The Malta Independent 5 December 2023, Tuesday
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How an epic 32-day, 4,200km bike-ride across Australia can change your life

Helena Grech Tuesday, 21 June 2016, 13:16 Last update: about 8 years ago

David Zammit is a 24 year-old university graduate who decided to sell all his belongings to go on an incredible 32-day, 4,200km bike-ride from Perth to Sydney, Australia. This is the story of how embracing adversity, mindfulness, sacrifice and learning from others can make you reassess everything – or at the very least come home with more than a few incredible stories to tell.

At his graduation ceremony David Zammit, completing a finance degree at the University of Manchester two years ago, appeared to have the world at his feet. He’s a handsome, educated young man with a good head on his shoulders and resources at his disposal.

At the time he was 21. Most, at that age, in his situation, would have been beaming from ear to ear at the prospect of graduating with such a useful degree from a top UK university.

Instead, that would be the catalyst which sparked an adventure of world travel – sailing around the Caribbean and cycling 4,200km across Australia. He almost died twice, got bitten by a snake, got caught up in a cyclone and much more.

Mr Zammit meets with The Malta Independent to share his experiences and lessons learned along the way.

Photo by David Zammit

Graduating from university

“I started off at Manchester University, where I did an intense four year degree. I really enjoyed it – I studied business, economics and finance. Within that four year period I was very set on working in the financial sector, I did stints of internships in London and Malta too. As time passed by and the end of my degree course neared, I started to question why I was doing what I was doing.

“It only took a really bad rejection from a firm when I was about to graduate. I went for a final interview, I took the train down to London, I was all dressed up and everything was planned out. I saw the life I wanted to have – I’ll never forget there was this French guy in the final interview who tore me to shreds. Needless to say I didn’t get the job.”

Mr Zammit explained that apart from being rejected, he was also experiencing a number of family problems at the time.

“I was flying to and from Malta and Manchester in the midst of my final exams. That effected me quite a lot as it gave me perspective – I really tried to put my input into certain family matters that I thought were meaningful but it backfired on me. All the while I was preparing for finals and there was so much stress. Everything snowballed. I went into quite a big depression in my final year. I was seeing a psychiatrist and she really helped me look at so many other things in life which I never even considered.”

In addition to a stressful home situation at the time, Mr Zammit spoke of his mother passing away from cancer when he was only two years old. In hindsight, he said, the pain suffered in his home life coupled with the stark contrast of his friends’ lives truly allowed him to appreciate certain aspects of life in a deeper way.

“I was constantly suppressing a lot of things, family problems, my own insecurities and expectations. For the first time in my life I just put them all to one side and that opened a whole other side to life – bear in mind this was a month before my final exams.”

“I remember being at the graduation ceremony all dolled up and thinking what the hell is this? This is not me. I really wanted to find out who I was. I came back home and I embarked on a few projects, and then I really got in touch with my creative side because one of my close family friends is a very good photographer. He’s a sailing and ocean photographer and immediately we struck this really good connection – not necessarily from the creative side at first but he became my big brother and took me under his wing. We chatted about life and he taught me a lot about how to look at things. He mentored me, I would learn from him, go on photo shoots with him and do work for him; it was all free – I just wanted to learn.”

Photo by David Zammit

Selling it all

He then spent three months interning at an advertising agency, which he described as being a joyful time. When the three months was over, and he was offered a job, Mr Zammit eventually turned it down. He said that when the offer was made, he asked himself what he really sees himself doing tomorrow, and the next day, and so on. He didn’t see himself as settling down just yet so that is when he decided to sell all his belongings, and raise money to travel.

“It was a really good position, in the normal sense of things it was what I should have gone for. I had a car which I sold on Maltapark in two weeks; I sold my clothes, my electronics...everything. I had a sum of money in mind that I wanted and I sold my stuff till I achieved that goal. A friend of mine who taught me about meditation said she was going to Bali. She invited me with her, with the intention of going to a meditation centre.”

