Celebrity adventurer guest post

17 02 2010

Al Humphreys

My project for living within the rules for a month is an adventure into the infraordinary. For this I drew a lot of inspiration from Al Humphreys. Al is a proper adventurer. He’s done a series of truly inspiring things like cycling 46,000 miles round the world over four years. I’m honoured to have a guest post from him here.

Challenging expeditions, challenging convention, challenging ourselves

I have spent over five years of my life away from home on expeditions, with most of the time being spent in Africa, Asia and Latin America. 
I am currently working towards an expedition to the South Pole and a camel journey into the sands of the Empty Quarter in Yemen and Oman. 
Whilst chasing the funding for Antarctica I need to have a couple of small adventures bubbling away at all times to keep the wanderlust under control. I am sure that is understandable. And yet people look at me as though I have gone mad when I tell them about my micro-adventure walking a lap of the M25, the 118-mile motorway that encircles and ensnares London.

Accompanied by my friend and fellow adventurer Rob Lilwall, we began walking off the turkey and mince pies at Junction 1. A week or two later, after about 200 miles of mostly off-road walking we reached Junction 31, the Dartford Bridge and the end of both the M25 and the peregrination.

London’s monstrous ring road may seem an unlikely destination for adventure. The M25, ‘the world’s largest car park’ or ‘the road to hell’, has achieved iconic status as representing all that is dull, depressing and hopeless about modern life.
 Whether its victims are stuck in a crawling traffic jam, driving numbly through the darkness or enduring tasteless, overpriced food in the anonymous sterility of a service station, few of the one million people who drive on the M25 every day see it as a source of excitement, adventure and invigoration. And yet…

And yet you do not need to fly to the other side of the planet to undertake an expedition. You do not need to be an elite athlete, expertly trained or rich to have an adventure. Adventure is a state of mind. I believe that adventure is about stretching yourself: mentally, physically or culturally. It is about doing what you do not normally do, seeing things with fresh and open eyes, pushing yourself hard and doing it to the best of your ability.

If this is true then adventure is accessible to everybody, everywhere, in short segments of time and without having to spend much money. 
If it is true then adventure is all around us, at all times. Even round the M25.

There are, of course, more aspects to adventure than getting out of your comfort zone. There is the whoop-inducing feeling of standing on a remote mountain top, of beautiful scenery that reboots your jaded, urbanised 21st century shell of a soul. There is also the important sensation of having a truly miserable time. Of being so wet, cold, hungry, tired and lost that you begin to hallucinate about the wonderful luxury of your home, of the privilege of hot showers and dry beds and the exquisite joy of a hot cup of tea.

It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.

It is about earning the right to loaf on your sofa.

And so, to tick these other essential boxes, I headed off on another micro-adventure. My companion for this was my friend Andy, who has walked across Europe and was itching for adventures new. (This trip also served as a trial run for a bigger project this summer). It was certainly something to keep the bonfires within us burning during these dark, wet winter days.

Again, the idea was simple: to cross Scotland, off road, by foot and by small, portable inflatable boats, known as Packrafts. The best adventures are those that ring true, that can be summarised in a sentence or two, and planned on the back of a receipt from Stanfords. We took the night train to Mallaig, and walked from the west coast of Scotland up and over Ben Nevis to the source of the river Spey. There we blew up the boats, hopped in, and paddled down to the sea.

I have worked very hard for more than eight years to get myself to a position whereby I can now begin to make a living from doing the things I love doing. Writing books, speaking to audiences to encourage them to light a bonfire in their own bellies and -of course- challenging myself mentally, physically and culturally out in the world’s wild places. 
I feel very fortunate to spend my days doing things I care about. But I also would consider myself a fool if I did not choose to do that.

“Make your own choice, adventurous stranger. Strike the bell and bide the danger, or wonder, till it drives you mad, what would have followed if you had…”

I’ve made my choice.




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