Leigh Timmis is an incredibly engaging man.

He’s also a man who didn’t mind diving deep into a discussion about depression, spirituality and the purpose of existence with a stranger he’d just met in a Derby bar. Given that introduction, it’ll be of no surprise to you that I found Leigh to be about as open as it’s possible for a human to be.

Considering Leigh’s desire to see the world and be present in it, it’s somewhat ironic that he and I first began chatting about his round-the-world cycle over Twitter and email. Nevertheless, I’d read of his adventures on some advert-filled local website (pfft), and his story virtually jumped out of my screen in order to grab my attention. Leigh had actually done what I’d idly fantasised about in the past; he’d got up, left his job, hopped on his bike and set off blindly into the metaphorical sunset.

How It Started

Having concluded our Twittering, Leigh and I met up to talk through his global travails at Friargate’s favourite purveyor of craft beer, Suds & Soda. Suds always seems to get my interviewees chatting – must be something to do with the lemonade – but Leigh didn’t exactly need any assistance to develop his story. This was a man who was clearly built to talk.

As we began nattering, Leigh informed me that he left Derby in 2010 with no end date in mind for his ride.

Leigh had travelled before, living and working in Canada for some time, but before he set out on his momentous ride, he felt something different. Leigh explained to me:

“As I grew up, I got good grades. I was pleasing my family, I was doing the right thing… but in the end, as I sat in an office, I realised I was ending up very unhappy; I thought “what am I doing?!”… instead of focusing on a goal, like “I’m gonna go around the world”, my trip turned into a meandering journey. It became just for me. Those experiences I found were just for me, they were to be measured up against anything.” 

For someone like Leigh – who is now making his way as an author and a speaker – to talk frankly about his adventure having no end goal, or obvious rationale, was refreshing to hear. There are plenty of examples of adventurers setting out with a vision to conquer great physical challenges, but the kind of tale Leigh’s telling is far rarer. Leigh’s story is a more contemplative one, as he continued to tell me over a cold beer lemonade:

“I grew and experienced a lot on the journey. I was like a sponge. It wasn’t about racing around the world, it was about learning a new language; eating new food and seeing things I hadn’t seen before… Now I feel like it’s time to wring the sponge.”

THE LONG ROAD TO NOWHERE IN PARTICULAR

Listening back to my interview with Leigh, something kept coming back up, time and time again. When we talked about Leigh’s time on the road, we barely made mention of his bike, or indeed, of cycling. The bike was his tool to experience something more profound. What happened during the time that Leigh left Derby and when he came back changed him to the point that it’s worth considering that Leigh’s former self never really did return to the city. On that point, Leigh had this to say:

“Yeah, I went on that whole journey, the leaving was endless. It was very wandering, aimless, exciting – very Forest Gump. I was directed by the seasons, by people’s suggestions… just whatever. I’ve come back to a changed world, I’m a changed person.”

RETURNING WAS HARD TO DO BUT IT’S OK NOW

As the lemonade continued to flow at Suds, Leigh and I eventually moved on to talk about what’s next for him, now that his grand seven year long meanders behind him.

Somewhat surprisingly, Leigh informed me that he’s not completely against rooting himself in Derby again. He might have found himself on his travels,  but there wasn’t necessarily a place that spoke to him like home. When Leigh talks about Derby with me, there’s a noticeable glint in his eye. Leigh said:

“I’d like to invite people to Derby and be able to tell them stories about this place, as well as those I’ve seen on my travels. When people ask me “why have you come back to Derby”? Well, there’s something about this place that’s very special. There’s music, there’s art, there’s sport – there’s so much going on. What a place to belong to.” 

Leigh is, as I’ve mentioned previously, writing a book about his journey – which has garnered some serious interest from two of the biggest publishers operating today. He’s also speaking to big audiences regularly, and you’ll be able to catch a TED X talk of his in the very near future. I think I’ve also convinced him to write a Travel column in this very magazine, but you’ll all have to wait to see whether that happens by picking up our October issue.