Benji Brundin – Fastest man to cross all ten Australian deserts. He learned some lessons…
My name is Benji and I am a tradie from Melbourne. I work hard every day and enjoy the simple things like a beer on the weekends with a few mates. But last year I spent over a month self-isolating through some of the wildest parts of the country on my quest to set a new Guinness World Record: Fastest man to cross all ten Australian deserts, unsupported on a motorbike. A 250 Yamaha.
You see I entered my own metaphorical desert back in 2016 when in a few short months I lost my career, my marriage, the family home and dog. And when I thought it was the bottom, my father died suddenly. Somehow, with all that is going on in the world, I feel a lot of people might be entering their own metaphorical desert also. We are in unprecedented times and fear and uncertainty surrounds us all.
Now I didn’t just wake one day and start riding a motorbike across sand dunes. In the 2 years prior there were countless training expeditions into places like Fraser Island, Cape York and Kakadu.
I remember one particular expedition in Kakadu, Northern Territories, I dropped my bike in a river, saturating all of my kit and toilet paper. From that I learnt to carry 2 rolls; one in my backpack and one in my saddle bags to prevent getting caught out again. During my record attempt in the desert I didn’t even use all of that. So, when people started hoarding toilet paper a few weeks ago, I had a little chuckle to myself and thought ‘I’ve got this’.
But my survival in the desert relied on more than good dried food and toilet paper, and after seeing the lines at Centrelink, and people crying in the street, I felt I had something to offer, some words of wisdom that helped me get through my own desert. So, here is a list of the ten most important things I learnt during my time in the ‘emotional desert’ that helped me survive in the Australian hot ones.
On one particular adventure I decided I wanted to ride to the westernmost point of the Australian mainland; Steep Point. At the time it was the wildest thing I had ever done and I was completely paralysed with fear prior to heading out.
Yes, it was dangerous and remote. But if I focused on all the things that could go wrong, I would have never gone out. Instead, I focused on all the things I could control: My bike maintenance, food, fuel and first aid kits. I thought about all of the risks and put measures in place to reduce them. All of these little things increased my likelihood of success, as well as my confidence. The lesson I learnt: Control the Controllable.
So now the question I ask you is this, what can you control in your world?
Yes, you might be struggling financially, but how can you budget better? What courses can you do? Who can you ask for help? Focus on what you can control right now and try to take your focus away from the negative.
In the wake of my divorce, I wanted to do something special and set a goal of touching the compass points of the country on my motorbike. Setting this goal gave me something to anchor to, a reason to get up and keep moving forward. And also, underneath that came smaller daily goals, ones that would help me achieve my bigger objective. With good healthy goals in place we become more motivated and energised. Today I wake up and write ‘to do’ lists every morning because without goals we are just free wheeling through life without drive. What goals do you want to set right now? It might be something as simple as getting out of the house once a day and going for a walk, or setting social media aside for a while.
One day in Kakadu I was riding across the floodplains when I came to a billabong that was too deep to cross. I didn’t have enough fuel to backtrack and thought I was stuck. I spent a few hours searching the banks of the billabong looking for a bottleneck. I then spent another hour hacking a tunnel through the jungle with my hatchet to get my bike through. With a small run up and a quick scan for crocodiles I gunned the motor and cleared the murky waters on my first go. I gave myself a moment and fist-pumped the air.
When setting goals and writing to do lists, it’s important to celebrate your small victories. These don’t even have to be huge achievements, but if you are struggling with motivation, or feeling a little down, then simply getting up and dressed to start the day is a small victory. Make sure you acknowledge your little wins.
In the Great Victoria Desert, I bounced my bike off a tree and lost almost all my water supply. I was hundreds of kilometres from any town or outpost and had less than a litre left. I hadn’t seen a car in days at that point. I felt panic start to rise and I needed to take a few breaths to compose myself. In that moment, it was crucial that I focus on the positives. I wasn’t hurt, I still had some water, my bike was still going. I had just over 350km of sand dunes to get across to reach my new resupply point. Focus on the positives. Focus, focus, focus.
What are the positives in your life right now? Yes, you might be out of work, but the government is providing some support. You can probably find something to study for free, and don’t have the distractions of bars and restaurants, so we have this incredible opportunity to focus on our creative sides. We can literally reinvent ourselves.
