Inspiration Versus Idiocy: The Fine Line Between Success and Failure

{ 44 comments }

Before I set off on a motorcycle adventure, I thought a lot about death. Motorbikes are seriously dangerous, right? Riders often end up painting the road with the brushstroke of their face. They drop like flies and end up making their own Jackson Pollock-style masterpiece with intestines strewn on the footpath.

My fear was justified, I thought. The gory images in my mind were rational.

Or were they…?

I struggle to tell the difference between rational and irrational fears. I read a lot of great books on the subject because I’m always seeking clarity, but I’m starting to see through experience that it might not be possible for any of us to completely understand what is rational and what is irrational (outside of immediate danger, of course).

Since I wasn’t certain about the source of my motorcycling fear, I decided to try it and see if maybe I was wrong. Perhaps it’s not really all that dangerous? I wondered. Maybe motorbikes have a bad reputation because it’s an alluring outlet for reckless, careless, angry types? 

After 2,000 kms and a lot of thinking time, this is what I’ve come to:

Inspiration versus idiocy

Say that somebody named Ellen makes a decision to do something spectacularly bold with her life. It could go one of two ways: she could succeed, or she could fail. Here are some examples of how the public might respond to those two possible outcomes—

1. Ellen comes out unscathed and successful: “Bravo! A bold and daring feat! What a true inspiration! Let’s share her story with the kids and show them what is possible! Let’s Knight her!”

2. Ellen fails, get injured, or dies: “What a reckless idiot. Let’s spend the next four months writing up grim descriptions in all the media outlets as a warning to any fool who might be contemplating the same pursuit. Shield your eyes, children!”

The Ellen I’m thinking of is Dame Ellen MacArthur, a five foot two inch woman who succeeded in setting the world record for the fastest circumnavigation in a sailboat in 2005, beating the previous records—male or female—for both singlehanded and crewed attempts. She’s considered to be a hero, but if she’d failed, then she’d be remembered as the foolish woman who ventured out of her depth.

It’s weird, isn’t it? National heroes and Complete and Utter Dickheads (CUD) are really just one small mishap away from each other. Idiots and heroes are intrinsically the same. So, telling the difference between what is rational and what is irrational is only possible retrospectively.

I have to say that apart from leaving my parents one child down (don’t worry, they have five others!), I was also slightly afraid of the bad press if I happened to paint the road. How posthumously embarrassing!

Well, you’ll be happy to know that I came out unscathed. This CUD survived, muthafuccaaaa! And that means that instead of grim warnings in your local newspaper, I can give you this:

–>

Leave a Comment

  • Pernilla January 16, 2013, 10:27 am

    Great film!

    Reply
  • Peg January 16, 2013, 10:52 am

    Beautiful video! I especially love the shot of you with your arms in the air. Fear conquered and a total win!
    We’ve got a personal policy of not letting fear stop us from doing something we want to do. One of these days we may be the CUD’s, but luckily so far the things we want to do aren’t all that dangerous, although my mom might disagree. Makes me very glad Brian is not an adrenaline junkie, ha.

    Reply
  • Ashley of Ashley Abroad January 16, 2013, 11:54 am

    I want to do this so badly! I love the song you chose for the video by the way, it fits perfectly.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche January 17, 2013, 2:26 pm

      Yeah, it’s a good song. Ivan spent hours looking for the right music.

      Reply
  • Eric Nepomnaschy January 16, 2013, 2:26 pm

    huuu…you said CUD!

    Reply
  • Audrey | That Backpacker January 16, 2013, 2:43 pm

    This video is amazing! I loved all the photos, especially the one of the little boy holding the chubby puppies. :)

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche January 17, 2013, 2:28 pm

      Thanks, Audrey. The boy is very possessive over those puppies.

      Reply
  • Carmel January 16, 2013, 3:15 pm

    That just makes me want to leave NOW. 8 more months. 8 more months. I’m glad you made it, but I would have thought you were brave either way!

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche January 17, 2013, 2:28 pm

      Hang in there! 8 months will go in no time.

      Reply
  • Patricia Sands January 16, 2013, 6:21 pm

    Torre, Torre, Torre – that video is Golden Sunshine! It’s wonderful in too many ways to list here but let me say that just one of those ways … okay, two of those ways … are the grins you and Ivan wear. I’m going to reblog this post on Friday because it deserves to be shared. Thanks for taking us along on that ride!

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche January 17, 2013, 2:29 pm

      Thanks, Patricia. Ivan will be pleased. This is the first video he’s ever made. I’ll look out for your post!

      Reply
  • Katie (@wandertooth) January 16, 2013, 8:25 pm

    Love, love, love! You are inspiring and hilarious! Keep ‘em coming, muthafuccaaaa! :)

    Reply
  • Wanda St.Hilaire January 16, 2013, 9:19 pm

    Too true Torre! LOVE the video. Way to go you little CUD!

    Reply
  • Andi of My Beautiful Adventures January 16, 2013, 11:13 pm

    I LOVED this video!!! Congrats on embracing your fear. Great song choice.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche January 17, 2013, 2:31 pm

      Thanks! A good song brings a whole video together.

      Reply
  • Tatiana January 16, 2013, 11:33 pm

    Oh this is great.

    Most of the time, success is defined by how much money you’ve made or how many people know your name. I mean, people REALLY like that Edison quote about failing 99 times before he harnessed the lightbulb. But, I HIGHLY doubt that Edison was the first person to attempt to create the lightbulb or that he was only person who attempted to do it in his time period. But we know his name. Therefore, he succeeded (ie: won).

