Dan Keeley will be instantly recognisable to some readers as the man who is forever jogging around the town, parks and pathways of Sevenoaks.
He’s called Sevenoaks home since 2016 and it’s a place he loves not just for the nature and trail routes that surround the town but the “ever-present sense of connection between the local community”.
These days Dan’s face is recognisable far beyond the local community though, as in September Dan took to the stage to give a Ted Talk on ‘The Power of Speaking Up When We’re Suffering’. The internet now knows Dan’s face, his incredible story and it’s better off for doing so.
CommunityAd had the pleasure of a chat with Dan Keeley about what one YouTuber has reviewed as being “one of the most emotional TEDx talks I’ve ever seen” while others have all approved it with words such as, ‘raw’, ‘honest’, ‘authentic’, ‘incredible’ and ’empowering’.
So Dan, firstly, how good did it feel to don the stage here in Sevenoaks for a Ted Talk?
It was the perfect mix of nerves and excitement. With just 18-minutes to share your ‘idea worth sharing’, after 9 months of preparation and just one shot to get it right, the feeling of relief afterwards was something special; with full credit to Ricky Spears who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to put on a great show for everyone who was there.
The audience reaction was special and I can imagine it was quite overwhelming? The internet (not often a wonderful place) loved it as well and continues to love it.
I left nothing on that stage and couldn’t have been more grateful for the reaction from everyone in the theatre, plus the online comments which are still trickling in. There’s a lot of people struggling out there so I’m just glad that the key message from the talk hit the mark.
Could you share with readers your concept of courageous conversations and why it has empowered you?
At every crossroad in my life, whether making a big life decision or breaking through a barrier with my mental health, it’s only been through having courageous conversations where real change has happened. We know how hard it is to speak up about the things which matter most to us, particularly if we’re in a tough chapter, but when we do so with whole-heartedness, love and honesty, then there’s no greater feeling or sense of empowerment than that; to know that we’re honouring ourselves and what matters most in life. Courageous conversations really do lead to the most beautiful destinations.
Rome to Home must have been a triumph. Would you be so kind to share some highlights with the readers?
Where do I start?
Running up and over the Italian Alps near Mont Blanc… that first 28-mile day in Tuscany in 38-degree heat… arriving in Sienna 7 days after setting off from Rome… the connection to thousands of others who’d walked the path before (the pilgrimage route which links the Vatican to Canterbury)… the personal fly-over from the RAF Red Arrows on the same day I reached 1000-miles… soaking up the view from the top of Eiffel Tower having ran there from the Colosseum… the few laps on the ferry when crossing the English Channel… passing through Sevenoaks and reaching the London Eye with 150+ closest friends and family by my side… that beautiful balance of solitude and connection to nature, myself, my cause and everyone I met along the way… not to mention the unbelievable amounts of generosity I received when I was out there…
It was a 65-day oil-painting that I was lucky enough to live in and experience over those 1250-miles.
Christmas is obviously not a great time of year for everyone, what advice would you deploy to someone suffering from their mental health?
I’ve felt this too over the years and you’re right; this time of year can be challenging for so many people for many different reasons. All I can say is that you’re not alone, we’re all on this journey together, the brighter days will return, the support is out there if we look out for it, and that the best gift we can all give ourselves this year is the gift of time, energy and attention to our own wellbeing. This is easier said than done sometimes given the times we’re in, but our future-selves will always thank us for it.
Rome to Home as you said bookended this journey you’ve been on perfectly, so what next for Dan Keeley?
Well, Rome To Home was 5 years on from my full-scale manic episode in Italy, and 2022 marks 5 years on from Rome To Home, so I feel a few adventures coming on. Watch this space.
Lastly, to wish everyone reading this a fantastic start to 2022. It’s been a tough ride for so many people out there over the past few years, so bring on everything that’s to come in the brand new year.