An adventure can be as big or small as you can imagine. Alastair Humphreys is an advocate for adventures of any size! He is an adventurer who has spent four years of his life cycling 46,000 miles around the world, an epic journey by anyone’s standards. Yet he is equally enthusiastic about taking on 24 hour microadventures.
Hailed as “The first great adventure of the 21st Century” by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Alastair hoarded a small amount of money and simply set off to ride his bike around the world. The journey took him from England, through Europe and down to South Africa, from where he sailed across the Atlantic. Back on his bike he cycled up the Americas from Patagonia to Alaska. After boarding a freighter to Russia he rode his bike home to England via Siberia, Japan, China and the Middle East. This fabulous journey was made possible through the kindness and support of many strangers.
Alastair’s walking expeditions are diverse and exploratory. He has hiked over volcanic mountains and glaciers in Iceland, through the hot plains across southern India and even walked a lap of the M25 during the UK’s worst winter weather for 30 years.
The latest type of adventure that Alastair has been engaging in and avidly promoting is the microadventure. A Microadventure is an adventure close to home that is cheap, easy to organise and most of all, fun! Alastair’s microadventures have so far included entering The Strathpuffer 24 hour winter mountain bike race in northern Scotland, sleeping on a hill top in the Lake District and visiting Muckle Flugga in the Shetland Islands. One of the motivating things about microadventures is that anyone can do them over a weekend or even on a week night.
If you add up all the weekends, statutory leave and Bank Holidays you’ll discover that you have at least 132 free days every year. 132 days is a long time. You could row across the Indian Ocean in 132 days. The difficulty of course is the fragmented nature of these 132 days. You have to be determined to use your weekends rather than frittering them with IKEA and the X-Factor. Alastair Humphreys.
Alastair Humphreys Adventurer Interview
We wanted to know more about this intriguing man who takes on adventures great and micro! Together with our good friend Kraig Becker at The Adventure Blog, we asked Alastair a few questions…
CheapTents: What inspired you to become an Adventurer?
Alastair Humphreys: Reading books of epic tales (Fiennes, Benedict Allen, Worst Journey In the World, As I Walked Out one Midsummer Morning) and feeling jealous. I used to wonder also if I could do anything like that. There was only One way to Find out….
CheapTents: Which of your adventures has been the most life changing?
Alastair Humphreys: Cycling round the world. It was my biggest by far, but more importantly, it was my first. It opened my eyes to a whole new world as well as to my own potential.
CheapTents: What is the toughest choice that you have had whilst out on an expedition?
Alastair Humphreys: When the September 11 attacks happened I was on my way to Afghanistan. Changing my route to pedal instead for Cape Town was not easy.
CheapTents: You are currently promoting microadventures. What inspired you to undertake this project?
Alastair Humphreys: In all my corporate talks I was aware that nobody in the room would ever set off to spend 4 years on an expedition. Yet I felt that the spirit and the benefits of adventures in wild places were important for everyone, perhaps even more so for people who have not done much in the great outdoors before.
CheapTents: Having travelled around the world, are you able to get a kick out of a microadventure on your doorstep?
Alastair Humphreys: Yes, definitely. (though I am also looking forward to getting back to bigger challenges). This year I have explored wonderful places I have never been to (Shetland, Torridon), done great new things (river swimming and camping – see vid) and scared the crap out of myself (Cuillin ridge)!
CheapTents: What tips do you have for adding adventure into our everyday lives?
Alastair Humphreys: Do it! Even in the hours between leaving work and starting again the next morning you have time to climb a hill, camp on the top, swim in a river (see microadventure 3). And once you realise how invigorating and easy that was then it is easy to persuade yourself to try something bigger.
CheapTents: Of all the places you’ve visited, which has left the most lasting impression?
Alastair Humphreys: I loved the people in wild Siberia who looked after me as I travelled through there one winter. Also the remote communities of the Canadian Arctic. I loved the wilds of Iceland and the mad colourful chaos of India too.
CheapTents: Do you have any expeditions planned for next year or further ahead?
Alastair Humphreys: Hopefully a very large South Pole project at the end of next year.
CheapTents: For other aspiring adventurers, what tips can you provide to help them on their journeys?
Alastair Humphreys: Anyone in the UK should go to the Explore weekend
at the Royal Geographical Society in November. In general I would encourage people to be imaginative in their dreams, without Teetering over into silly gimmick trips. Try something a bit harder than you think you can manage. You will probably surprise yourself. And if you fail you’ll learn even more about yourself than if you succeed!
CheapTents: What are your favourite bits of gear, and why?
Alastair Humphreys: My packraft. It has opened up a whole new world of adventure possibilities. I only wish I lived in Alaska!
CheapTents: Any people or sponsors that you’d like thank?
Alastair Humphreys: Never really had a major sponsor. I just save up and go.
Many thanks for your answers Alastair and for providing motivation for everyone to take on an adventure!
Anyone that wishes to provide Alastair with a bit of financial help to keep on adventuring is invited to visit his website and buy him a coffee!
The M25 walk was through an environment very much controlled by man. But I relished feeling the forces of nature at work as well. We can build highways that transport thousands of people and tonnes of manufactured goods. We can blot out the stars with the glow of a city’s orange street lights. But we cannot control the land being covered in snow that reflects the glow so that even at night it was easy to see and walk cross country, following in the footsteps of Rob’s black silhouette. Down to my left the pouring stream of red and white lights raced on, but the cold on my face and the searing raw wind reminded me that nature is still with us, even in the most mundane of man-controlled environments. Alastair Humphreys.
Why not take on a microadventure yourself?
If you undertake a microadventure you could be in for some fun, self-satisfaction and the chance to win £250 worth of kit from Howies!
The Microadventure Rules:
- Your journey must start and finish at your front door (or your office)
- You must cover, through non-motorised means, a circular journey of a distance that is moderately difficult for you
- It must take at least 24 hours (ish)
- You must sleep outdoors in a place you have never been before (really, really ideally not in a tent)
- You must have an outdoor swim
- Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men
Thanks to Alastair’s microadventure inspiration I’ve spent an excellent night wild camping in the Peak District. If you’re thinking about taking on a microadventure, go for it! When you get back let us know what your microadventure was, leave a comment below!
If you enjoyed this interview, why not read some of our interviews with other adventurers?
- Andrew Skurka – Ultrahiker and Expeditionist
- Mikael Strandberg – Legendary Adventurer and Explorer
- Mark Moxon – Long Distance Walker
- Paul Bride – Explorer & Outdoor Photographer
Credit for photos in this post: Alastair Humphreys.