It’s a very simple question but I am afraid that I don’t have a simple answer.
I am not superhuman. I am not an athlete. I am no better or no worse than anyone else. We all have it within us to do remarkable things but most of the time we choose the easy path, the safer option, the known quantity.
My name is Niall Iain Macdonald, I am 44 years old and I live and work in Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis, in the Western Isles of Scotland. Although I was brought up in Inverness, I have very strong island connections as my father was from Skye and my mother was from Barra and South Uist. I have been based here in the Western Isles for the past 20 years working in Gaelic radio and television, the majority of the time for the BBC but I now work on a freelance basis.
A few years ago I reached a very low point in my life but, with the help and support of family, friends and various mental health services, I managed to face up to my problems at that time. This caused me to re-evaluate what is important to me and recognise just how precious our time in this world really is. Since then I have tried to use my own experience to get people to talk more openly about mental health and show them that there is help and that they are not alone. I still suffer from depression and really struggle at times but I am aware that there are others in who are in a much worse place. In addition, I feel strongly about highlighting the families and friends of those who suffer as they also have a lot to deal with and are often a forgotten voice. I have also been inspired to challenge myself in ways that I would never previously have considered.
In 2008, I successfully rowed 46 miles across the Minch, a treacherous stretch of sea between the Outer Hebrides and the Scottish mainland. This inspired me to try something more challenging, and the idea of rowing from New York to Stornoway, the equivalent of rowing across the Minch 70 times, has never left me.
In 2009 I cycled from Copenhagen to St.Petersburg and then north through Finland to the Arctic Circle. After that I spent 2 months sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, from Europe to the very southernmost point of mainland South America, as part of the crew on a tall ship. I then got back on 2 wheels and spent several months on my bicycle exploring remote parts of Chile and Argentina.
In 2015 I cycled over 5000km around Europe and just last year I travelled through Italy, Sardinia, Spain and Portugal on my bicycle 'Nanna C'.
And now I find myself preparing for the biggest, toughest and most exciting challenge yet.
HARBO & SAMUELSON
The North Atlantic route was first rowed in 1896 by two Norwegian immigrants, George Harbo and Frank Samuelson, who took 55 days to row from New York to the Scilly Isles, in their 18 ft long wooden dory 'Fox'. Given the limited technology and equipment of the day, their achievement is truly remarkable. Those brave men are an inspiration to me.
(Read about their exploits: 'Daring the Sea' by David W.Shaw)
“I am not willing to take anything but the most from life.”