Mr Zammit eventually decided to go to Indonesia, which he described as being a complete blur. He had only booked a one way ticket and did not have any real plans.

“If you think about it in an age where we are so in control of what we want to do, I really flipped that on its head. It opened up this whole other side to life that I never really thought of before. That in itself was pretty amazing so I just took on whatever came my way. I met amazing people from all over the world.

“I met a friend of mine and she took me to this meditation centre – it was mind blowing for me. I spent two weeks in this place, I didn’t go outside, I just spent the whole time reckoning with myself, and it’s quite a painful thing to do. You have, to an extent, no connection with the outside world, and you spend the majority of your day meditating, it was quite amazing.

From Indonesia, he went on to Singapore, to meet a friend and his family. The friend’s sister had been diagnosed with ALS and was suffering tremendously. He described her as “fighting for her life.” He said that seeing her was life-changing, and that seeing her very distraught father, who is a very successful lawyer, with a lovely house and numerous sports cars – was also quite painful. He told Mr Zammit to do whatever makes him happy, which further confirmed his choice live out a few unconventional adventures.

New Zealand was next, where he worked on a vineyard, and found a new mentor in the owner. His father then went to visit him, and throughout their stay together, he expressed his support in his son’s wish to spend some time travelling until figuring things out. This meant the world to him. Australia was next – where he luckily found a friend, who was living in Perth while on an exchange programme.

Photo by Shutterstock

Australia and the famous Outback

“She is a doctor, and taught him about nutrition, survival and discipline for his epic 4,200km bike ride across Australia, and the great desert outback. He spent two weeks working in a bike shop, learning to repair bicycle parts and how to properly maintain one, in preparation for his journey. He had only ever gone on leisurely bike rides in Maltese country sides, so the upcoming adventure was sure to be a genuine challenge.

“The journey from Perth to Sydney took me 32 days. It was the toughest 32 days of my life. I learnt a lot about myself and about us as humans, what we are capable of and also what we consider to be important in our lives. My whole family situation which made me rethink what I wanted to do before graduating was the best thing that happened to me. It made me go against the grain and go out there. It made me think about how in life we think about so many things – we are thinking about things every day but how often do we actually go ahead and do something?

“It was a transformation in the sense that you really get in touch with the primal nature of man. You really get into survival mode and face yourself with very tough situations.

“The experience filled me with so much confidence that I know deep down inside I can do pretty much anything I set my mind to. I think that in itself is the most powerful thing you can have in your life.

In his blog, Mr Zammit writes: “experiences such as finding myself caught in a cyclone along the Nullarbor cliffs that nearly swept me off the side, into the Southern Ocean. Or passing out at a gas station from dire fatigue, only to be woken up in an ambulance hooked up to an IV. 

Photo by Shutterstock

“It was tough, so damn tough. I pretty much saw, and felt it all. Yet somehow, just somehow, I kept on pushing, kept on wanting to finish what I started. My body seemed to have had enough, my mind on the other hand, was far from over. And so on I went, day after day, pushing the boundaries of what one would deem to be impossible, riding all the way to the Sydney Opera House.” 

“The thing is that, I was so close to my death and I’ll never forget the moments, when I survived that I felt I could survive anything, it filled me with so much appreciation and confidence and all that. When you contacted me for the interview I accepted because I love meeting people and talking about this journey, not in the slightest as a means to say: listen this is what I’ve done, but more to encourage people to connect with themselves,” he said.

Back home

Throughout it all, Mr Zammit said that some of the most enriching encounters were meeting all the different characters along the way, and learning from their unique experiences.

After earning his sailing qualifications, and working on sailing boats across the Caribbean and Mexico, he is now concentrating on settling in Malta for a while, with the possibility of fulfilling a Master’s degree.

He calls it the art of stillness, and believes that without settling down to process all his travels and adventure, lessons learnt would not be fully absorbed – but rather the mind would be distracted with new surroundings and experiences.






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