Summer Inspiration from Adventure Pro Alastair Humphreys

When you’re young, everything is an adventure. But for many of us, as we get older, life gets in the way. Maybe that dream trip you always wanted to go on no longer seems possible because of time or money. Or maybe you put it off for retirement. Well, today’s guest says there’s no reason to wait for your next adventure, no matter how large or small it is.

Today’s Guest:

  • British adventurer and author Alastair Humphreys has been on expeditions all around the world, traveling through over 80 countries by bicycle, boat and on foot. 
  • He was named as one of National Geographic’s Adventurers of the year for 2012.


The Beginnings of an Adventurer:
What was your life like growing up?

Alastair Humphreys: I grew up in rural England, so a really pretty part of north England, nice little countryside area. And I had a pretty normal a childhood and school and university. And then just when I finished university, that’s when I decided that before I settled down to real life, I should go on one big adventure. So I decided to try to cycle around the world.

I spent four years cycling 46,000 miles around the world, including through the U.S. When I got back from that trip, I realized I was quite hooked on adventure. And since then I’ve just been chasing adventures and trying to make a living out of it by writing books and making films and just trying to live as adventurously as I can.

Adventure Planning

What steps did you take to go on your first adventure? What, like what kind of planning was involved for that?

Alastair Humphreys: Well, I think to go cycle around the world is actually quite a simple thing to plan. I mean, you need a bicycle, a passport, and some cash and that’s really it. My whole trip cost me about $10,000 for four years. So it’s a very simple project, really. The difficult part of preparation is getting your head into the right place to where you sort of feel that not only do you want to have an adventure, but you actually are going to make it happen. You’re going to stop procrastinating and you’re going to try and be brave enough to go, even though your head’s full of fear and worry and doubts and everyone’s telling you you’re crazy.

I think the mental part of trying to get ready for a big trip is often the hardest part. — Alastair Humphreys

(Photo courtesy Alastair Humphreys)

The Impact of Adventures

How has going on these adventures impacted you?

Alastair Humphreys: I think it’s changed quite a few things. I don’t actually think my personality has really changed, but it’s made me more self confident. It’s given me more enthusiasm and determination to make the most of my opportunities in life. Particularly when you spend a few years cycling through mostly countries that were considerably poorer than the country I was used to from growing up. It just makes me feel grateful for what I’ve got and therefore really motivated not to moan and complain and whine and, like I said, to really make the most of it.

I think the more that I see of the world, the more I realize how little I’ve seen, and that’s filled me with enthusiasm and excitement to try to get more adventures. The more I’ve traveled, the more I felt very safe in pretty much every country and culture I’ve been through. — Alastair Humphreys


Can you give me some ideas on what kind of microadventures there are?

Alastair Humphreys: I think quite a lot of people like the idea of being adventurous and traveling the world and seeing all these great places, but as you’ve touched on already, the reality of life usually means for most people, most of the time there’s either not enough time or not enough money to go have the adventures we dream of. So that then gives us a choice of either to just think, oh, that’s a shame. I can’t do it. Maybe I’ll do it when I retire. Or you could think, I haven’t got enough time to go to the Rocky Mountains this weekend, but what can I do? There’s always an opportunity to do something. I’ve actually spent quite a few years now not doing bigger adventures and instead trying to find short, local, cheap, simple, adventures, much closer to where I live.

So I try to encourage people just to get out at the weekends, go explore your local state parks and go climb a hill, go camping, go swimming in the river. A lot of these things are stuff that we used to enjoy doing as kids. And often as adults we sort of lose the wildness and enthusiasm. So that’s what I’ve been trying to encourage people to do with microadventures. — Alastair Humphreys

(Photo courtesy Alastair Humphreys)

You’ve been on a lot of different adventures. Out of all of them, which one was the most fulfilling for you?

Alastair Humphreys: No one ever forgets their first adventure. So cycling around the world has stayed with me a lot. And the most recent trip I did, I crossed Spain playing–well, trying to play the violin. I’m really bad at violin, but I went with no money, no credit card, only a violin and handful of really, really bad songs. And that was very fulfilling because it was down to me just to trust in the world and the kindness of strangers in the towns I met, who would listen to my music, which sounds like a cat being strangled and still be kind enough to help me. So that was a really rewarding journey.

Press play to listen. Would you consider going on a microadventure? Please let us know in the comments below.