“Adventure is not only crossing deserts and climbing mountains; adventure can be found everywhere, every day, and it is up to us to seek it out.”
Alastair Humphreys is an adventurer and author. His expeditions include cycling around the world and across 60 countries for four years, rowing across the Atlantic, running trough the Sahara and walking across India (just to name a few!). Aside from his impressive large-scale adventures, Alastair is also known for his pioneering work on the concept of “microadventures”: trying to encourage people to get outside, get out of their comfort zone and have small-scale adventures close to their home.
I attended a talk given by Alastair back in 2009 and his messages about living life fully, seeking out mini-adventures in every day life and focusing on the opportunities rather than the constraints really stuck with me. Alastair Humphrey has had a big impact on me so I’m super happy to have had the opportunity to ask him some adventure related questions…
You have completed a number of impressive adventures like cycling around the world, walking across India and rowing the Atlantic. What drives you to undertake this type of big expeditions?
Half a lifetime ago, I left home to spend a year in Africa. That was it. I was hooked. Adventure! Since then I have spent years on the open road, chasing the spirit of adventure across the planet. I do it because it is fun. I do it because it is tough, and miserable, and difficult. I do it because I love the wild, silent beauty of the empty places on our planet. And I do it because I love the teeming, vibrant fullness of our planet and the surprising, memorable interactions with the random selection of seven billion souls I meet along my way.
What would you say is the definition of “adventure”?
Most people would agree that cycling across one of the world’s great mountain ranges is an adventure. So too is waking in a tent buried in snow, paddling whitewater rapids, or rowing through a tropical storm, hurtling down steep waves lit by a silver moon. But adventure need not be any of those things. I think the core of adventure is actually deeper than this. In my opinion adventure is mainly in the mind. Adventure is an attitude. Adventure is doing something that is new. Something difficult. Exciting. Daunting. Something with a significant chance of failure and an enticing sense of satisfaction upon completion.
You wrote a book on “Microadventures“. For people who are not familiar with this concept, can you explain what a microadventure is?
A microadventure is an adventure that is close to home, cheap, simple, short, and yet very effective. A microadventure has the spirit (and therefore the benefits) of a big adventure. It’s just all condensed into a weekend away, or even a midweek escape from the office. Even people living in big cities are not very far away from small pockets of wilderness. Adventure is all around us, at all times. Even during hard financial times such as these. Times when getting out into the wild is more enjoyable, invigorating and important than ever.
I constantly hear people saying that they would love to go on an adventure but that they can’t because they are just too busy. What is the one piece of advice you would give to these people?
If you think you are too busy for even a microadventure, then you DEFINITELY need to turn off your phone and go on one!
What is your favourite adventure mode of transport and why?
Definitely bicycle. It is slow but not too slow. Fast but not too fast. Hard but not too hard. Anyone can cross continents on one, carrying everything they need. You can explore cities or deserts. It’s the cheapest, best way to see the world.
Where is the most amazing place you have ever wild camped?
Overlooking Muckle Flugga was pretty cool. So too Lofoten, and so many places when I cycled round the world. But the HOLLYWOOD sign was also fairly awesome. It doesn’t have to be ‘wilderness’ to be memorable.
Through your adventures, your books and your talks you have inspired so many people to get outside and get out of their comfort zone. But is there someone who has inspired you or had a big impact on the way you approach adventures?
Ranulph Fiennes, Laurie Lee, Ben Saunders, Paul Deegan are probably the 4 who have shaped what I do the most.