Kyabram’s Brenton Brown and his brother Chad are living the dream, running a bike hire business in Europe.August 11, 2014 4:00am
KKyabram’s Brenton Brown (right) and brother Chad starting their Bike About Europe business in Spain.
For Kyabram’s Brenton Brown, it seemed a life lived behind the curtain was on the cards.
At Kyabram Secondary School he flitted around between multi-media design, electronics, music, photography and graphics.
Brenton was the one behind the sound desk at assemblies, speech nights and concerts.
His technical skills also found a home with his second ‘‘family’’ at Shepparton Theatre Arts Group where he helped bring the group’s big annual popular rock revues such as The Beat, Reel Music and One Hit Wonders to life.
When he left school, he joined Greater Shepparton City Council’s Riverlinks production team and worked on big touring productions from Opera Australia to the Bell Shakespeare Company.
Brenton said at the time, it was a dream come true.
‘‘I thrived in this environment, constantly surrounded by creative people, new and engaging ideas and, all the while, working with my hands,’’ he said.
It didn’t bother him that his mates were leaving Kyabram to study at Bendigo, Melbourne or Ballarat.
‘‘To me, theatre was like one big classroom, with new teachers, classmates and subjects every day,’’ he said.
Then, in 2008 everything changed when he and his brother Chad visited their parents in Uganda.
Helen and Adrian Brown had been working with a remote community in the east African country since 2007 to help establish schools and sustainable agriculture.
Their Kyabram-based charity Help Us Grow was later set up to raise funds for the Suubi Centre in south-western Uganda.
The visit had a profound effect on Brenton.
‘‘To try to summarise our visit to Uganda in a few short lines would be impossible.
‘‘ What I can say — without a shadow of exaggeration — is that those six weeks in March and April of 2008 changed the way that I will see the world forever,’’ he said.
When he returned to Shepparton, Brenton became restless.
‘‘As with my parents the previous year, I too felt disconnected from what I had previously identified with.
‘‘I was distracted and unsettled, struggling to keep my mind from drifting back to the village in Uganda,’’ he said.
While his parents battled to build their charity, Brenton began work on his own travel plans.
‘‘I soon realised that I couldn’t fight my hunger to travel for long, specifically to return to Uganda,’’ he said.
He left Australia in 2010 with no return ticket.
For the next nine months he visited Nepal, India, Oman, South Africa, Uganda, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and a handful of other countries in between.
When he fell ill later that year, he flew to London and was admitted to hospital.
After his recovery, he found technical theatre work in the renowned West End. Between theatre seasons he picked up whatever work he could, which ranged from connecting video conference calls at an investment bank, to monitoring satellite connections for foreign news crews on the roof of Westminster Abbey during the Royal Wedding.
But being a country boy, he hankered for the wide open spaces — and a visit to his brother Chad in Malaga, Spain, kicked off his latest venture.
The brothers loaded up pushbikes with tents, sleeping bags and clothes and headed off on a 1250
Somewhere along the way, ‘‘on one of those endless Spanish summer afternoons’’ an idea was born for a European cycling holiday business.
During the next year, the brothers rode thousands of kilometres of back roads through, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands.
‘‘We found some stunning routes on these trips and we soon realised that there was real potential in this pipe dream of ours,’’ Brenton said.
Last October they ran a crowd-funding campaign by riding their bikes on training stands non-stop 24 hours a day for two weeks on the balcony of Chad’s apartment in Malaga.
Their efforts were broadcast live on their website and they chatted to people across the world on socia media while they took shifts of eight hours each.
By October 14 last year, Bike About Europe was officially on the map and open for business.
Now, during the height of the northern summer, Brenton and Chad are pedalling through spectacular European countryside with paying travellers — and they couldn’t be happier.
‘‘Sometimes, as I pedal up beside them, I forget that this is now my job, that we are really doing this,’’ Brenton said.
He said he had been inspired by his family’s commitment, hard work and persistence.
‘‘When you believe in something and you’re prepared to work hard for it, nothing’s impossible,’’ Brenton said.
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