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

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Ageing With Attitude -

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.justgiv­ GoGoDermo or search for his GoGoDermo face­book page.

Pic­ture: Moya Nolan

FREE WHEEL­ING: Der­mot Hig­gins, 56, who has re­cently re­turned from a nine-month cy­cle around the globe, at his al­lot­ment in Sk­er­ries, Co Dublin.

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