Changing hats for a red nose: the story of a bikeclown
«I watched the globe wondering how to move around it with my bike. It pulled me like a magnet». At that time Álvaro Neil was a lawyer in Spain. Duing his spare time studied how to change hats for a red nose to make people smile.
Ten years ago the metamorphosis was completed: and the lawyer turned into a clown. Now Álvaro Neil is a writer, a photographer and a documentarist. Of course, a clown. He never stopped cycling his bike and entertaining. He travelled across 78 Countries. With three bikes he covered over 136 km. And he’s never gotten back home, in Oviedo.
«I had money there, but I didn’t have time enough. When I realised that time is worth more than money I decided to perform while traveling around. I became the biciclown, for free».
He kept his word. He lives on just 250 euros a month.
He performs in each forgotten corner of the Earth «to make people smile». He has already made 65 shows for 18 thousands people, always for free. «Why? This is not only my journey. I want to share it with others». He visited refugee camps in Africa, Japan after the 2011 tsunami, the Middle East, South-East Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Alaska. Now he is in South America, where he made his first bike rack from 2001 and 2003. «After that trip I came back in Spain for one year, keeping fit as a bike messenger and searching sponsors. One day I said to myself: “it’s time to start the world tour”. It was the 19th of November 2004, ten years ago»
He feels a cosmopolitan now. «I don’t want to be a world citizen, I feel, therefore I am. Today I am in Perù and I feel at home. Wherever is my bycicle – 75 itinerant kilos- I feel at home. Living on two wheels and going slowly you can adapt to the environment».
Do you feel the need to accelerate sometimes, don’t you?
Every year I slow down more. I enjoy doing things slowly. In Japan they say you can drink water in ten mouvements. When you make things slowly you find pleasure, as with cycling. I have a measurament, but I don’t care how many kilometers I make.
Where do you like to ride?
I prefer mountains and small paths, where there are no cars. Here in Perù I reached places almost 5 thousands meters high. You don’t have mountains like this in Europe. Europe will be the last part of my journey, but I don’t have a plan or targets. I would probably spend Christmas in Bolivia.
It seems you don’t like responsibilities…
I have one big responsibility: I have to be happy. This is my responsibility and my job. Every day you wake up and you have 24 hours to smile. I try to enjoy every day, every hour, every minute and to be connected with myself and with others. This is my responsibility.
I don’t know when I realised it. It happened. It’s like when you fall in love with someone. Was it at first sight? At second sight? During a dinner or at the cinema? We don’t have a watch to control everything. It’s a feeling inside and I just realised it on the journey, having experiences, meeting people, having emotions.
What about your project?
Miles Of Smiles Around the World (MOSAW) is a project well explained in my website. I bring my shows around the world. My audience is composed by the most disadvantaged: those to whom life has smiled the least. First of all I need to be happy, and then I can make other people happy.
And what about the clown?
A clown is not just someone happy. A clown is someone who has feelings and he shows them to the audience. Most of the time the clown is happy, but sometimes he is sad. A clown doesn’t put a mask. He takes out his mask to show emotions. He connects with the audience through emotions. And the clown that I do it’s me.
Can you share the most emotional experience that you live on your journey?
I wrote five books and several documentaries. They are full of emotional experiences. I just can tell the last one. I just came back from the airport where I picked up one friend. We met only one day in our lives, in Mexico, two years ago. And he wrote me asking if he could come to cycle with me. And I said: «Yes, why not?». So he baught the ticket and now he’s here in Lima and we will cycle together for one month. It’s kind of meeting a stranger sharing your life. This is a challenge and a new experience for me. This situation happened just 2 times in 10 years.
Insegui il sole?
Do you follow the sun?
Now it’s coming the summer in Perù, but in a long trip like this you are not always in the right time in the right place. This is my job, my life. I’m not on holiday. Sometimes I have tailwind and sometimes I am sick. It’s life, and I don’t complain. I have to play this, like a clown. I can not say “maybe I go home and take a rest”, beacause I don’t have home.
Do you feel tired?
When I am tired I can’t go to a hotel. I keep going. My limits are bigger now. If you stop when you are climbing, you die. But you learn to suffer and explore your limits more and more. When you are on holiday by bike you suffer a little, but when you go back home you have everything.
Everyday is an adventure to me. I realised I can manage this kind of suffering and it’s important to live it in order to deal wiht problems. I solve problems everyday and it’s like a game to me. It’s like a rose with thorns. Life is pleasure and suffer and we canno’t remove the suffer. Living this way, like a nomad, today I have a house, tomorrow I won’t have it. Today I have a bed and tomorrow I don’t know where I’m gonna sleep. Today I have the sun, tomorrow the rain. This is my way to appreciate life. You can reach the top of the Everest by helicopter, but do you have fun? No. The fun is the preparation. And only walking, walking and walking when you reach the top you’ll enjoy. Life for me is the journey, it’s not just the objective, it’s the way you do.
You need courage, you don’t need money. And you canno’t by courage at the supermarket.
Foto: Álvaro Neil http://www.biciclown.com/