Casey Sheppard Bob Swanson Memorial Grant

Impossibilities for Breakfast

As I wake each day, I splash away the night to welcome the present. Lighting a bit of incense, the meditative vibrations from a brass Tibetan singing bowl echo throughout space as I dive deep in my subconsciousness. This is where I feed on all of the endless impossibilites that fill my mind and this is also where I digest these impossibilities into realities.

This ritual started after learning about a quote from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The Queen brags to Alice “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” This stuck with me. What would happen if I thought of something impossible every day, would I actually begin to believe in its possibilities? So slowly, each day I began to envision the impossible. I began to see things happening for me but they were small things, like finishing a long bike ride or doing my first solo sub 24 bike camping trip. With blind confidence I dove deeper.

New Zealand has always called to me. I’m not sure why but it always has. So, one morning, I began to envision the impossibility of going to Aotearoa (New Zealand) to do a big solo bike adventure. Every day I envisions this. One day I came across Tour Aotearoa, a self-supported brevet across both Island of New Zealand. Still thinking this trip was impossible, I signed up. I thought, “Why not?” Things like that continued to happen over the next year. I trained, just in case. I figured out all the gear and raised some funds for the trip, again, just in case.

On a totally random whim, I decided to apply for the Big Agnes Bob Swanson Memorial Grant, knowing that it was highly unlikely for me to actually receive this grant. I have never done anything on this grand of scale and was still unsure if I was even actually going to Aotearoa. And if I did, how would I bike over 1800 miles in 30 days?

I continued on. I put my all into something that I hadn’t totally believed in yet. Regardless, each day I would envision myself biking across Aotearoa. Then, I bought a plane ticket Down Under which was followed by something totally unexpected. I got an email letting me know that I was chosen to be the first recipient of the Big Agnes Bob Swanson Memorial Grant! Thanks to the grant I received the funds that would help me finance the rest of this pretty expensive adventure. I also got some helpful gear, like an Insulated AXL Air pad and Fly Creek HV UL 1 one-person tent. Before the grant, these were things I was going to go without.

On Feb 28th 2018, I began my 30-day solo, self-supported bike trip across both islands of Aotearoa. It would end up taking me 31 days to bike from Cape Reinga to Bluff. I biked over 2000 miles, thanks to getting constantly lost, and would arrive 25 lbs lighter. This adventure tested me beyond my limits mentally, physically, and spiritually. Every single day I was unsure if I could actually keep going. But every single morning, as I looked out of my tent, I feasted on big plate of impossibilities.

Photo: Casey Sheppard start of trip biking 1800 in 30 days.

It’s kind of funny, I was never allowed the space to really reflect and share my wild adventures across Aotearoa. It was such a magical trip. It’s such a pity that I haven’t written a book or created a film about it. Hmm, it makes me wonder….what’s for breakfast?

About the author: Casey Sheppard is a nomadic filmmaker who gets lost. She thrives on solo adventures that range from van life to bike packing to SUP camping and more. By capturing her non- traditional life and experiences with photos, films, animations, and words, Sheppard hopes to empower other women to get out in nature. Sheppard finished her debut full length documentary, Those Among, in 2021 and preparing for her next big adventure.