MANAUS Brazil (Reuters) - London accountant Andy Smith used to make good money in the City but says he is giving up on full-blown capitalism after a five-month bicycle ride through Brazil opened his eyes to life’s real riches.
The lean and heavily tanned 35-year-old stood in the baking heat outside the Amazonia arena in Manaus on Thursday after cycling almost 8,000 km (5,000 miles) for charity since starting in the southern city of Porto Alegre in January.
“I came here to find some inspiration ... and when I go back I need to find something different,” he told Reuters, saying he wanted to perhaps work for “a social enterprise, a business that’s trying to make the world a better place somehow.”
He added: “At least it’s not just shuffling money around from shareholders to suppliers to whatever which is what I’ve been doing for years and doesn’t inspire me.”
The die hard fan of the England national soccer team quit his job last September to prepare for the trip.
Smith, sporting a large black beard, said he wanted to explore Brazil as “as a bit more enlightened foreigner rather than (someone) just thinking of the stereotypes of half naked people dancing samba on the beach”.
He added: “This country is so much more, it’s so diverse, and I’m just delighted to have seen it.”
One highlight was touring the famed Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Another was visiting a couple of schools at the start of the trip.
“I didn’t realise just how friendly and hospitable Brazilian people could be ... the kids were so interested and all wanted to take photographs and now I have about 40 new Facebook friends,” he said.
Every day he studied a map on his tablet and then typed in the coordinates of his destination into the small GPS device bolted to the handlebars of his black touring bike.
Then cycled six or seven hours a day on the crowded two-lane highway system, doing his best to avoid trucks, large holes and the occasional dead horse.
His worst memory is trying to revive a man who had been hit by a car. Luckily, Smith had done a first aid course and was able to keep the victim alive until an ambulance arrived.
The memories both good and bad will help keep his spirits up when he returns to London.
“I need a job, I’m running out of money and I need to get on with my normal life, unfortunately,” he said.
But before then he can enjoy the World Cup. Smith has tickets for England’s three group games and predicts the team will reach the last eight.
“I hope we’ll play Brazil in the quarter-finals and then we’ll inevitably lose on penalties, like we do every tournament,” he said, referring to a series of painful defeats in international competitions.
“But that’s good, that would be a success for us.”
Reporting by David Ljunggren. Editing by Patrick Johnston