Yes, there is a lot to be sad about in the world right now. I get it. but there is also opportunity.
During my time in the wild places I kept a strict routine of checking my bike’s vitals every day. Tyre pressure, nuts, bolts, oil water. Before setting out I’d also check over my whole body and kit; touching my chest and hips zipped and clipped. And touching my bike and saddle bags strapped and wrapped. The importance of this saved my life a few times when I would notice nuts loose, or straps hanging down around the rear wheel. The lesson I learnt: Keep healthy routines. It is so easy to slip into an unmotivated state, to lounge in bed or leave your pyjamas on all day. This is how the spiral into depression can start.
Deciding to cross all ten Australian deserts solo and unsupported on an eleven-year-old motorbike was not a decision I took lightly. There were months of planning, bike rebuilds and training. When people heard about what I was doing, they thought I was crazy, but I knew I could get the job done. I knew I had something more to prove, a deep sense of unworthiness from a poor childhood and the rejection of my wife pushed me to prove myself. It was a deep itch I needed to scratch. Aside from wanting to be the first man to do it, this was the deeper reason that drove me. This was my why.
When setting goals, it is important to understand your why. There needs to be something that will help you anchor back to your original goal. When the chips are down, and things get hard, understanding your why; your motivation will help to keep you focused. So why is it that you want to achieve whatever it is that you do?
If you truly want to set and achieve your goals, however big or small they might be, it is important to build a team around you that supports and encourages you.
Sometimes it’s the people who love you most that will want to hold you back. Not because they don’t believe in you, but because they worry about you or are stuck in their own inertia of not acting on their own dreams.
When I announced that I wanted to ride ‘the ten’, my family were worried sick and tried to talk me out of it. So, I had to distance myself from their worry. But other people came into my life that did want to support me and get me across the line. These became the backbone of my team.
So, think about what you want to achieve. It might be going out for a walk every day so find someone who also wants to go out and hold each other accountable. But remember your physical distance! During this time it is important that we stay connected as best we can and keep those social connections alive.
On my 14th day in the desert I woke up after a freezing night. My tent was covered in ice, my body was blistered and bruised. I was stiff and hungry and had been losing weight noticeably. I was deep in the heart of the Gibson desert and I just wanted to go home. There was no point in focusing on all those things I couldn’t control. I had chosen this life and the only person I could blame for my predicament was myself. Live or die, win or lose, it was all on me. I realised how my reality played out was dependant on how I perceived it. I had to own my universe.
This can sometimes be a tough pill to swallow, but we do have choices and we choose our emotions and reactions to events. It’s empowering to own your decisions, good and bad. There have been times in my life when I have spent too much money or made poor decisions or drank too much. But despite all the excuses in the world, those were my decisions and I have to own the fact that my bank account didn’t look as good as I would have liked. What can you own in your universe, good and bad, and what can you do to change it? Yes, it is a hard pill to swallow, but it is also an empowering one.
There was a situation where I found myself bogged in deep sand on the beaches of Robe SA. After trying to ride out I realised that I could either turn back into the deep sand I had already come through, and back to the tracks I knew. Or keep on pushing and hope that the sand firmed-up. I laughed out loud at the predicament and decided to keep pushing forward. Eventually, the sand did firm-up and I found myself riding at the edge of the water with the throttle wide open. The lesson I learnt: Be resilient!
Resilience is a wonder drug that can’t be taught or bought in any shop or online program. The only way to acquire it is to just keep on trying, when doors shut in your face you just have to keep gritting your teeth and keep moving forward. I know it’s hard, but the more you put yourself out there, the more opportunities will present. Right now, we are in a time where it is our resilience that will be tested. If you want the job, or the girl or boy, keep asking, what can I do to improve my chances of success? What can I learn to better myself? Keep pushing and your resilience will grow.
And the most important thing I learnt on my adventures was simply this. To win you need courage. Courage to take your chances or have faith that it will work out. You need to have belief in yourself that you can now be. Times of struggle are the key to our greatest growth. When the chips are down, and the hits just keep coming, you need to stay true to yourself, take a deep breath, look your challenge straight in the eye and state boldly ‘I got this’.
Be Brave, stand firm and we will all get through this together.
To read more about Benjis incredible journey you can go to his website www.daring2venture.com.au and purchase his new book Hunting Fear or check out his socials to see some incredible photos and video content.