I’ve just been laughing. Alex offered to host a guest blog for me and to ensure I struck the right tone I made haste to his latest post (see below this blog post), which promptly arrived at this line: People are cycling in every direction, rowing new routes and finding the craziest ways to travel on the (relative) cheap.
Hello, I thought, let’s click on that ‘craziest ways to travel’ link. I did, and there I was, looking at myself. It had clicked straight through to my website.
Now, once upon a time I may have taken offence, but it’s totally my own fault, I did start off on a skateboard, after all. Back then I was green to everything; expeditions, endurance, blister reconstruction, the world of adventure, even to myself. Slowly I’ve worked out what makes me tick and as a consequence I’ve unintentionally nudged my way into the expedition world and now feel comfortable sharing my stories alongside ocean rowers, polar explorers, round-the-world cyclists and jungle walkers. The world is getting smaller, we’re told, but as far as I’m concerned it’s about the same size that it always has been. Sure, the possibilities of being the First or the Fastest are diminishing, but aren’t these just hooks for sponsorship, as opposed to the base reason for any feat? Hundreds of people have peaked Everest this year, but if I go climbing it’ll be my experience, my lessons, my First.
Don’t misread me; to make a living from this adventure lark we all need to play the game a bit and I’m no exception - who in their right mind would turn down the chance to hang another Guinness Certificate in their toilet?! But there’s playing the game, then enjoying the game, and boy I’m having a ball right now.
First though, let me hit you with some dates:
May 2006 – Skated UK.
August 2006 to January 2007 – Skated Australia.
October to December 2009 – Walked & Kayaked the Murray River.
Hold on! What the hell happened between January 2007 and October 2009? That’s more than two years! I’ll tell you what happened, I had absolutely no plan or direction and I drifted aimlessly with just a couple of nice tales to keep me afloat.
A waste they may have been, but it took me those two years to work it all out. I didn’t have any mentors, I didn’t even know any adventurers until Sarah Outen called me before my Murray River kayak and told me we’d gonet to the same school. But I did know that a good, hard journey gave me a sense of freedom and achievement that nothing else could rival. I’d never been an outstanding athlete or a high academic achiever, but I had displayed a remarkable ability to complete things to a moderate level and then move on before it got too good or serious to constitute a commitment! Success requires us to play to our strengths, trust our gut instinct and work hard enough to ensure we get lucky. So I started doing all three.
No longer did I want to build an expedition from the ground-up, make it happen and then float around afterwards because I felt like I’d earned a rest. I needed focus and these are the elements I used to comprise my master plan:
1) I’m too lazy to go to the gym, so I need a regular expedition to keep me in shape.
2) I’m not particularly flash at anything, so travelling in different ways will ensure I don’t jeopardise my reputation by becoming a specialist.
3) I want a long-term challenge, a real test.
4) I need stories, because all I’ve ever really wanted to do was write. And without stories, that’s quite hard.
5) I love learning new skills, so multiple forms of transport – some crazy, some acceptable – will tick that box.
6) We make enough of a mess of our planet, so I’ll be travelling without motors or fuel, thank you. It’ll be more of a test that way, and cheaper, too.
7) I need a conduit to refine my creative skills. Writing, filmmaking and editing, photography.
8) Whatever this plan is, it needs to take a few years, because it’ll be far too much effort cooking up something else after this.
Simple. Seriously, if you’re struggling to define the things that aren’t quite right in your life, write them down. Bucket-listing works if you’re trying to ascertain a goal, too. I brought my needs together and created Expedition1000; twenty-five separate journeys of 1000 miles or more, each one using a different form of non-motorised transport. Throughout the project I’d have to undertake at least one expedition on each continent, cross the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans and reach both the North and South Poles. Long expeditions, short ones, fast ones and slow ones. Deserts and jungles and oceans and cold places. Suddenly, everything came together.
To date I’ve completed three of the journeys and have another eight in the planning stage. An almighty list lies on my website, constantly being formed and jiggled and added to. I have one rule, that I won’t do a journey for the sake of ticking another one off the list. I don’t want to find myself in a position of danger, extreme fatigue or disappointment only to realise that I’m in the middle of an ice cap on a unicycle purely because it sounded like a good idea. Expedition1000 has made me a professional as opposed to an irregular adventurist, and it has delivered me a world of freedom and opportunity. Invitations are coming in from all angles; from paragliding across Nepal (never mind the vertigo) to riding a horse across Mongolia, cycling the Americas to floating down a river in a tyre.
My next journey begins on June 20th, a 2400 mile source to sea descent of the Mississippi River by Stand Up Paddleboard. I’m not a massive fan of fast-flowing water or alligators, but travelling down a river is both blissful and challenging and my mode of transport this time around sums up the glorious simplicity of my project. One board, one paddle, and kit in dry bags on the deck. The only working parts are in my body, and that’s holding up pretty well right now. More importantly, my head is right. I’m free, I’m happy, and I’m about to have the adventure of a lifetime, another one!