Like another superhero once said, with great power comes great responsibility, but if you're Jamie McDonald, a.k.a. Adventureman, it can also come with a fair bit of arse pain (more on that later).
But that's a sacrifice the 28-year-old Englishman has been willing to make in order to live out his dream travelling the world and raising tens of thousands of dollars for charity while he's at it.
Whether cycling 9,000 kilometres from Thailand to England or running across Canada unassisted, McDonald has certainly lived up to his superhero status. But similar to the origin stories of many of his fellow caped crusaders, Adventureman started from humble beginnings.
Growing up in his native Gloucester, McDonald thought his life would take a familiar path: toil away on the 9-to-5 grind and save every penny possible until he had enough to buy his first home. But after years of "working his absolute socks off" for a deposit on the house, McDonald was having some reservations.
"I went to buy the house, and this was the moment I'd been waiting three years for, and at the last minute I backed out," he recalled. "I suddenly realized the only reason I was buying the house was because everyone else was buying one."
So what did he spend his hard-earned cash on instead? A one-way ticket to Bangkok and a rickety bike he found for sale in a local newspaper. McDonald was about to embark on his first adventure, a multi-country tour to raise money for the hospitals he spent much of his early childhood in with a rare spinal condition.
He wasn't much of an athlete, or a mechanic for that matter, as evidenced when a nut fell off his secondhand bike on the first day of his 10-month trip in 2012.
"I knew nothing about bikes or how to fix them, and my whole world came crashing down on me," McDonald said. "Then I locked myself into my hotel room and it dawned on me that I still had 25 countries to cycle through. I started puking on the toilet, thinking, 'This is the end.'"
It wouldn't be the last mishap McDonald encountered on his trip. He slept in the rain, fought through blizzards, was arrested and got shot at on the Afghan border — all while sporting his trusty flip flops.
Back at home McDonald quickly realized he had been bitten by the adventure bug. He wanted to keep giving back — he raised nearly $19,000 for children's hospitals on his tour.
He Googled the record for the longest bike ride in history and learned that an Italian man had once spent 10 days straight on a stationary bike, and the wheels — literally and figuratively — started spinning.
That's how McDonald found himself sweating it out in Dec. 2012 for what seemed like an eternity — 11 days and two hours, to be exact — a mere week and a half after he finished his continent-spanning bike trek.
"I can't tell you how bad the arse pain was," he laughed. "By Day 8 it was bleeding and blistering and becoming infected. It was something else. There were proper man tears."
After McDonald's latest feat, people kept asking him what he was up to next. With a Canadian visa already in hand, he decided to turn the backpacking trip through the Great White North he had planned into another grueling expedition: He would follow in Terry Fox's footsteps and run from one end of the country to the other.
"It was a ridiculous idea, but then I watched this nine-minute YouTube video about Terry Fox that brought me to tears," said McDonald, who started in March 2013 and finished in February 2014, raising over $370,000 for sick kids in Canada and the U.K.
"It was one of the most inspiring stories I'd ever seen. Even now I think about it, and there will never ever be a story like it... Once you feed on inspiration like that, I knew if he could do it, then I could do it."
Like the iconic Fox, McDonald inspired thousands of Canadians on his 5,000-km journey, becoming the first person to do it without a support team. It's also the reason he found himself in Whistler last week, after he was surprised by Canada's High Commissioner to the U.K. Gordon Campbell (yes, B.C.'s former premier) on the primetime British TV show, Surprise Surprise, with an all-inclusive, tailor-made 14-day Canadian vacation.
It's no surprise that McDonald said he feels right at home in Whistler — a town built on adventure.
"We just realized that this is one of the best places in the world and we're really lucky and privileged to be here," he said. "Everyone is here with all the same intentions to be outdoors, active and healthy, and it's really nice to be around."
Today, McDonald is helping others live out their own dreams, jet-setting around the globe as a highly sought-after public speaker and co-founder of The Superhero Foundation, which assists others complete heroic feats and raise money for charity.
Inspiration is the name of the game when you're a superhero like McDonald.
"Whatever adventure you embark on, just get to the start line," he said.
"We often put hurdles in front of us to stop us from something we're quite fearful of. If you jump that first hurdle, that's just the start of your adventure... and you realize you've just made one of the best decisions of your life."
For more information, visit www.jamiemcdonald.org.
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