How to Find Adventure (Even In Your Own Backyard) With Alastair Humphreys

by Gigi Griffis

This is part of my new interview series, designed to demonstrate the wildly varied ways we can live, work, and chase our dreams. Please keep in mind that, since these are interviews, the opinions, methods, and websites contained within do not necessarily reflect my own views or experiences. (Which is, in my opinion, part of what makes them wonderful.)

Holy crap, you guys.

Today, I’ve got an interview from adventurer, Alastair Humphreys, who (among other things) has walked across India and traveled around the world by bike. He believes in big adventures and small ones, the kind you could have every day. Which is why he wrote a book called Microadventures, all about fitting adventure into everyday life, even if you’ve got a 9 – 5 job or live in a city.

Today, he’s going to talk adventure, travel, getting started, motivation, and more.

Without further ado, then, Alastair, take it away:

First, tell us about you.

I’m an adventurer. I live just outside London. I love being in wild places and writing/photographing/filming those stories. I haven’t done a big adventure for a while, as I’ve been focussing on microadventures. But I get out on those a few times a month – it keeps me sane when I’m computer-bound and book writing.

How did you start adventuring? What made you fall in love with it?

I began because I was rubbish at football (read: soccer) but still wanted a challenge and physical test. I loved the empty places, the beautiful views, the sunsets, and the simplicity of life when you carry everything you need on your back (or in your panniers).

What inspired your first big trip? (And where was it, what did you do, and for how long?)

Reading books of great adventurers and starting to think, “I wonder if I could do something like that…?” Scott, Shackleton, Hillary, Newby, Thesiger, etc.

My first trip was around the world by bike. It took four years, 46,000 miles, and a budget of £7,000.

What drives you? Why push yourself to the limit? Why not, as you said during your polar expedition, “choose a less painful option for life”?

I’m curious about the world. I’m greedy to see lots of it. There is so much variety and I want to sample it all. I am ambitious to make the most of my potential. I am hard on myself and very self-critical – I want to see what I am capable of. I get bored easily. I get jealous of other people when I hear about them doing cool stuff and I want to do it myself!

Alastair Humphreys adventuring

Any tips for people who want to embark on a big adventure themselves? How do you start and how do you stay motivated?

Beginning is the hardest thing. Put a date in the calendar and commit to it. You will never be ready. You will never know enough. You will never have enough cash. Accept that, do your best, then begin anyway.

For you, what are some of the greatest joys of adventures big or small?

The simplicity of life. The slower pace. The natural beautiful landscapes. The solitude or the companionship. The laughter. The suffering and retrospective pleasures.

What have been some of the greatest challenges?

I found rowing the Atlantic massively hard. I was very sea sick. I was afraid. I was lonely. I was very bored. And I look back at it now and think “that was amazing!” (Though I wish we had taken better food and a fan.)

desert walk

You just published a book called Microadventures. Can you tell us what that’s all about and why it’s important?

It’s about trying to help normal people with real, busy lives to squeeze in whatever adventure they are able to manage rather than thinking “I’m busy, unfit, and live in suburbia, therefore adventure is not for me.” You do not need to cycle around the world to have an adventure. I believe it is important at the moment because we are more busy, more skint (read: broke), and more stressed than ever before. A night on a hill can help!

Microadventure     Adventures

How has all this adventuring changed you – and what’s next for you?

It’s made me fitter, more confident, and more aware of the world. It’s made me more impatient to make the most of life, more worried about how short it is and how little I have done. It’s made me restless.

What’s the first thing you do when you get back to civilization after a lengthy adventure?

Shower. Nice food. Football (soccer).

And which of your adventures would you repeat a second time?

Walking across IndiaCrossing Iceland. My Greenland expedition.


Now, what about you guys? What big adventures have you been dreaming about? What microadventures sound exciting to you?

(All images courtesy of Alastair.)

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Ali September 8, 2014 - 2:56 am

Amazing. Not only is it amazing that he’s done things like bicycle around the world, but that it only cost him 7ooo pounds for 4 years?! That’s cheap even for one year! I love this idea of microadventures. Anyone can do it, anyone can add more adventure to their lives without having to do something as drastic as Alastair, but it is pretty inspirational to see the things he’s done. And also, adventure means something different to each person. Thanks for sharing!

gigigriffis September 8, 2014 - 8:44 am

Me too! I loved his book (which is mostly super gorgeous photos of people sleeping in a sleeping bag on a hill or walking through the wilderness) and the whole idea of the microadventure. I honestly couldn’t believe it when he agreed to the interview; it was like Christmas for me.

Jamie September 8, 2014 - 11:56 pm

This is awesome! I LOVE the idea of microadventures and would totally do them all the time while I’m still in school and waiting for my time to come to travel full time, but I need a travel buddy!! I imagine it would be so much more fun to share the microadventure with someone.

gigigriffis September 9, 2014 - 1:11 am

Right?! One of the things Alastair does is find random microadventure people in his area using Twitter and the hashtag #microadventure. If you are looking for sleep-on-a-hill buddies, maybe try that.

Mick Bailey September 9, 2014 - 10:43 am

Legend. Inspiring.

gigigriffis September 9, 2014 - 11:12 am


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