A Long Road From A Broken Heart
July 21, 2017
Words & Photos: Jeremy Scott
Jeremy Scott was born with – quite literally – a hole in his heart and endured surgery at a very young age.
Determined not to let this hold him back from living life to the fullest, thirty four years later, with practically no experience or training, Jeremy took an unbelievably courageous plunge and began a 2 ½ year, 51,916km bicycle ride that would see him travel through 29 countries, from London to New Zealand.
At four years of age, Jeremy Scott found himself in an operating theatre at Greenlane Hospital, his life hanging in the balance. He was born with a huge hole between the two chambers in the heart which caused additional complications for the aorta valve. As Jeremy’s condition rapidly deteriorated, the renowned cardiologist Sir Brian Barratt-Boyes decided that he could wait no longer. It was now or never if Jeremy was to celebrate his fifth birthday. The operation was a massive success and it helped shape this sick young boy into the determined, healthy man he was to become.
It doesn’t require courage to cycle around the world; it requires courage to start. Once you have taken the first step, you don’t look back.”
While living in London many years later, Jeremy craved a challenge. He needed something that would test him in ways he had never been tested before. He required experiences that would make him smile spontaneously as an old man. After reading a series of articles about travellers who had undertaken small cycle tours in different parts of the world, the pieces suddenly fell into place. In that life defining moment, Jeremy decided he would cycle home, from London to New Zealand. Jeremy didn’t even own a bicycle at this point in his life but somehow, he knew the time had come to stop making excuses. Seven years after the idea was conceived, this epic journey finally began. The day Jeremy nervously set off from his London flat was the first time he had ever cycled with a full set of panniers. Training was almost non-existent, thanks to a major knee reconstruction seven months earlier. The majority of his friends and family thought he was grossly underprepared. Jeremy felt he would learn on the road.
If Jeremy’s goal was to test himself in ways he had never been tested before, it would be fair to say his mission was accomplished. Temperatures ranged from - 40°C (104°F) in the mountains of Eastern Turkey to over 50°C (122°F) in the sweltering Taklamakan Desert, West China. During a terrifying encounter with the drug dealing Iranian Mafia, Jeremy genuinely believed that he would need to kill three men if he was to see the light of day. He was robbed in Cambodia and had to fight an Uzbek shepherd who tried to steal his camera. As if this was not enough, there was a frightening encounter with the Filipino Mafia which also shook his confidence. Despite these unfortunate and rare encounters, it was the people Jeremy met around the world who shall forever warm his heart. Jeremy felt overwhelmed by the incredible acts of kindness he received day after day. He learned that poverty breeds kindness and it was those with the least to give who often gave the most. As the beneficiary of such open hospitality in countries like Iran, he asked himself the question, “Would these beautiful, warm hearted people receive the same level of kindness if they were to visit my country?”. Jeremy felt embarrassed and ashamed by the answer...
“Jeremy began this 2½ year, 51,916km bicycle ride through 29 countries feeling scared, insecure and alone. He finished knowing he could accomplish almost anything if he put his mind to it.”
A chance encounter in Vietnam with a Kiwi man called Warren Bowers opened Jeremy’s eyes to how fortunate he had been in life. By sheer coincidence, Warren’s younger brother Paul was also operated on by Sir Brian Barratt-Boyes but tragically, Paul didn’t survive the procedure. Paul’s operation was performed two years before Jeremy’s. Warren and Jeremy quickly realised that Sir Brian would have learned invaluable lessons from Paul’s failed operation which were carried forward to save Jeremy’s life just two years later.
It is pretty hard to look a man in the eye and say “Warren, I am so sorry but I think your brother’s death has gone a long way towards saving my life.” This profound encounter made Jeremy realise how selfish he had been. Up until that point, he had been raising money and awareness for the New Zealand, Australian and British Heart Foundations as a way of saying thank you because of “his story”. He went to bed that night realising it wasn’t about him; it was about those awaiting surgery and those less fortunate.
If Jeremy’s goal was to test himself in ways he had never been tested before, it would be fair to say his mission was accomplished.”
Jeremy began this 2 ½ year, 51,916km bicycle ride through 29 countries feeling scared, insecure and alone. He finished knowing he could accomplish almost anything if he put his mind to it. Throughout the journey and beyond, Jeremy has raised $45,000 for the New Zealand, Australian and British Heart Foundations. He continues to support these charities through speaking engagements and the sale of his stunning large format coffee table book, “The Long Road From A Broken Heart”.
Jeremy’s life story is a beautiful example of what anyone can achieve if they believe in themselves and have the courage to chase their dreams. To anyone harbouring thoughts of their own personal adventure, he says, “It doesn’t require courage to cycle around the world; it requires courage to start. Once you have taken the first step, you don’t look back”. You can find out more about Jeremy’s life changing journey, his speaking engagements and his book at www.jeremyscott.com.au