Do It Because It's Fun

(Plus: 25% off, ending today)

Hello! This is Everything Is Amazing, a newsletter about curiosity - and occasionally maps, coffee and rainbows.

Here’s a heartwarming story about buses.

No, wait. COME BACK. Seriously. This is a fun thing - and a good lesson about how to live a truly curious life.

A few days ago, British civil servant Jo Kibble decided it was time to put sensible things aside and do something really, really stupid:

(Thanks to Kash for tipping me off about this when it was happening on Twitter.)

"I like travelling by public transport and by bus; I think it's a great way to see the country," Mr Kibble later said to BBC News. "I also really like timetables and I like the logistics of putting things together."

I’m presuming this is the answer to the question Why on earth did you do this? He followed it with: "It was just a paper exercise to keep me occupied…I had some fun doing that on commutes to and from work."

This was all done within the UK, I should add. With buses, it’s possible to cheat slightly and use the Eurotunnel’s Le Shuttle to get into Continental Europe: the bus drives into one end, waits for the journey to finish, and disembarks in France. I’ve done this a few times with a now-defunct Megabus service from the north of England to Barcelona: a quietly agonizing 37-hour bus journey that made me feel like a character in a Samuel Beckett play, even if it did get me from England to Spain for just £25.

But Mr Kibble wasn’t powered by a lack of money, or the kind of masochism that drives ambitious travel writers. He was doing it because - well, why not?

The whole thread is delightful. And by that I mean really ordinary. This is an extraordinary journey made of utterly commonplace moments, which is why it’s so relatable.

Nothing mindblowingly dramatic happens:

It’s delightfully observed - and it’s extremely British.

While travelling he said he discovered there was a "large fan following of Preston Bus Station".

"People sent me messages telling me I needed to go and visit Preston Bus Station. Luckily it was already on the route. It is a remarkable piece of architecture; seeing that first hand was surprisingly moving in a way."

(As I said, extremely British.)

At 00.29 on Saturday morning, after 21 hours and 24 minutes of sitting on buses, Mr Kibble arrived at Morecambe in the northwest of England, just short of the Lake District. The 260-mile journey had cost him £56.95.

By now, the whole Twitter thread had exploded in popularity. Congratulations flooded in - including from Baroness Vere of Norbiton, the current Minister for Roads, Buses and Places:

Speaking to BBC News, Mr Kibble sounds bemused by all this:

"It's been incredible to be labelled as quintessentially English. It's not something I had recognised in myself before, so it's an interesting window into how people see Englishness and Britishness. But according to my wife, who is Italian-South African, the fact you can go anywhere without a car is a key strain of Britishness."

And his journey has really sparked something:

"People were interested in seeing how the system works and how it's linked to politics and the geography of the area. Bus networks are a very important part of building a fairer country and an economic system that works for more people. Sometimes Twitter can be a nice place for discussions."

But he didn’t know any of that would happen when he set off. That’s not why he did it.

This is where I can imagine non-Brits looking confused. I mean, why sit on buses for a full day? How bored do you have to be? Yes, a lack of proper holidays for everyone this year has something to do with both the inspiration for the journey and the public reaction to it.

But really, this is about enthusiasm for doing something a little bit mad-looking to other people, just for the hell of it.

In other words: the perfect curiosity challenge.

A huge problem with challenging yourself to get out your bubble of overfamiliarity (see my 1st Law of Curiosity here) is our tendency to need a rational, logical reason to underpin it, so we can justify it to ourselves right now and other people later. We need to be able to explain our reasoning somehow, because it’s really psychologically hard (and weird) to say Well, um - why the hell not?

But magical things happen when you abandon reason and say Why The Hell Not. You discover all sorts of things you never knew you didn’t know. You see things and meet people you would never have met - because there was no rational reason to do so. And you feel a strange kind of joy. This is entirely aimless! I’m rebelling against all the laws of common sense! I am a Che Guevara of pointlessness!

As a Brit with a love of domestic travel, I love this bus adventure (it’s a huge thread, filled with videos that won’t display in this newsletter. Click over and read the whole thing, if you feel like I do about it).

Your mileage may vary. But the real lesson here is about whimsy: “a sudden playful desire or change of mind, especially one that is unusual or unexplained”. You have a sudden idea, it feels like it may be fun, and you steadfastly refuse to find a better “reason” that that to drive you onwards. (You already have a reason. It might be fun!)

So whatever crazyfool whimsy-driven mini-adventures you get up to, please, don’t feel that rationality should always be in charge. Your rational mind knows nothing about what you don’t yet know. That’s its biggest failing. So if you ignore it and work around it occasionally, you’ll find worlds of fascination and fun you never knew existed.

(And maybe the odd lychee or two.)

Update: I Still Hate Marketing

At the end of today (Monday 23rd), the 25% discount on a yearly subscription to Everything Is Amazing runs out, as I announced on Friday.

I’ve been utterly bowled over by how many of you have subscribed so far. It’s been the kind of thing that makes me have to grab a cup of tea and go stand in the sunshine, blinking furiously until my stiff upper lip reasserts itself. It’s been the loveliest thing. Floored, I am.

Unfortunately, other people have continued to say extremely nice and encouraging things about the newsletter. (I haven’t been paying them or anything, I swear - it just keeps happening.)

Here’s one of them, from someone whose writing I couldn’t admire more:


The Everything Is Amazing newsletter is a perfect investment in your year. Mike’s deep dives into the fascinating stories behind everyday things make him a compelling guide to the world. He is also ridiculously funny. I’ve long enjoyed his writing, and I am sure you will too!

- Jodi Ettenberg, lawyer-turned-curiosity-writer, author of the award-winning Legal Nomads and the newsletter Curious About Everything.


Thanks, Jodi!

So while I spend the rest of the day battling imposter syndrome, I invite you to subscribe to Everything Is Amazing, to join in all the fun that’s coming soon:

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Whether you’re subscribing at the $6 a month level, or taking out a discounted year’s subscription, or even joining as a Founding Member, you are directly turning this project into everything I believe it can become. Which is a lot. So thank you. I remain super-thrilled by how all this is going.

For a preliminary breakdown of what’s currently included for paying members, check out “What You’ll Get By Going Paid” here. I’ll have a lot more to say about all this over the coming weeks and months, since I’ll be adding more stuff as I go. This is only going to get bigger.

I’ve just been told I need to post that Subscribe button twice for Unfathomable Marketing Reasons, so here it is again. (Sorry.)

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OK, that’s all for now. Back in a few days!

- Mike


Images: Chan Lee, Harry Grout.