Expedition finished...writing like a beaver






What's the story?


Chyaako, Nepal 2002The StoryTransect expedition is an ambitious 20,000 kilometre bike journey collecting biographies, experiences and portraits of people in some of the least-known and most remote parts of the world. Passing through South East and Central Asia in an overland journey from Hobart, Tasmania, to Helsinki, Finland, the expedition is an attempt to see, present and begin to understand the countries, cultures and peoples traversed through locals’ eyes. By the end of the expedition a transect of stories spanning half the globe will be complete, providing a unique view of a journey and a continent.


The StoryTransect journey is a project of Nick McIntosh, a young New Zealander based in Tasmania, Australia. The journey is entirely self-funded from his work as a bushwalking guide. This guiding work combined with experiences as a medical student, travelling, and a stint studying filmmaking, have given him a fascination with learning how people from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds live their lives.

Why are you doing this?

It's going to be fun, fascinating and a huge challenge.
Nick: I suppose I could sit at home and get a mortgage and a lawnmower, but I've been finding people, stories and travelling far too fascinating to settle in one place. Staying at home feels like just taking the easy option: I either don't know what I want to do here in Australia, or I'm just not ready to pursue it. The expedition is going to be fun, fascinating, and a huge challenge.


You can read as many facts in textbooks as you like, but I've found there's nothing like being somewhere and meeting the people who live there to start understanding how a country ticks. But the reality is that most people aren't going to go gallaphanting off through the mountains of Central Asia. Next best might just be reading the stories I collect here: I want readers to be able to "meet" the people I meet. If readers can gain an inkling of understanding of a person and their life through my interviews, I'm happy.’ More about Nick »

Bimala, Nepal 2002A global understanding

My idea, the overarching goal of the project, is to illustrate the countries and the peoples I pass through and meet by presenting individuals' stories and portraits. To me, that is the strongest way towards understanding how life is for people in countries beyond my Western home.


The seed of the idea began with Bimala, in far eastern Nepal - that's her in the picture on the left. She was a student at the English language centre in which I worked in 2002 as a conversationalist. An absolutely amazing woman, at 21 she was two years older than me and already was chair of her local women's comittee and largely responsible for many developments in her local village. Through her and her friends, I started to understand in a very special way what it was like to live in Nepal, beyond the initial image of the country as a tourist and hiker paradise. It was as if I had discovered a second, truer Nepal.


someone's own words and their face are far more powerful than statistics or geographical facts.
To hear or read someone's own words and see their face and their environment is, I believe, far more powerful than reading statistics or geographical facts. To connect with someone on a personal scale has an effect that lasts beyond an academic, theoretical understanding of a country.


The StoryTransect expedition is an attempt to present such an experience to the majority who don't have the luxury of travelling the world and meeting its people.

Why by bike?

Well, why not? I'm attracted to cycling because it's a fantastic way to meet people. Travelling relatively slowly through a country allows a lot of time and chances to meet ordinary people. It's also a great talking point, as cycling 20,000 kilometres is almost universally regarded as a very strange thing to do!


cycling is a fantastic way to meet people.
Cycling is cheap. This expedition is a personal project - I've worked very hard to save base funds for the project. While that's provided enough money to carry me through to Helsinki, I don't have money to travel about in four-wheel drives and other more expensive modes of transport.


I also relish the physical challenge. I love the feeling of being fit, and look forward to using the strength gained through guiding and bushwalking in Tasmania to propel me on my journey.

What will you ask?

I want to find out what people are doing with their lives and why. In short, I'm collecting a little biography of each person, focusing on the interesting things they've done coupled with the reasons they live where they are. I'm naturally interested in these questions because I'm always wondering what I'm doing with my life and where I'd like to live, so it's a natural and easy step to ask people what they're up to. I do it all the time; this expedition is merely a formalisation of my conversations and an opening for others to see the reults.


I have this little belief that each person has their own story
I have this little belief that each person has their own story - some hardship they've endured, or perhaps simply an ordinary life lived well. I'll be happy if I can approach someone and let them tell their own story to me. To let this happen, I begin with fairly broad, open questions, and hone in if neccessary with directed queries to make the story clearer.

How will the stories be collected?

Any traveller can regale you with stories of the quirky and amazing people they met. Nick's experience is the same. He'll be taking these chance encounters a step further: over the journey he will scout for interesting people from all walks of life, young and old. If they're happy to be involved, he'll conduct an interview and take a portrait photo.


The interview transcript will then be edited and and presented on this website in the person's own words with their portrait.


Obviously, language is going to be a huge challenge, as for any traveller in lesser-trodden parts of the world. It is intended to begin by finding English speakers, through English language schools and local NGOs, and to take up any opportunities they offer of translation and integration into their social, work and familial networks. In-country contacts from the people Nick meets, or from interested people via this website, will be an immense help.


Happily, the perfusion of the internet cafe around the globe makes this project possible. Along the journey, Nick will become somewhat of a cafe hound as he uploads the edited interviews and portraits. By the end of the trip, the complete collection of stories will form a human scale story transect through a huge variety of cultures, countries and geographies through which the journey passes.


See also: Stop that train, I'm leaving


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