Interview: Adventurer and author Dave Cornthwaite

Dave Cornthwaite is a man on a mission – to complete 25 expeditions of 1000 miles or more, each using a different form of non-motorised transport. Eight journeys in, he tells me about paddling the Mississippi, planning micro adventures and learning to fit your life in your rucksack.

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My favourite expedition so far? Probably paddling my SUP down the Mississippi river. I travelled through nine states, past Minneapolis and New Orleans, through a maze of channels and huge dams, and I met some amazing people along the way. One of the most gruelling was swimming – it was an insane physical challenge and strain on my body, mainly because I’d never swum more than 100m in one go before I started!

I haven’t been bored since 2005. I’ve always got something to do – I potter away on my website, do a lot of writing, plan new journeys. I never stop thinking about what’s next, and if I’m not planning big trips then I focus on little adventures and challenges like my ’50 ways to make £50′ project.

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People tell me they can’t go off exploring because of money or family commitments. I say, go and have a micro adventure! Use your spare time well. Pick something you love – go camping on the weekend, or wake up at 6am and walk or cycle to work. Change your mindset and you’ll gain confidence in your ability to do bigger things.

Half of my expeditions are solo, half are with others. Having another person sharing the trip, such as when Seb and I rode tandem to Vegas, takes the boredom away, but I feel more freedom alone, and I actually think it’s safer as your senses and awareness are heightened.

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Some people think I’m a bit foolhardy, but I’m not. I just want to live. The most dangerous adventure so far has actually been riding along on roads, as you have cede control to others. Right at the beginning of my bikecar trip I was knocked 30 metres off the road by a speeding car just outside Memphis. I couldn’t give up on the trip so early in though, so I carried on peddling another 1000 miles to Miami anyway!

I travel light. In my rucksack I have: three tshirts, a macbook, which is basically my whole office, a small Sony 5t camera, contact lenses, toothbrush and paste, flipflops, a hammock and a rainfly. I used to have a three bedroom terrace full of things I didn’t need – now I know that you are what you can carry.

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People often ask me if the last ten years, when I’ve really been living, have flown by. But when I look back at my years of adventures, they seem slow and full of great memories. Before that, I can’t really remember much of what I did.

There are so many more adventures out there. I’m not in a rush to complete the 17 other journeys I’ve got to do, but I’m excited about future trips. Anything is possible – I could row an ocean, paraglide, travel by unicycle, horseback, dogsled…

Everyone’s saving money and working hard so that they can go off and see the world. What for? You don’t need tons of money. My advice to young would-be adventurers? Stop planning and just do. Stop talking, make a bucket list and then go and tick off your dreams. No-one has ever regretted an adventure.

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