A chat with Microadventures author Alastair Humphreys on pedalling across the planet, singing in public and escaping to the wilderness.
Why do you think people respond so well to your outlook on the world?
I think it’s because my outlook on adventure is attainable and achievable for normal people. (I am a normal person!). It’s not macho, elitist hardcore stuff. Just trying to be the best version of yourself you can be. And doing it with a sense of humour and laughing at yourself.
What’s been the hardest challenge you’ve undertaken?
Cycling round the world was the biggest journey I have done. But it was also the first big one too. And that made it particularly hard. Unfortunately you do not know that you are capable of doing big stuff until you have actually done big stuff. That’s the paradox that stops more people getting out the front door, beginning, and surprising themselves…
How did it feel to be chosen as one of National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year?
A huge surprise, slightly embarrassing (I hadn’t done anything epic to deserve it), and also very exciting. It felt like an affirmation of my ideas.
You coined the phrase ‘microadventure’ in your new book. Why do you think little escapes are so important?
Because most people do not have the time, money or skills for a big adventure. Most people are busy and live in suburbia. But they too yearn for adventure. I wanted to show that it is possible for everyone.
Do you have a favourite kind of microadventure?
I think the simpler the better. So anything that requires very little gear, somewhere you have never been, with a couple of good friends.
Favourite places to escape to in Britain?
Skye, the Yorkshire Dales and Camley Street Natural Park in London.
Do you ever get bored?
Yes! I have a terrible boredom threshold – it’s why I’m always doing new things and juggling more things than I should be doing!
What’s your next big challenge?
Trying to work out what book to write next! I always feel a huge mental and emotional lull after a project is done (the Microadventures book, say) and it’s a struggle to pick myself up and start again.
Is there anything you’re terrible at?
Lots of things! Real life. Acting my age. Thinking about pensions. Small talk. Singing in public.
What would be your advice for aspiring young explorers?
Begin! Go do a great trip, just for the hell of it. Don’t do it because you want to have stuff to Tweet about. Just do something big and difficult and exciting!