A Thousand Dawns

A Thousand Dawns

By Rob Lutter

A handful of images to sum up the last four years of my life, four years spent cycling 40,000kms around the world for mental health. This is me with my bike, Sixty, a few months ago in the forests of New York, nearing the end of the journey, bearded, long haired, thin but determined, refocused, free and riding wild… I’d come a long way. 30 countries. 3 continents. Lost a bike to a car crash. Crossed the Himalayas. Opened up to the world about a lifelong struggle with OCD & depression. And, from sleeping rough on a rainy rooftop in London, depressed and alone, here I was with the world behind me, fresh air in my lungs and a thousand memories of faces and landscapes full of joy, challenges and revelations with over £5,000 raised for Mind & OCDUK.

A handful of images to sum up the last four years of my life, four years spent cycling 40,000kms around the world for mental health. This is me with my bike, Sixty, a few months ago in the forests of New York, nearing the end of the journey, bearded, long haired, thin but determined, refocused, free and riding wild…

I’d come a long way. 30 countries. 3 continents. Lost a bike to a car crash. Crossed the Himalayas. Opened up to the world about a lifelong struggle with OCD & depression. And, from sleeping rough on a rainy rooftop in London, depressed and alone, here I was with the world behind me, fresh air in my lungs and a thousand memories of faces and landscapes full of joy, challenges and revelations with over £5,000 raised for Mind & OCDUK.

After a year into a journey around the world by bicycle I had reached the Himalayas. It was a time of extremities: struggling up mountains for days through snow storms, but riding down them with glee, waving to nomads as I went. The nomads of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan seemed to find joy in the simpler things as I did now too - riding my bike, sleeping in a tent, getting food when I could, enjoy the sunset. Up in the mountains it was mostly about survival, with the gaps filled in with laughter.

After a year into a journey around the world by bicycle I had reached the Himalayas. It was a time of extremities: struggling up mountains for days through snow storms, but riding down them with glee, waving to nomads as I went. The nomads of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan seemed to find joy in the simpler things as I did now too - riding my bike, sleeping in a tent, getting food when I could, enjoy the sunset. Up in the mountains it was mostly about survival, with the gaps filled in with laughter.

I rode out of London in 2011 after 9 hard months keeping secret my plans to cycle free of the city, selling all my possessions, sleeping rough and at work to save money and shifting my entire life onto two wheels. I was headed into France on the back of an old commuter bike on a ride around the world. Though at the time I simply headed east, not knowing how far I would ride or how far I wanted to. The bike bought me freedom, from my old life and from the demons of my mind and depressions that had held me down for so long in the city, and the ride bombarded me with new experiences, sights and sounds and faces and landscapes all fresh and exciting at every turn and slowly, but surely, my struggle with OCD sank away. By the time I reached the plains of Texas 46 months later I had a new bike, designed for touring, flagged up and off road ready. I was a confident cyclist, riding fast across USA with a full circle goal in mind.

I rode out of London in 2011 after 9 hard months keeping secret my plans to cycle free of the city, selling all my possessions, sleeping rough and at work to save money and shifting my entire life onto two wheels. I was headed into France on the back of an old commuter bike on a ride around the world. Though at the time I simply headed east, not knowing how far I would ride or how far I wanted to. The bike bought me freedom, from my old life and from the demons of my mind and depressions that had held me down for so long in the city, and the ride bombarded me with new experiences, sights and sounds and faces and landscapes all fresh and exciting at every turn and slowly, but surely, my struggle with OCD sank away.

By the time I reached the plains of Texas 46 months later I had a new bike, designed for touring, flagged up and off road ready. I was a confident cyclist, riding fast across USA with a full circle goal in mind.

In the Chinese winter of 2012 I was blasted by snow storms. Many sleepless nights were spent in my tent, trying to stay warm in -15’c temperatures. How the local tibetans lived up on the plateaus I have no idea. This was their daily life. It put things into perspective, seeing children hauling logs through blizzards. But I had to go through these hardships to appreciate life again. Whilst this may look tough, I came out of the mountains rejuvenated and appreciating the life I had, even if my mind was flawed and I had more than most. My limbs to cycle with. My eyes to see the beautiful world around me.

In the Chinese winter of 2012 I was blasted by snow storms. Many sleepless nights were spent in my tent, trying to stay warm in -15’c temperatures. How the local tibetans lived up on the plateaus I have no idea. This was their daily life. It put things into perspective, seeing children hauling logs through blizzards. But I had to go through these hardships to appreciate life again. Whilst this may look tough, I came out of the mountains rejuvenated and appreciating the life I had, even if my mind was flawed and I had more than most. My limbs to cycle with. My eyes to see the beautiful world around me.

Across the deserts of Uzbekistan. One of the most challenging terrains I have ever faced on my #worldcycle. Flat, unbending roads that shimmered and boiled in the heat. The heat and distances and the lack of food or people put my mind on edge and bought my OCD roaring to the surface. I’d ride at night and dusk when it was cooler, when my mind was calmer. With pressures from visas to cover distances and energy levels dropping I was constantly agitated. It was a time on the bike when the journey moved from bike ride to hardcore adventure and when I realised that it was my mind that would get me through this, not my body.

Across the deserts of Uzbekistan. One of the most challenging terrains I have ever faced on my #worldcycle. Flat, unbending roads that shimmered and boiled in the heat. The heat and distances and the lack of food or people put my mind on edge and bought my OCD roaring to the surface. I’d ride at night and dusk when it was cooler, when my mind was calmer. With pressures from visas to cover distances and energy levels dropping I was constantly agitated. It was a time on the bike when the journey moved from bike ride to hardcore adventure and when I realised that it was my mind that would get me through this, not my body.

A classic #worldcycle view. The endless road. Straight and true. Vast & breathtaking skies then bend across the horizon. A view that is both daunting and wonderful. As a sufferer of depression, some days this view would seem horrifying, endless, uncertain. Other days it would seem exciting, a path to freedom, a path into the beautiful unknown. Many people think a ride around the world is “the trip of a lifetime”… after four years in the saddle I have come to realise that its no one trip, its no linear path to happiness. Its simply the life I lived at the time with some moments joyous, some painful and some just drifting. I learnt to take relish in the highs whenever they came along. We cannot always see what's down the road and, over time, day after day, we can start to accept that.

A classic #worldcycle view. The endless road. Straight and true. Vast & breathtaking skies then bend across the horizon. A view that is both daunting and wonderful. As a sufferer of depression, some days this view would seem horrifying, endless, uncertain. Other days it would seem exciting, a path to freedom, a path into the beautiful unknown.

Many people think a ride around the world is “the trip of a lifetime”… after four years in the saddle I have come to realise that its no one trip, its no linear path to happiness. Its simply the life I lived at the time with some moments joyous, some painful and some just drifting. I learnt to take relish in the highs whenever they came along. We cannot always see what's down the road and, over time, day after day, we can start to accept that.

Rob Lutter

Rob Lutter

Age: 31 // Occupation: Adventure photographer

Rob Lutter, is an English adventurer and photographer. After some years working as a director’s assistant, cameraman and visual researcher, he decided to combat depression and a lifelong struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by selling all his possessions, and cycle around the world.

Rob is currently producing two books about his 4-year-40,000-kilometer journey throughKickstarter.

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