SVR has provided me with food, shelter, safety and support. Now it’s time to cycle the world!
Veteran Gav has made giant strides since arriving at Whitefoord House. He has returned to employment, and immersed himself in a disciplined training regime to improve his physical and mental wellbeing. This includes a '5AM' club, where veterans head out into the morning on hike or run.
Now, the former Royal Engineer is preparing to leave us early next year for a round-the-world cycling expedition on a gravel bike, and tells SVR about his journey so far... and the epic journey ahead.
When and how did you arrive at SVR, and what were your circumstances at that time?
I arrived at SVR in January with no money, no prospects as such and no idea what I was walking into, but I was warmly welcomed and given a fresh start - something I was adamant I would make the most of. Prior to this I was staying with my folks as I had just returned travelling the UK and Europe in a camper from May 2020 to December 2022. In that time I toured the whole of the UK and visited 14 countries including Turkey where I stayed and worked for the Summer season at the brand new Be-Bold Hostel, Antalya.
Tell us about your journey back into employment, promotion, and to a point where you can take control of your own future…
I came to SVR with no real idea how things would pan out. I had next to no money, no ambitions or firm plans for the future. So I really had to step away from my past ventures and listen again to the inner voice to what was next for me. This is not something that happens immediately of course, so whilst I actively waited for the inner voice to guide me on my new path, I decided to do as you do in the UK when you are unemployed: go to the Jobcentre and sign on! In the time from when I signed on in late January to March 7th when I started work, I began to formulate a routine at my new digs at SVR.
I was offered work at the Scotsman Hotel in food and beverage of which I took to really well. After a month or so I was hired as team supervisor which again suited me well and I’ve enjoyed my time there and learnt a lot about myself, leadership and service as a whole. I must also mention the importance of this opportunity financially as without it, the planning and preparation for this solo world bicycle tour would have been near impossible.
How have fitness and other coping strategies helped you during your time here?
I lived in Edinburgh previously for quite a few years. I was an outdoor PT here for over a decade, on and off. My default is always to train, so if anything was to ever go a bit Pete Tong I am at least physically and mentally fit to deal with it. Also, my saving grace in many ways is my sobriety. This has been a godsend and has saved me money, sustained my physical and mental health and kept me out of any trouble that would usually find me if I did partake in any of these common, yet destructive habits.
Meditation is something I have practised since I was too young to know what it even was. I would use it as a very young lad to deal with the sheer terror I experienced during sleep paralysis. I would use meditation to calm my mind and use focus to get myself back from the paralysis. I now meditate walking, sleeping and sitting for long or short periods to calm the mind and listen to the inner voice. I am a firm believer in both meditation and physical training for many reasons, not just the cliche of mental wellbeing, but also for life preparation as you just never know what is around the corner and when you just might need that inner and outer strength to lead, to support and/or survive.
How do you feel SVR has been able to play a role?
The obvious answer for this would be food, warmth, shelter, safety and support, but I don’t believe that is everything as it is only a foundation for growth. What you build on that foundation is up to you (or me in this particular case).
One of my ongoing slogans/quotes (I have many) is ‘Gratitude is the Attitude’. My idea of gratitude is actions, not words, so I have utilised all the resources available to me inside and outside of SVR for the guarantee of success and no matter the outcome, I’m prepared to meet whatever comes at me, head on.
I have been given nothing but respect since I have been at SVR and whatever I have asked for through the support structure that SVR provides it was taken care of with the utmost professionalism. I get on well with residents here and feel very comfortable whilst I prepare myself for what is to come. SVR has the resources and the space to assist most in stepping up, but the step itself is up to the individual.
Tell us all about your round-the-world cycling project… and what do the next few months hold for you as you prepare to leave us and set off on the bike?
I always said to myself during my stay at SVR, if everything else was to fail and all my attempts at a new life would fall apart and crumble like so many times before, I would walk the earth, like the old TV series Kung Fu (and I meant it). So without my world falling apart or anything going badly wrong, I instead decided to travel the world on a bike!
I have only ever spoken about a world bike tour before with close friends, but was tempted to dismiss it as a crazy harebrained idea. However, after some inspiration from a good friend and a word of wisdom from a chiropractor, I decided I would travel the world somehow, at some point on something. That something being a gravel bike.
The preparation started in April and has been full-on ever since. Purely self-funded from working at the hotel, I have acquired 80% of all I need to set off, spending 90% of all I earn on this venture (minus bills, rent etc). I now just have to work harder to save the necessary budget and then prepare myself physically, mentally and spiritually for the up and coming journey.
The months ahead are now all about the preparation. Physical training routine including 3 to 4 strength and endurance sessions a week, bike rides 20 to 40 miles per training day to start with.
Vlogging and Blogging is also a big part of this journey so practicing the filming, producing and editing of vlogs/shorts and stories is crucial. Research is vital, which includes, equipment research and sourcing, route planning, food routine and source, overall financial budget, other journey blogs and vlogs, clothing and equipment storage (on the bike) and the maintenance of the bike itself.
This is no mean feat, I know this, as what I have planned is not a straight road around the world type tour. I will suffer and I will no doubt hate myself for putting myself in this situation, which only excites me more.
The plan in short: To seek out and ride the most challenging gravel routes in every continent and blog, vlog and share the journey as I go.
I will also be using this opportunity to raise funds for a deserving charity that is yet to be confirmed and more information will be released at a later date.
Any final thoughts?
Earlier, I mentioned the inner voice. My inner voice is my guide, and believe me the voice has led me to experience some of the most amazing events in my life and seen me face my deepest fears: live and travel the world in a camper; climb/hike solo in the Alps; help manage a hostel in southern Turkey; and run and get lost in most of the cities I visited for fun. These and many other life experiences came from my faith in the inner voice, so when I breathed the words, “I am going to cycle the world” the long awaited inner voice came to life once again and screamed “that is exactly right! You will cycle the world! You better get to work” So I did.
- Follow Gav on Instagram @GavlaTravla