led to believe, this is about quality control – any filmmaker can put the time and effort into looking for a distribution deal, but distributors won’t take on anything that doesn’t meet industry standards (they’re in it for the money, at the end of the day). The producer did find a distributor for Janapar, but not without a couple of years of hustling on our part and not without spending five figures making a professional quality film. In short, it’s for currently a platform largely reserved for ‘professional’ filmmakers (i.e. those stupid enough to plough their lives’ savings into working full-time on passion projects!).

      There are outfits such as Distribber who you can pay upfront to ‘distribute’ your film, regardless of quality or aesthetic, but they’re seeing an increasing number of rejections as the idea catches on.

      Basically, if you’ve got a film that ticks the right boxes, it need not be difficult – but there are a lot of indie films, particularly adventure films, that don’t. Which isn’t to say they’re not worth watching, it’s just a horribly elitist industry to have to work in.

      Reply
      • Dave Baxter

        Hi Tom,

        Thanks for replying.

        Am not a filmmaker, too much work after the shoot 😉

        Was always interested though how hard it is for average Joe to get a movie (or song) on there.

        Dave

        Reply
  3. Fraser

    Hi Tom,

    Happy New Year!!

    Looks like a very interesting year you have lined up. I should also hopefully be in Iran this year but not until March. Would be good to catch up if our paths cross close by.

    I look forward to the ebook series you have planned and wish you all the best with everything you have lined up.

    Onward!

    Fraser

    Reply

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