Tom Allen is an English traveller, writer and award-winning adventure filmmaker. He speaks Farsi and has had a deep interest in Iran since his first visit in 2008 as part of a 3½-year bicycle journey.
“Tom Allen is the only person I know who actually enjoys eating instant noodles when not on an expedition”, says Leon. “I first met him in 2012, when I’d just got back from walking across China. We immediately decided to do something adventurous together in London as a taster for whether we’d fare well together on a long expedition.
“Tom suggested a half-day paddle down Regent’s Canal in London. I recall that Tom brought a head-torch for passing through the tunnels, which struck me as particularly resourceful. It might even be this single act that led to our joining forces in Iran and Patagonia.
“Previous to making my acquaintance, Tom seems to have lived most of his life on a bicycle. Setting off from England at the age of 23, he made a complete balls-up of trying to ride round the world, and instead found himself getting married in the Middle East. Luckily, Tom proved very adept at filming his own misadventures and captured everything on camera. The end result was the award-winning, genre-redefining bicycle love story Janapar which, despite all my sarcasm, I have to admit is an incredible film. His book of the same journey is equally (annoyingly) good.
“Tom now makes a living by claiming association to me, and using his penchant for solitude to write blogs, e-books and articles for all manner of audiences.”
Leon is a Northern Irish adventurer and filmmaker. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and specialises in long distance, human-powered expeditions, including a six-month traversal of China on foot.
“Leon’s existence came to my attention in 2009,” says Tom, “when he blatantly tried to rip off my failed round-the-world bike trip by cycling from New York to Hong Kong before running out of money and going home. It was this dismal failure to cycle round the world that resonated most strongly with me, and I knew right then that we would get on really well together.
“Leon then almost immediately received a commission from the National Geographic channel, making him the envy of adventure filmmakers everywhere. He spent 7 months of absolute misery walking from Mongolia to Hong Kong and single-handedly shot an entire TV series, whereupon he again ran out of money and had to go home.
“This absurd level of determination to take on adventures clearly fated to fail in spectacular and unpredictable ways, all of which seem to end up with him running out of money in Hong Kong and going home, sealed the deal. I invited Leon to join me on my next expedition – to fail to achieve anything remarkable whatsoever in Iran.
“Surprisingly enough, we didn’t fail too badly this time. We didn’t end up in Hong Kong either. I hope this hasn’t undermined our Unique Selling Point too much.”