    It’s same with people like Walt Disney, Oprah, Steve Jobs – the list goes on. Lots of people were probably just as hard working, smart, or as talented but they just didn’t get any fame. And that’s the tool by which mainstream society gauges as successful you are.

    So, sometimes I like to think that there are tons of people doing what I want to be doing, but I just don’t know their names, or their stories. But that doesn’t mean they’re not real. Or haven’t “succeeded”.

    So, does “failure” REALLY exist or is it “failure of being recognized by other people for your work and [heavily] compensated” ?

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche January 17, 2013, 2:33 pm

      Very good points you make, Tatiana. It’s quite tragic to imagine, isn’t it? And how many people were never given the proper accolades because of stolen ideas? Or re-written history?

      Reply
  • TammyOnTheMove January 17, 2013, 8:21 am

    Great video. Glad you survived and now officially fall into the category of heroes!

    Reply
  • Alana - Paper Planes January 17, 2013, 9:52 am

    So what do you fee about motorbikes/cycles now? Is the next step learning to ride one yourself?? :)

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche January 17, 2013, 2:36 pm

      Perhaps! I love being on a motorbike. However, the bike we have is heavy and I’m not sure if I could ride it. I tried rolling it forward 5 inches, and it almost fell on me.

      Reply
  • Sarah Somewhere January 17, 2013, 4:18 pm

    Loved the video, and also the points you make about CUDs Vs Heroes. So true!!!! I was considering a similar point puttering along the Indian highways in our auto-rickshaw…

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche January 20, 2013, 3:43 am

      It’s a very spiritual experience, isn’t it? All that time to think, and you turn to philosophy. I hope you had a fantastic time!

      Reply
  • Rease January 17, 2013, 6:52 pm

    I have ever told you I adore you? I am always excited to read your new posts, even when my google reader is overflowing with things to read. I, personally, have had nothing but bad experiences on motorcycles, but your video and post make them sound slightly less scary and a bit more beautiful.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche January 20, 2013, 3:44 am

      Aw, so sweet. Thanks, Rease. It really is a beautiful way to travel. They’re not so scary if you go really slow and stick way over to the left (or right, depending on what country you’re in!).

      Reply
  • Frank January 18, 2013, 8:48 pm

    Cool video! Who does the song on it? I have 8 months until I’m in Thailand but your video and post made me want to buy my ticket to leave tomorrow, keep on rollin.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche January 20, 2013, 3:46 am

      The song is “Sunshine” by Matisyahu. Enjoy your next 8 months before Thailand. The tingling anticipation is one of the most exciting parts about travel.

      Reply
  • Hannah January 19, 2013, 6:29 pm

    Beautiful video Torre! Makes me want to go to Thailand… :)

    Congrats on the trip, and thanks for sharing your thoughts. It seems that most experiences in life worth having come with an element of risk – you don’t know what the outcome is going to be until you try.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche January 20, 2013, 3:46 am

      Thanks, Hannah. Thailand is such a beautiful country—both visually and spiritually. So I do hope you get a chance to come here.

      Reply
  • Kim January 21, 2013, 7:18 am

    Beautiful video Torre. I want to do something similar with our rickshaw-through-India adventure but I am so goddamn lazy. Maybe soon through. Thailand looks beautiful and I can’t wait to see it with my own eyes.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche January 22, 2013, 5:09 am

      What do you mean you’re lazy?? You’ve been traveling the world? Maybe you just need a rest in Goa for a while.

      Reply
  • Izy Berry - The Wrong Way Home January 27, 2013, 8:04 pm

    Great video :) I love all the photos, but the ones with the kids are great :)

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche January 28, 2013, 10:57 am

      Thanks. Yes, that’s one of my favourites (shot by my partner).

      Reply
  • Suitcase Stories - Nicole February 13, 2013, 2:47 pm

    Hi guys,

    Ive just stumbled across your page and Im loving it! I really enjoyed this post and the video was awesome! I will now check out your site to see what other awesome posts are here :)

    Reply
  • Humberto Molinar March 14, 2013, 5:07 am

    Hi again, Torre. I stumbled upon your blog today. It was one of those almost unbelievable accidents: I was watching some digital art, the description quoted Carol King (“…sharing my dreams with the people around me, now they surround me and I’m just a part of the crowd.”) I wanted to know where it came from, so copy-pasted it in Google… click, click, click and I ended up reading the Fearful Adventurer. I’m so glad that things happened this way!

    As you probably have figured out by now, I have suddenly fell in love with the Fearful Adventurer blog. I am an artist who happens to be in the very process of shedding skin, of letting his fears behind (or rather embracing them – facing them), of becoming a muthafuccaaaa CUD, Hell, yeah! Your words (wise, simple and hilarious words) are fresh water on my face in the right moment. I really want to thank you!

    The film is just as beautiful as your story. I’m painting-the-road-with-the-brushstroke-of-my-face to read your book. In 3, 2, 1, right now… right now it’s on my kindle!

    Reply
  • Alastair Humphreys March 18, 2013, 10:52 am

    It’s definitely a fine line!
    And we don’t always know where the line is, nor does it particularly matter…
    Great adventures and a lovely looking website. Well done!
    Alastair

    Reply
  • Leslie Drivon January 28, 2014, 10:31 pm

    I wish you had written Love With a Chance of Drowning about thirty years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and – like others found – it was hard to put down. My daughter, however, is living the traveling life and I’m so glad that she had the strength to ignore the naysayers and go for it…quitting a corporate job and backpacking around the world for a year. I’m enormously proud of her. When I retire, we talk about living in Thailand for six months each year since she loved it there. Thank you for your insight, blogs and wonderful book. I hope to read many more of your books in the future.

    Reply