“Raw sewage is flowing into rivers at thousands of sites across England and Wales, harming wildlife and health.”
Wowzers. The apocalypse has arrived. (Or at least Ophelia and her Saharan dust cloud.) Excellent excuse for writing procrastination.
Progress report on my Spain book. Draft 4, and blooming miles still to go. Writing books kills me! 😂⠀
Text is down to 53,000 words. I’ve cut 30,000 words which always helps. Less, but better... Or that’s the plan, at least.
A Winter Microadventure: Cycle to the Sea
I'll be chatting about Microadventures at the Cheltenham Literature Festival this Sunday. Come along if you fancy!
People's connection to the natural environment: it's the foundation of what we are. Out in the rain with @NorthDevonNT. Full video on my website: http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/people-spending-night-outdoors/
Microadventure Ideas - a bunch of suggestions:
Waterlog: A Swimmer's Journey from City to Sea
A really lovely, tender film that captures expedition life as truthfully as anything I have watched in a long time:
eBay seems to have cajoled me into buying my first ever ‘proper’ camera...
(1/2) Maybe an idea for your weekend? A #microadventure mission to the nearest seaside?
(2/2) The second half of cycling to the sea. You don’t always get what you want. Rocking a fine 2014 barnet, I might add... #microadventure
Blue Moon Microadventure
Hate Crowds? You Are Crowds. - semi-rad.com
“you should approach your creative projects as gifts you make for your friends, and I fully endorse that idea.”
The team behind the Women in Adventure project are running a survey exploring the correlation between the outdoors and mental wellbeing - ultimately producing results which could be use to help organisations and projects access funding as well as empower people to get outside more. Please take a couple of minutes to fill it out, if you're interested:
Packing for a Bike Adventure - a 15 second planning video:
Four Seasons of Microadventure - a challenge you can start any time:
The art of 'runnelling': North Devon National Trust busy imitating cows as they care for butterflies! Full video on my website: http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/people-spending-night-outdoors/
How to Film your Expedition -
The Fred Whitton Challenge - I loved this ride:
The initiative to make Greater London the world's first #NationalParkCity.
For a limited time you can discover all the open green spaces and outdoor activities with this FREE London National Park City Map: http://www.nationalparkcity.london/map
Find out more:
Last night's river maps of London was popular. So here's the river map of all Britain that hangs on my shed wall, inspiring adventures every time I look at it.
Darkened Skies - a microadventure on Exmoor:
There's a new addition to my occasional video series about people who love the outdoors, in very different ways:
People tend to focus on the big, exciting headline stories of Adventurers and their adventures. The guts and the glory. The winning sunset shots. The mystique of the “Adventurer”, out there doing his or her thing, far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife.
Subsequently this can all seem very removed from real life and ordinary people. Cool, perhaps, but not achievable.
But, one thing that has become apparent to me from spending a couple of decades hanging around with so-called Adventurers, is how ordinary they / we all are. Not particularly talented, athletic, or rich. Without exception. So how come they are off doing fabulous adventures whilst all the similar people who enjoy their stories are not?
I believe it comes down to boldness (not baldness, Ben…). Later down the line you certainly need resilience, optimism, motivation, curiosity and ambition. But that all comes later. To get started, you simply need to make a bold step towards where you want to be.
There’s never a perfect time. You’re never as rich, prepared, fit or free as you’d like to be.
So you just have to get on and commit to changing the direction your life is going in.
For me, this moment was turning down a good teaching job, in a school that I liked, and declaring - to the school, to the world, to myself - that I was going to go down a different route.
If you’re a woulda, coulda, shoulda kind of guy, you’re never going to get started. You can make whatever excuses you like, blame whatever you like. But, in the end, if you’re going to cycle round the world (or whatever your personal equivalent of that is), then you need to commit to it.
And so I toddled off round the world, had myself a big adventure. Came home. Wrote a book. Got invited to speak about my book at one of the most prestigious of all literary festivals. Which I try to say nonchalantly, but secretly I’m thinking “Kapow!” This is everything I dreamed of! Doing big trips, writing books, getting my ego massaged. Kapow!
But, once again, this isn’t the reality. People tend to focus on the success stories (though, by the way, what a ‘relative’, murky word is ‘success’…)
Here is the reality. I toddled off round the world, had myself a big adventure. Came home. Wrote a book. And it got rejected. By every publishing house under the sun. I failed. I cried. I was depressed. I gave up. Excuses and blame were flying around, trying to protect my crushed self-confidence.
I gave up.
But then a friend of mine (thank you, Paul), suggested I should self-publish my book. I’d already written it. It might as well see the light of day. Who cares if only your Mum reads it. At least the project will have some completion.
So I followed Paul’s advice, and self-published my first book. It’s a bit rough round the edges, crying out for a decent editor, but at least I could now call myself “an author”. When I held the book in my hands for the first time I was ridiculously proud.
Next step: stick the book on Amazon. Once you have a book on Amazon, you’re a legitimate writer, right? A pro! So, laboriously, I jumped through all the hoops of getting my book listed on Amazon. I was a pro! This was brilliant!
Take a look at my first Amazon listing. When I re-discovered this a couple of years ago it made me laugh out loud. The flash of my camera dazzling on the cover. My dodgy blue bedroom carpet visible round the edges. It’s terrible! Awful! Embarrassing! I laugh at it now.
But here’s the thing. Ten years down the line, I’m so proud of that Amazon posting and that self-published book. Because I just got on and did it. I said “screw you” to everyone in the publishing world, the so-called experts, the gatekeepers who had turned me away, and I said “I’m just going to do it anyway.”
Today that book’s still in print. It’s sold tens of thousands of copies, is rated five-star on Amazon, and it began the journey that got me to poncing around at fancy literary festivals.
Begin, Begin, Begin.
Once you have begun, then you can move on to consider the next phase: turning what you love into your life. Earning the money you need to live from your adventures.
After that first book I began a cycle that lasted for many years. The plan, loosely, was to save up my money and go do an interesting adventure each year. Then I’d come home and write books, write articles, give talks in order to start earning money for the next adventure.
Books, articles and talks all make total sense for an adventurer. You do some work. Then you get paid.
What makes less initial sense is all the work you choose to do that does not earn money. I spent several years treating my blog as a half-time job, 50% of my time and effort, despite not earning anything from this. I was trying to build an audience, build some credibility. Both those things are important. And both take time. Lots of time. There’s an archive of 1600 articles on my website. They’ve resulted in so many bookings for speaking engagements and so on.
Around that time I also spent £1600 on a new video camera. The fact that I still remember the price eight years on shows how terrifyingly expensive this was to me at the time. Extra terrifying because I had never filmed anything in my life. But I saw the beautiful filming capabilities of this brand new invention - the digital SLR camera that could record movies, and I took a punt. I said to myself, “if I could get good at this, filming my adventures, then surely this will help me, somehow, somewhere, some day.”
I gambled that if I could learn how to make nice films about my adventures, before everyone else learned how to do it, then that might give me a little advantage.
And so I spent years teaching myself on Google and YouTube how to use a camera, how to film stuff, how to edit a film. My films weren’t very good (of course they weren’t - I was a beginner! Why do we assume we must be brilliant straight away or quit if we are not?). Hardly anyone watched them. But I persevered. I persevered because I loved it, and because I wanted to get good.
Finally, now, I’m in a position where I have begun to earn money from making films. People pay me to go and do awesome stuff - build rafts, see the Northern Lights - and to make films about it.
That £1600 today feels like an absolute bargain. £1600 and eight years of learning.
But there are caveats to this story. Yes, I earn my money entirely from adventure-y stuff. Yes, I get to spend weekdays running over the hills that I love.
But, but, I have to turn that run which I love into something sellable. Or, at least into something of interest for the internet. I don’t just run over the hills. I plan my routes, think about sunrise timings and angles, set up tripods, run past the camera, collect my tripod. And repeat over and over again. And then I go home and spend days cooped up behind a computer editing the film, working at a desk, just like most ordinary people do.
Adventure becomes less pure when it is your job.
At times you need to commercialise things which in your heart you’d like to be purer than that. Your bank account doesn’t lie though. This is work now.
You spend a hell of a lot of time at a desk in order to make it look as though your life is not spent behind a desk.
Is it worth it? For me: yes. I love nearly every part of what I spend my days doing. I’m thankful for that.
So, how do you make a living from adventure?
I get asked this question a lot.
In fact, I used to ask other people this question a lot.
Many years ago, I emailed Bear Grylls to ask him this question.
Do your job well.
If you do the job well, the rest will come.
This was not the answer I wanted at the time. I wanted a magic solution to fame, fortune, and a mud-smeared handsome face.
Alas, or perhaps I mean, thankfully, it’s not how it works. You simply have to put in the time.
Here’s the best summary I have come up with for making your living out of adventure.
It boils down, in the first place, to doing something big, exciting and meaningful in your life. If you’re not willing to graft anonymously and skint for that phase, then you’re in the wrong game.
But the problem with this cycle is how do you begin? How do you get the money you need for your first massive adventure?
Well, you don’t. You just go do something cheap and within your means, and you begin anyway.
You don’t need a lot of money to have a cool adventure.
Last summer I bought a cheap return flight to Spain. Then I turned up, with no money at all, and spent a glorious month walking through northern Spain, earning all of the money I needed by busking on my violin. I’m a terrible violinist, but I earned €125. That shows that a RyanAir flight plus €125 (or a violin) is all you need for your first adventure.
Don’t make excuses. Don’t play the blame game.
Make a plan, make something happen.
And, if you don’t wish to commit to a big adventure, then at least squeeze in some microadventures. Swim in rivers, walk under the full moon, sleep on your local hill. You can certainly live adventurously without having to call yourself an Adventurer.
“The life that you could still live, you should live.”
Autumn’s arrival should not mean the end of enjoyable nights out. Here's how to build a 'basha':
"I love the adventures that you do, but is it possible / safe for a lone female?" -
For those who cannot climb mountains because of illness - an interesting photography project:
Microadventure Advice for Women -
Ultralight Cycle Touring - some gear ideas:
Legality and Safety of Camping Wild - an explanation
Do you think increasing legal access to wilderness areas is a good idea, or not? Allemansrätten means "every man's right": the freedom to roam the land. I made a film about it, here: https://vimeo.com/236110512
Join me over lunch, today. I'll be on Facebook Live at 1pm, answering all your questions: https://www.facebook.com/viewranger/ Hit me with some goodies!
It's that time of year again: time to scout for speakers for next year's Night of Adventure. Recommendations, please, for people to speak about the outstanding expeditions of the past year. Thank you!
How to Find a Location for a Microadventure
Rules of 21st Century adventure film-making: hero-pose drone shots are seemingly compulsory. https://vimeo.com/236110512 to watch me gaze stoically into the distance.
How To Turn A Beer Can Into The Only Camping Stove You'll Ever Need -
I've never read this much of Roosevelt's famous speech before. It's fabulous:
"Let the man of learning, the man of lettered leisure, beware of that queer and cheap temptation to pose to himself and to others as the cynic, as the man who has outgrown emotions and beliefs, the man to whom good and evil are as one. The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twisted pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt.
There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes second to achievement. A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticise work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life's realities — all these are marks, not, as the possessor would fain think, of superiority, but of weakness. They mark the men unfit to bear their part manfully in the stern strife of living, who seek, in the affectation of contempt for the achievements of others, to hide from others and from themselves their own weakness. The rôle is easy; there is none easier, save only the rôle of the man who sneers alike at both criticism and performance.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
Big and bold. Robert Macfarlane's new book just landed on my doorstep. First impression: lavishly beautiful.
Curry and Caves: a Microadventure
“Harvest Moon: What is it? And when is it?” (It's tonight - here's some facts:)