Dermot’s new life cycle
After cycling around the world, Dermot Higgins gained not only a new lease of life but a rekindling of his faith in a higher power, writes Margaret Jennings
WHEN 56-year-old Dublin man Dermot Higgins landed back home after spending nine months cycling around the globe, he was basking not only in the glory of being the oldest person to ever do so, he had a new-found inner spiritual glow as well.
Before he embarked on his rigorous solo adventure on June of last year, the newly retired Educate Together primary school teacher was a self-proclaimed atheist.
But although one of his main intentions on his 30,000 km trip was to raise funds for Trócaire and to highlight the Global Sustainable Goals around poverty and social justice in the 21 countries he visited, the lapsed Catholic hadn’t bargained for rekindling his belief in a higher being.
“There were so many occasions when my life was in danger and I was in trouble on this trip, that I was like a cat with nine lives. I certainly believe there was somebody or something watching over me and helping me,” he tells Feelgood.
So did he appeal to a higher source — say a prayer when he was in danger? “Not really, no I wouldn’t say that. I know that happens to people a lot when their lives are threatened. The incident would just come, happen out of the blue. And afterwards I would feel a kind of presence.”
Now that he is back home, apart from writing a book about his experiences (based on a blog he kept throughout), that spirituality has brought a “changed dimension” to his interactions with others and life.
“I now find I have more of a purpose and an element of truth and openness towards people. A lot of us live with a whole load of nonsense and baggage and stuff in our lives,” he says. “It gave me a sense of clarity — I think that’s the best way to say it — and a realisation that you have to live your life to the full; to enjoy your life, but be true and honest to the people around you.”
It sounds like the separated father of four children — aged 28 to 16 — is already a natural at living life to the full. He may be retired from teaching but he has “a whole load of projects” that he is considering and working actively on, at his home in Skerries. “First there’s my book. Then there are some business propositions — to do with opening a shop and also brewing, because I brew beer so I’m looking at the possibility of a microbrewery here where I live. And I’m back to growing fruit and vegetables again; foraging for my own food in the outdoors and preserving my own food are also things that are very important to me.”
Having raised nearly €20,000 for Trócaire through his global trip, he is now appealing for donations to add to that sum, by cycling over three days the 600 kilometeres, (approximately 200 kilometres each day) from Malin head to Mizen head, at the end of this month “just to wrap it all up”.
In the midst of all that, he is planning another challenging trip for 2020 : “I’m not yet hanging up my travelling boots. I’m going to go around the poles and I’m hoping my son Fionn, the youngest lad, will be old enough to come on some of the journey with me.
“It will be a full year and if I am successful in that one I will be the first person ever to circumnavigate the world on a bicycle over the Poles — North Poles and South Poles — it’s never been done before by anyone. It’s a huge undertaking — much much bigger — daunting. I’ve already had a couple of meetings since I came home to put plans in place and seek sponsorship.”
He is keen to make the most of his robust health. “I have time now — the energy and the good health to maximise that to its fullest extent. I’m not going to enjoy this fantastic health forever but I’m making the most of it while I can,” he says.
We are told that to age well we need to have a purpose; in Dermot’s case this is clearly obvious: “Yes I don’t work well unless I have targets. I set myself ambitious targets and try to reach them and if I don’t reach them it’s not the end of the world. I just go back to the drawing board and start from scratch,” he says.
It’s really important to have some sort of vision of where our life is going to be as we get older, he believes. “I’m very clear on how that’s going to happen. That may change my health — or something could happen, but I still think having some sort of a plan or vision is very important.”
With the resilience, energy and strength of character he has displayed on his recent epic trip — and now the extra spiritual dimension to drive him forward — Dermot seems more than well equipped to tackle those goals with vigour.
To donate to Dermot’s Trócaire fundraiser go to https://www.justgiving.com/ GoGoDermo or search for his GoGoDermo facebook page.
FREE WHEELING: Dermot Higgins, 56, who has recently returned from a nine-month cycle around the globe, at his allotment in Skerries, Co Dublin.