New way of life with Derek’s adventures

By Aideen O'Flaherty

A FIRHOUSE man, who left his job in 2014 to become an adventurer, has taken on challenges which include cycling across Africa and hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, to help with his difficulties with alcohol and depression following the death of his parents.

He is now speaking out about how he turned his life around.

PIC CREDIT BRIAN REILLY TROY compressor

Derek Cullen (Image: Brian Reilly Troy)

Derek Cullen (37), cur-rently 2,300km into a walk he is taking around the island of Ireland, admitted that he struggled with alcohol and depression following the death of his parents, and this was compounded by unhappiness with the “humdrum existence” he was living.

“I walked outside the office one morning after a disagreement at work,” Derek told The Echo.

 “However, there was much more than work on my mind. I was feeling rather unhappy and disillusioned with life in general.

“What’s more, I was exhausted from the hangovers and excessive drinking, and masking the anxieties that were taking hold in recent years.

“It was the first time I asked myself: ‘What’s the matter, why are you feeling this way and what are you going to do about it?’

“In that very moment, I decided to quit my job and go off in search of a new way of life. I didn’t really know what that would entail, but I also knew that the answers to these questions were not to be found in the life I was living at the time.”

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Derek Cullen hiking along Slea Head on the Dingle Peninsula (Image: Brian Reilly Troy)

The past pupil of Firhouse Community College then embarked on a year-long cycle from Cape Town to Cairo, to deal with his difficulties, and he found solace in being outdoors.

“It was only after this adventure when I realised my obsession with spending so much time outdoors,” explained Derek.

“In other words, when I went back to the busy city and my old way of life, I was left yearning for the peace and quiet of nature.

“Since then, I have made a conscious decision to spend more time outdoors than indoors.”

Derek Hiking in Ireland 2 compressor

Peace and quiet

Having given up alcohol three years ago and deciding to embrace a new way of life, Derek is still passionate about adventuring and is currently in Malin Head in Donegal.

Derek left his brother’s house in Firhouse in early July and walked as far south as Cork City, before continuing all the way up the west coast to Donegal.

Derek said he no longer takes on these challenges with any grand achievement or purpose in mind, and still relishes being in the outdoors.

“We spend so much time being bombarded by adverts, traffic, chatter and social media, and I believe this can leave you with the same effect that you might have after eating four hamburgers,” he said.

Derek with his cousins and great aunt in Donegal compressor

Derek with his cousins and great aunt in Donegal

“For me, walking is not only a means of escape and meditation, but also a quick and easy way to take time to think or relax the mind.

“I know that most people cannot afford the time or money to walk around Ireland, but the same benefits of being outdoors can be achieved through a short walk or run in a nearby park or trail.”

To keep up-to-date with Derek’s adventures, follow Derek Cullen Outdoors on Instagram or Facebook, or @DerekOutdoors on Twitter.

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