I was contacted recently by Daniel at CheapTents.com who was conducting a series of interviews with “adventurers”. Below are my answers to his questions.
1. What inspired you to become an Adventurer?
I used to work in the Royal Geographical Society. Every day there would be a seasoned expeditioner coming into the British Schools Exploring Society offices, tales of adventure in the lecture theatre and explorer legends using the tea room. It was impossible not to be inspired.
2. Which of your adventures has been the most life changing?
My first expedition was a mountaineering trip to Kyrgyzstan. We were way out of our depth. I’d never been outside of Europe before and had only worn crampons twice. It produced some of the most harrowing experiences of my life but changed my world view and gave me a new thirst and confidence, even if I didn’t realise it at the time.
3. What is your biggest weakness?
This suddenly feels like a job interview. One thing of which I am guilty with my expeditions is putting the blinkers on and thinking about nothing other than the finish line. That tends to means I don’t always enjoy it whilst it’s happening, only in hindsight.
4. What is the toughest choice that you have had whilst out on an expedition?
I turned back 50-metres from the top of a 5,500-metre peak in Bolivia because we just couldn’t find a safe way to the summit. It was a blow that still irks sometimes but, at the time, we made the decision quickly, no doubt encouraged by the onsetting chill.
5. Of all the places you’ve visited, which has left the most lasting impression?
The Wahiba Sands desert in Oman. It was my first proper desert experience and it conformed perfectly to the stereotype. An endless sea of bright orange sand and stifling heat. It was so alien and the transition from the normal world so sudden.
6. Do you have any expeditions planned for next year or further ahead?
I’ve had some health problems and a shoulder operation which have taken me out of action since my last trip to Patagonia in January. We’ll carry on swimming the Thames when my shoulder’s up to it and a big cycling trip remains on the cards.
7. You advocate that adventure should be available to everyone. How do you help people to achieve this?
I have written new articles for my website twice a week for the last three years with the specific aim of promulgating the merits of adventure, encouraging people to get outside, and trying to break down some of the perceived barriers such as fitness, money, time and expertise (none of which you need).
I’ve written a book – ‘How to Get to the North Pole and Other Iconic Adventures‘ – along these same lines, and I’ve given a number of talks.
I also offer free advice through my website and respond to every email I get.
8. What ideas do you have for adding adventure into our everyday lives?
What a wonderfully pertinent question! Might I direct your readers towards my series of Everyday Adventure ideas.
9. What tips can you provide to help aspiring adventurers organise an expedition?
Start, start, start. Planning an expedition can be daunting. People often spend a lot of time and energy searching for detailed answers to a multitude of questions before committing to a plan. In truth, even the most experienced travellers will come back from expeditions and still not have those answers.
Yes, research is important but don’t get bogged down in it. Unless you are planning the most cutting edge, dangerous venture then the minutiae won’t matter. Just get the project under way and you’ll learn as you go.
10. What are your favourite bits of gear, and why?
My long sleeve Helly Hansen base layer has been with me for over a decade. I’ve used it climbing at 6,000-metres and pulk dragging in the high Arctic, as well across the UK and during foot races. It’s cheap, it stinks, it performs brilliantly and it’s just as good as the day I bought it.
I also love my Rab pertex layer too. It squashes to about the size of a golf ball and is the weight of a tiny cloud but it’s so good for windy conditions in when cycling, running and out in the mountains.
11. Any people or sponsors that you’d like thank?
I’ll thank my wife for providing a lot of the ideas for my recent trips and tolerating my blinkered, objective-focused approached to challenges.
I don’t really have many sponsors for my trips but I’ll gladly plug the people that helped on my trip to Patagonia: Primus and Rosker
12. Anything else you would like to say?
I’ll just take the opportunity to emphasise that adventure is a state of mind. It needn’t require time, money or expertise. You can do it on your lunch break and manage it on a shoe-string. My website’s full of resources and motivational pieces, and there are many other great blogs out there for inspiration if you need it. But don’t spend too long at your computer. That rather defeats the purpose.
(This interview first appeared at CheapTents.com)