It’s true that the holidays can bring out the good in all of us. Whether it is picking out the perfect ornament to place on top of the Christmas tree, cooking and baking with loved ones, or simply watching your favourite festive film with a nice cuppa, the holidays are certainly a time when everybody puts aside their differences and comes together.
So now that the holidays are in full swing, does this mean that the act of human kindness only makes an appearance once a year? Well, I’ve been proven wrong.
I caught up with Laura Bingham, an inspiring young woman with a definite sense for adventure, who earlier this year set off on her biggest challenge to date, cycling across the entire continent of South America with no money! That’s right, from Day 1 Laura depended on acts of human kindness to help her through her travels miles away from home.
Ever wondered what it’s like to complete an astonishing 6,500km cycle across a continent with absolutely no money, not even a penny?! Laura talked about how she achieved her goals on the epic journey that has taken the world by storm!
Congratulations on your outstanding achievement Laura – have you always had a sense for adventure?
I have always had a bit of an adventurous streak, but my real sense for adventure began when I sailed across the Atlantic in 2014. When I returned home the reaction I received from people was overwhelming and they told me how I had really inspired them. A passion for adventure sparked and I wanted to go on to inspire as many people as possible.
What inspired you the most to take part in your cycle challenge?
I really wanted to gain an understanding of how the less fortunate live and what it was like to not have any home luxuries. I decided to support a charity called Operation South America, a fantastic organization who feed and look after young children and I wanted to experience for myself what these children go through on a daily basis.
What attracted you most to raising awareness and money for Operation South America?
They are an English Christian charity based in South America that give food, shelter and education to young girls. Being an English woman travelling through South America relying on the kindness of strangers and volunteering to find food and shelter, it was apparent the charity went hand in hand with my expedition and I really felt like I could help.
Any fears or worries before starting your 7000km cycle across a continent with no money?
Lots! I got upset and was afraid of what I might have to go through. It was a scary thought. I am usually good at hiding my fears however when I said goodbye to my friends at the airport, they told me they could see it on my face. I refuse to let fear define who I am, I use it to push my boundaries and discover what I’m made of. I feel fear just like everyone else, but I don’t let it govern my actions.
You’ve had lots of other amazing achievements, like sailing across the Atlantic, what would you say is your biggest accomplishment to date?
This one. This adventure is my biggest accomplishment so far. It pushed me in so many ways; I just had to be resourceful and strong. It gave me an incredible insight into the lives of those less fortunate and I felt such intense feelings of desperation, hunger, exhaustion, loneliness and despair. I think the next challenge I have planned will push me even further! I’m not giving anything away yet, but it will soon be revealed on my social media. Watch this space…
What was the highest and lowest point of your journey for you?
This is always a very tricky question because there were so many. I would say one of the lowest points was in the Ecuadorian Andes; I became very depressed there. I spent so many days hungry, cold, wet and feeling very lonely. But without the low points you don’t feel the highs and meeting the children from Operation South America was a particular highlight for me. Those girls have such beautiful souls! We played and laughed, they are a true inspiration.
How did you overcome your struggles?
There is a YouTube channel called Motivation Madness. I had previously downloaded some of the videos onto my phone and when I was really struggling and feeling very low, I listened to them. They gave me the strength and determination to keep going. Sometimes having support there is what you need to carry on.
What motivated you to keep going?
When I set out to do something then I’m going to do it. The fear of failure stopped me from giving up and in the back of mind I always had the charity. Knowing how those girls could endure so much gave me the motivation to carry on and inspire others to try and achieve.
How important is it to have a positive mindset when completing an unbelievable challenge like your cycle?
As long as I was sensitive to myself, I knew it was OK for me to be upset and sad on some days. It’s natural. There were a lot of days I doubted myself, but I had to actively tell myself that I could achieve this, I could do this!
What were your feelings towards relying on the good nature of human power to complete your journey?
Sometimes the poorest people are the most giving because they understand what it is like to have nothing. They seek love and comfort in other people and this was something I really wanted to learn. I wanted to understand what it meant to have nothing and what it felt like. I tried my best to give back wherever I could; I worked for people and donated clothes in exchange for nothing.
How were you able to fuel your body on your human-powered journey?
With everything and anything I could find! I ate road kill, rummaged through piles of rotting fruit to find decent ones. I found packets of pasta, biscuits, crisps on the side of the road and I ate stale bread from bakeries. A lot of very wonderful and kind people gave me pasta and rice for the road. Some restaurants even gave me their leftover food or sometimes even full proper plates of food! People were very generous.
Any tips for those who, like yourself, seek adventure and want to set themselves a hard challenge?
Make sure you take as many measures as you can to be safe. If you’re camping, camp away from the roads, remember to put a lock on the inside of your tent, travel in pairs or groups and most importantly listen to your gut!
Fear is there to be overcome, push your boundaries! It is okay to be scared, but don’t let it take control of who you are. Recognise the difference between nervousness and danger and trust and believe in yourself.