How to Turn Your Life Into a Series of Epic Adventures With Dave Cornthwaite

by gigigriffis

This is part of my unconventional 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.)


Today, I’m pleased to have Dave Cornthwaite, whose current (epic) goal is to take 25 journeys of at least 1,000 miles, each using a different form of non-motorized transport. He’s just back from kayaking Scandanavia and I’m so excited that he agreed to share some of his adventures and tips with us.

Without further ado, then…

First, tell us about you. Where do you live? What do you love? How often do you adventure?

I live everywhere! Seriously, I don’t have a home and am fairly nomadic. It’s a choice to live simply and not be weighed down and restricted by the costs of owning or renting a house, which would just take away the freedom (and money) which allows me to live a life I love. I adventure pretty much every day, always trying new things, being creative, forming projects and journeys in my mind. I carry out between one and three big expeditions a year and plenty of smaller trips in between.

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

Ten years ago I had a house, job, cat. It didn’t suit me at all. So I made a decision never again to do something I didn’t enjoy just for money and started doing new things. I quit my job two weeks after trying out a long skateboard and decided to skate further than anyone else ever had. The freedom, the purpose, the challenges you face on a day-to-day basis…at the same time as getting fit, healthy, building up the ability and content to have good conversations. This is why I love adventure.

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

I realized I was living a life that didn’t suit me, but it was everything that I thought I was supposed to have when I was growing up. The feeling of suddenly being lost in an apparently familiar world was both depressing and – once I’d decided to make a change – liberating. My first trip was on a skateboard, the length of Britain. It took 34 days and covered 896 miles, but that was a warm-up for a much larger 3,618 mile journey between Perth and Brisbane in Australia. I was on my board for five months.

What drives you? Why push yourself to the limit?

I think staying in one place and living a monotonous, samey life is just about the most painful thing a person could do. I mean, we’re blessed with the ability to grow and develop our abilities, so why waste that opportunity?

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

You decide. It’s that simple. Block out what other people say to try and deter you. Treat the problems or concerns with making your project happen as part of the challenge. Love every bit of the process and just do it!

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

So many things – from discovering blissful campsites on Swedish islands to meeting fantastic strangers who become friends instantly. I love being outdoors, remembering who I am, and enjoying life so much I can laugh out loud (by myself) at will.

What have been some of the greatest challenges? Anything you wish you knew before you set out?

I don’t do much research before most journeys because I want to experience the challenge as it happens. For me, any expectations and prior knowledge takes away from the moment.

There have been SO many huge challenges. Crossing the Nullarbor Plain in Australia on a skateboard, average temperature 45 degrees celsius (that’s 113 fahrenheit). Cauldrons of water surrounding my kayak in both the North Sea and the Baltic when rounding Scandinavia. Getting hit by a car just after leaving Memphis on my Bikecar Expedition. The biggest one of the lot was pulling myself out of the web of a job/ house/ life I didn’t really like to start adventuring.

Dave in the Baltic  (Photo ©Leif Rosas)

Your big mantra is Say Yes More, correct? Can you tell us about that? Where did it come from and what does it mean to you?

Correct. The more you say yes, the more you experience, the more opportunities you take, and the more doors that subsequently open. The more you do, the more you get to know yourself (and that also includes what you should say no to), the more you develop, and the closer you get to honoring your potential as a human. Sitting there on the couch and saying no to cool and new things is a waste of life, so don’t!

Your current project is called Expedition1000, yes? Can you tell us what that is and what it encompasses?

Expedition1000 is 25 journeys, each a minimum of 1,000 miles, each using a different form of non-motorized transport. It’s a project that largely defines my “career” as an adventurer and keeps me focused, humble, and moving! I’ve completed 11 of the journeys now, which, if you think about it, is HUGE, but I’m not even halfway there, which puts things in perspective.

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

I’m totally different to the bloke I was 10 years ago. I’m calmer, make better decisions, and am definitely more useful as a human. And I know I can do anything.

I live simply, don’t ever do anything I don’t like just for money, and don’t have a five-year plan. I just know that when I wake up each morning I’m going to have a good day because nobody else has power over what I do with my time.

And what’s next? I’m writing a book about my recent Hobie kayak journey through Scandinavia and in December I’ll be running the latest Exploring Mindset project, helping people find their purpose in the beautiful setting of a yacht on the Caribbean. We still have places! 

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

I have a big English breakfast and a good rest! Then I get creative: make films, write books, give talks. And when I’m ready, I’ll plan the next adventure.

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

I think the Stand Up Paddleboard journey down the Mississippi River was decidedly awesome. I might do that again in a few years and the cool thing is everything would be different. The weather, the river levels, the people. Nothing ever stands still on a river, that’s why I love ’em…

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Thanks again to Dave for the interview. Now, what about you guys: what kind of adventures do you dream about or do?

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6 comments

Neens Bea October 30, 2014 - 6:02 pm

Great interview! Being Norwegian myself, I’ll definitely keep an eye out for when his book about kayaking around Scandinavia is published! :-D

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gigigriffis October 31, 2014 - 5:21 am

I’m curious about that one too.

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loni November 1, 2014 - 2:37 pm

What an inspiration !

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gigigriffis November 1, 2014 - 2:40 pm

Right? I’m a big fan.

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Rhonda November 26, 2014 - 11:10 am

Loved that interview Gigi! Thanks for sharing. What a fantastic outlook on making life an adventure, not a 9-5 grind. I love the quote “are you really living life…or are you just paying bills until you die”. I don’t know if I can take one more story about someone who retired and shortly after died of cancer/ a car accident/ whatever… I say live while you can!

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gigigriffis February 4, 2015 - 9:56 am

Agreed!

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