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Jamie Mackenzie is one half of an intrepid duo who set out to see the entire world from the seat of a bicycle. Armed only with an open mind and a thirst for adventure, Jamie and his cousin departed their homes on a unique mission to cycle on every continent without the use of an airplane. They called the journey Free Wheels East. With little money and no training or know-how, they set out from England to forge an unbroken line around the earth’s surface…to everyone else it seemed like an impossible journey.
After three incredible years on the road, Jamie has emerged from the heart of a new generation of travelers who aren’t afraid to put the world to the test, who seek to learn about the hidden truths of the planet we live on. From cycling amongst the yaks of Tibet to the penguins of Antarctica, there are few places his wheels have not touched.
I was born in the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, England. It’s about an hour’s drive west of London. I’ve always liked the ‘Royal’ bit… even though there is absolutely nothing ‘Royal’ about it whatsoever.
Before setting my sights on adventures I was employed as a community mental health worker. More recently I’ve done some freelance illustration work which has been very exciting as drawing is my number one love. When I have time I also like to design, make and sell my own furniture.
Opportunities for freedom of expression and creativity have always been a huge consideration for me when taking on projects. As far back as I can remember I wanted to interact with my environment in some way – ask the questions and see what answers I got back. I like to scratch beneath the surface and see what I find. Someone once told me they thought ‘curiosity killed the cat’ was a terrible saying…I agree!
What have been the highlights of your career? I find the concept of a ‘career’ really interesting and also very difficult to talk about. I actually don’t think I’ve ever really had a ‘career’ as such, in the way that people understand the word today. That might sound like a flippant remark but actually it hasn’t resulted in the idle kind of life it might infer … far, far from it in fact.
For a while I remember wondering if there might be something wrong with me because I attached so little importance to having one of these ‘careers’ that everyone else talked of. While all my peers were making strong headway I’d sometimes really question myself—I guess it felt like I was just treading water and I’d feel guilty for being a dreamer. But how wrong I was! Having been away on Free Wheels East and having seen so much of the world, I’m now entirely comfortable with this path and know that I made the right decision. It gives me great scope to diversify in the work that I do, and it constantly provides me with the confidence and flexibility that I need to try new, different and exciting things. Don’t get me wrong—I think a keen sense of ‘career’ is fantastic if that is what you’re after … it just didn’t work for me.
My likes and loves change often. Most recently I’ve enjoyed reading books about mountaineering and discovering heroic stories about the old explorers who existed back when the world wasn’t quite so charted and mapped. I feel inspired by other people’s journeys and am passionate about visiting the places where these fascinating stories were created.
I recently read a quite unbelievable book called The White Spider (by Heinrich Harrer, published in 1964) about an infamous mountain in Switzerland called The Eiger. As I was living in England at the time it was very easy to actually head out to the Swiss Alps and go to see the Eiger itself for a week. That sort of spontaneous travel really excites me. It may sound odd but bird watching has also become an interest of mine – it’s yet to jump into the ‘passion’ box, but it’s well on its way.
People sometimes remember us as ‘the bike boys’ who sold booklets on the streets of Melbourne and occasionally we’ll have someone recall the time we were interviewed by Jon Faine on the ABC, or appeared in a newspaper or a magazine. However, the public appearance we’re most proud of, but never get recognized for, is our walk-through part on Neighbours… but that’s a whole other story…
Free Wheels East has also been made into a full-length documentary film which had its premiere at the Newport Beach Film Festival in California. We’re crossing our fingers that an Australian network will pick it up soon.
What’s really important to me is to see people interacting with the world in a meaningful and engaged way. It is such an amazing place which deserves our attention and I don’t just mean through reading newspapers or watching the TV. It should never be understated how important it is for people to pack a bag and head out there to explore a slice of it for themselves.
Jamie’s presentation was varied and well paced with timely shifts in presentation format. The students found his presentation to be engaging and inspiring.