Over the past year, I’ve been following an incredible story of human accomplishment—the kind of story makes you think outside of the boundaries of what you previously thought was possible.
The people in that story are John, Nancy, and their twins boys, Daryl and Davy, who spent three years traveling from Alaska to the southern-most point of Argentina. The twins were just 10 when the family set out … on bicycles!
Given that I struggle to pedal my bike to the supermarket for bread due to fears of cars, rain, wind, aggressive neighborhood dogs, and physical exertion, the sheer miles covered by Family on Bikes is nothing short of mind boggling. After reading about their journey, not only did I feel wildly upstaged by 10 year olds, I decided that I could afford to take a few more risks in my life. So I began plotting my next big adventure.
In short, their story changed my life.
Over three years, the family camped in a range of wild places, got chased by a bear, suffered horrible ingrown-toenails, and passed through dangerous South American countries that have been scratched permanently off tourists’ itineraries.
Of course, Nancy and John have received their fair share of criticism. While The Police for Responsible Parenting are pointing fingers, I have my own opinion. As someone who lived a nomadic life adrift on the ocean for two years, I’ve spent plenty of time with children who are living epic adventures. Every sailing child I encountered—every single one!—was mature, joyful, confident, and full of wanderlust. Home-schooled by their parents, they were intelligent beyond their years and many of them spoke two languages. It’s clear that Davy and Daryl are no different.
The family set out on their quest in 2008, and if all went to plan, Davy and Daryl would set a Guinness World Record for being the youngest to pedal the length of the Americas.
But all did not go to plan …
While the family successfully completed the epic 17,300 miles over three years, Davy and Daryl, now 13, were recently informed that they’re not being awarded the record:
[INSERT A RANGE OF COLORFUL EXPLETIVES.]
“Thank you for sending us the details of your recent record attempt for ‘Youngest Person to pedal the length of the Americas’. We are afraid to say that we are unable to accept this as a Guinness World Record.
Unfortunately, we at Guinness World Records, have decided to rest this record, meaning we have decided to no longer recognise the category as a record, due to the fact that the record would reach an age where a person would no longer be able to break it or attempt (i.e. a two-year old attempting to do it) and as it would become limited under these terms, we choose to no longer recognise it as a category.
The achievement, however, is an amazing one and we hope you and your family enjoyed it.”
So Guinness World Records is suddenly concerned with ethics? The last I checked, they were actively cheering-on people who can eat the world’s largest hamburger, jump off the highest building, grow the largest tumor, or balance the heaviest load of bricks on their head.
To me, the record means nothing. It’s just a meaningless credit offered by a deplorable institution that has somehow became a respected standard for human accomplishment. It’s a large-scale pissing contest with movable boundaries. But why expect anything more from a book designed to settle drunken arguments in British pubs? Are you surprised that it was conceived by an Englishman who ran a brewery?
I, for one, would like to know what the record is for the highest number of deaths and injuries caused by a single book, because I’m pretty sure the Guinness Book of World Records would be way up there. Denying the boys their record due to a sudden moral conscious is a little ripe, don’t you think?
To Davy and Daryl, I want to tell you this:
Many great heroes never awarded records. Here are two:
Tania Aebi, my number one hero, was the youngest American woman to sail solo around the world at 18. In a tiny, ill-equipped boat without GPS, satellite phones, or modern technology, she circled the globe despite storms, knock-downs, breakages and a collision with a ship. She was denied the record because she’d given a short ride to a friend in the South Pacific—the equivalent of driving someone a block down the road—and her ‘solo’ attempt was therefore void.
Then there’s Bernard Moitessier, a master sailor who would’ve been the first person to ever solo circumnavigate the world if not for the fact that he abandoned the race, the fame, the prize money and the Guinness Record, simply because he didn’t give a shit. He sailed for the love of sailing, and he worried that returning to the crowds of media would thwart the purity of his experience. So he turned around and sailed half the world again to Tahiti, where he hooked up with island babes, chilled out, and pondered the meaning of life.
Yet these two ‘nobodies’ have been more influential to my life than anyone else. Family on Bikes, record or no record, have also changed my life.
A world record is a bullet point on a résumé. It’s a listing in a cheesy book. It’s 15 minutes of fame. Big deal.
A great achievement is not determined by your name being published in a morally questionable book. What Davy and Daryl accomplished is far above and beyond a simple listing alongside The World Record For Most Hot Dogs Stuffed Into A Human Orifice.
A hero inspirers dreamers forever. A hero encourages society to rethink the boundaries of what is possible. What Family on Bikes have achieved is so incredible that I have no doubt it has rippled inspiration worldwide, changing the lives of others in ways big and small. And remember this: while heroes are changing the world, record holders are just getting indigestion.
Tell me, dear readers, if you really think these people are heroes: