Between an Adriatic Rock and a Hard Place

(5 minute read)

_DSF3398-EditFor as long as I have known Trevor Neal (which is quite some time), I have always learnt from every interaction with him.  Our conversations often result in my reflecting on who and what is most important to me, and on who I am.  My self-awareness always increases, for which I am always grateful.  Whether a long conversation over a coffee or wine, or a short conversation on the phone, through his authenticity, honesty and vulnerability, Trevor inspires me to be the best I can be.  He is a great role-model and mentor; he keeps me true to me.

Today, Trevor is our guest blogger, sharing one of his many courageous adventures with us.  Trevor is a wonderful story-teller, evoking many senses.  I hope you enjoy this experience as much as I did.

@CourageChick

In Trevor Neal’s words …

A few years back I took a leap in mid life that saw me question most of what I had forged to that point. I concluded that I was living an inherited script far from my own truth. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but looking back, courage was about to become a very close friend.

I remember sitting in a conference in Paris listening to a keynote address entitled “Courageous Conversations” and thinking the time had come for me to do something. It was time to have that conversation and act on the epiphanies that I hoped would follow. There was much to appreciate from those few days, none more so than the offering of a definition of courage by the contemporary English poet, David Whyte:

“Courage to me, is the ability to cultivate a relationship with the unknown, to create a form of friendship with what lies around the corner, over the horizon, with those things that are yet to come into being.”

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Some months later I found myself on a cycling tour through central and Eastern Europe, alone and uncertain as to whether I was riding away or toward something. Regardless, I was moving again but this few weeks of contemplation had been taking a physical toll. Each day I would get on the bike for 80-100km and ride. I loved the freedom that came with not knowing where my head would rest at days end, who I would meet, the conversations I might have and the adventures that may come my way.

On the final day I rode off the island of Cres in Croatia, an idyllic northern most member of the Croatian archipelago located in the Adriatic Sea. It was 35C and I was 25km from the end of a 1500km journey that had taken me from my starting point in Slovakia, across parts of Hungary and Austria, through Slovenia, around the northern shores of Italy’s Adriatic before finally heading home via the stunning Croatian islands of the north.

I remember being out on my feet. Hot, dry and windy, I had been riding in traffic for a good part of the day, particularly as I neared the finishing line that was the coastal city of Rijeka. Coming off the bridge linking the island of Krk with mainland Croatia, I fell from the bike as I spotted welcoming shade from an awning that was part of the toll complex. I lay absolutely exhausted, feeling totally alone and thinking, not for the first time mind you, “I’m really not sure how this day will end.” I got to my feet a good hour later after a friendly voice had awoken me from my exhausted slumber. It was a tollbooth attendant who had been watching me and was concerned. She spoke Croatian first and then English when I apologized for not understanding her. We exchanged pleasantries, I thanked her, we smiled and then waved our goodbyes. Two hours on, two steep climbs and a descent that later showed a top speed of 75km/hr and for which I have no recollection, I stepped off a rock and into the cooling Adriatic one final time. I was done!

That evening I sought out a simple, local restaurant with a sea view in residential Rijeka. I sat at an outdoor table alongside a boating canal that emptied into the sea. The northern summer sun was sitting low in the sky and the breeze, cooling against my weather beaten face. I recall being extremely contemplative but also taken by the beautiful simplicity of all that surrounded me. Children were frolicking on the street, the boys with their soccer ball, the girls playing hopscotch. The old tenement buildings, 3 or 4 stories high emitted occasional sounds of a busying kitchen as whoever was there, I imagined, set about preparing the evening meal. To complete the picture, I had noticed the canal was lined with moorings where either, small, one-person fishing boats sat patiently or where space indicated a home for the absent. As the sun continued to set on this beautiful evening those absentees slowly began to return. One by one they would pull in to their designated place while children would run to gleefully greet their boatmen. On numerous occasions this sequence of events would repeat itself. A hug, an understated ceremonial handing over of the evening catch, children on delivery duty, turning to race excitedly across the street only to disappear through an open doorway, and father, lighting up, cleaning up, chugging a beer, and chatting with his also recently returned neighbor.

That scene, accompanied by it’s own soundtrack of children’s laughter and chatter, of clanging pots and pans, of soothing tones from someone’s stereo wafting down from an open, top floor window and of a gentle drum beat provided by the engines of returning boats, took me back to the 60s and my own childhood. It all seemed so simple, uncomplicated and joyful. That was quite a defining moment and a beautiful way to end a day that earlier I thought may never find its end.

Since then I have often thought courage to be a fundamental requirement in the creation and pursuit of a life that is founded on an awareness of one’s own truth.

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And as I reflected on this “courage in work” series it became clear that it’s presence was equally necessary for the way in which we position ourselves in work.  It occurred to me that courage must stand alongside that of change, challenge, adversity and struggle no matter the game. Certainly this has come to my attention as I’ve worked at creating the way for me over recent years.

Through my mid life saunter, I’ve routinely looked at others for inspiration, not to show me the way so much but to remind me of what it takes. While courage is a constant in the stories of those I look to, I’m also reminded of how admiring I am of their ability to act in alignment with their core values. In a world as it is, this willingness to act with integrity requires the greatest call for courage. It’s the essential leadership leveler for me.


Trevor Neal worked in global organizations both within and outside Australia for many years. He now combines those experiences with the things he enjoys doing most. The list includes, the design and manufacture of high quality furniture using recycled materials (More Than Palletable and Handkrafted), visual art (Trevor Neal Photography), corporate coaching, leading bicycle tours through Central and Eastern Europe and most recently, property development in Budapest, Hungary.

Trevor can be contacted at: tneal22@bigpond.com

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All photographs by Trevor Neal:

  1. Trevor in his workshop
  2. on DARKNESS
  3. on PRESENCE
  4. Transients
  5. on TRANSCIENCE

One thought

  1. A great blog Trev demonstrating your courage, vulnerability and authenticity. Thanks for sharing Dina Trev had such an impact on my early career – a great leader!

    Like

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