In the summer of 2011, Anna Hughes cycled 4,000 miles around Britain, taking 10 weeks. In spring 2013, she did the same trip, by sailing boat.

She is presently writing a book about her adventure – I’ve had the privilege of having a sneak preview, and very much enjoyed it.

She is a self-confessed cycling nut, not only cycling to work, but also to weddings, or making a 120-mile roundtrip for a cup of tea, and even moved house by bicycle.

Inner Strengths – Innate or Learned?

Anna Hughes
Anna Hughes

“This was my adventure, and I was doing it. What did I need to know, really? Nothing that the road wouldn’t teach me.”

(Anna Hughes, from the draft of Eat Sleep Cycle)

I loved hearing Anna describe the process of discovering her inner strengths during the course of her epic cycle ride around Britain. She was at first surprised when her sister described her as “passionate and determined” – but then realised that maybe the description was true. Regardless of whether she felt comfortable with the words, the way she set about executing her expedition embodied both passion and determination.

I went through a similar experience on the Atlantic, when I found that people were posting encouraging comments on my blog, praising my “resourcefulness” and “tenacity”. These were not words I had previously associated with myself, so my first reaction was, “who, me?”. But then I thought, “why NOT me?”. I wrote the words on a board in front of my rowing position, and every day behaved like a resourceful and tenacious person – until I became one.

It got me thinking about whether these qualities are innate (or possibly, in some cases, not) or whether they can be learned – in which case anybody can learn them. After due consideration, I am certain that they can be learned.

I will rest my case upon the concept of neuroplasticity (ooh, I do like using long words). Brain scientists have discovered that we actually change the structure of our brains according to the thoughts that we think. To a much greater extent than most people realise, we are not hard-wired, but are incredibly re-programmable. We can overcome even entrenched self-limiting beliefs by running a different programme consistently over a period of time until that new programme/belief system becomes our default mode.

Don’t take my word for it – check out VS Ramachandran’s TED Talk: 3 Clues To Understanding Your Brain.

What is the best way to achieve escape velocity, to get away from your old thought patterns? Take to the road, get away from your old habits and routines and old ways of thinking. Have an adventure. Try out a new way of being in the world, a more adventurous version of yourself. Every day tell yourself, “I am an adventurer. I am passionate. I am determined.”

And like the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz, you’ll find that all along, you had the nerve.

“All that we are is a result of what we have thought.” (Buddha)

“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.” (H G Wells)


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Show Notes

0:50 A thank you to our sponsors,, and Vic’s book recommendation: The Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

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anna hughes 1
Cycling to the sea

4:10 Introducing Anna Hughes

5:45 How did it all start?

7:00 The magic of cycling

8:15 Cycling to the Sea

9:30 Inspired by Al Humphreys

10:30 Bicycle and bike bags

12:30 A day in the life of a round-Britain cyclist

17:45 Schedule versus spontaneity

20:30 Getting to know Britain

23:30 How did the journey change her?

27:15 Sailing the coast of Britain

32:00 Sustrans, and 3 good reasons to ride a bike

34:15 Important notes on cycle safety

37:00 What next? Boatylicious and the Great Pacific Rowing Race

39:00 Staying in touch with Anna



The joy of the open road
The joy of the open road

Anna’s website

Sustrans – hospitality for cyclists

RoundBritainExperience (sailing trip)

Barclays hire bikes (aka Boris’s bikes)

Great Pacific Ocean Race

Ridgeback Voyage bicycle

Anna’s cycling photos

Anna’s sailing photos

Anna’s blog on Cycling to the Sea

On cycling safety:

– What’s going on with all these cyclists’ deaths?

– Exchanging places

All photo credits – Anna Hughes


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