I first heard of Alastair Humphreys a few years ago when I was in the travel section of the famous 'Foyles' bookshop in Charring Cross Road. I was looking for a book that might provide a few interesting locations in London and I picked up a book with a silhouette of a guy on a bike. The book was 'Moods of Future Joys.' I could not put this book down and less than 24 hours later I was back at another bookshop buying part two 'Thunder and Sunshine.' The books retell his trials and tribulations of cycling around the world.
Since cycling around the world Alastair has walked across India, rowed the Atlantic and become a successful author and motivational speaker. His idea of having a 'Microadventure' is very appealing to me. This is where you finish work and for example cycle to the coast, sleep and eat under the stars, to return in time for work the next day.
I asked Alastair a few questions and he very kindly found the time in his busy schedule to answer them. I list my questions and Alastair's responses below.
1) After cycling around the world do you still like cycling? If you do explain why.
I didn't ride for a while but now I do. I love its variety - zipping round London, getting into the wild on a Mountain Bike and tearing up the miles on a road bike are all such different experiences
2) What sort of bike did you take with you for that journey and do you still have it?
Steel Specialized Rockhopper. I got through 3 bikes and I have the final incarnation still. It's broken and dusty in a garage.
3) Cycling around the world must have been a huge commitment in terms of time and finances. How did you cope? How much planning went into it?
It cost £7000. I lived as cheap as I could for 4 years - sleeping wild, eating the cheapest food. It was a stressful extra aspect to the trip, but one that taught me a lot and for which i am retrospectively grateful.
I daydreamed for much longer than I planned. A few months planning is ample for any cycle journey - it's not rocket science.
4) In your book 'Moods for Future Joys' you said that you left behind your girlfriend. Can you explain how you were driven to make this decision.
It was a selfish decision but I knew that if I did not go then I would regret it later in life. I had to see the bigger picture than immediate, now happiness. It was selfish, but I think it was right.
5) Cycling around the world took a long time. How did you maintain relationship with family / friends while you were out on he road?
Email and occasional phone calls. The good thing about friends and family is that they are still there, unchanged, however long you go away for.
6) I love your idea of having a micro adventure. Can you explain what they are, what was your first micro adventure and why we should follow your lead and go on them ourselves?
See www.microadventures.org for this answer. My first main one was walking a lap of the M25
7) I love your YouTube video featuring you and a friend travelling the length of the Shetland Islands on a Brompton and inflatable boat and must have watched it four or fives times. What was the background to this trip and is it as invigorating as it looks to go on a trip like this?
I have wanted to go there for years (explanation to Muckle Flugga / cricket on my blog post about it). I wanted to try to make my trip there more adventurous than mere tourism. And I was intrigued by the versatility of both Bromptons and packrafts.
8) When you were cycling around the world did you have a plan to write books about your adventures upon your return?
Yes - I dreamed of this, and hoped only that one day I might be able to pay for my trip through my book. That was the limit of the ambition.
9) What was your scariest moment when cycling around the world?
Pedalling away from my front door. Dodging Bosnian drivers. Getting held up at gunpoint in Siberia. And a strange man in his pants in Mozambique who was eager to get into bed with me….
10) Of all the countries you visited on your travels which was your favourite and why? Was there anywhere you were not particularly fond of?
India - for the colour and the people. Iceland - for the absence of people and the gorgeous landscapes. Ethiopia is the only country I have not felt very welcome but it was a beautiful, fascinating country.
11) Cycling around the for the best part of four was an incredible achievement. When you had finally completed were you able to return to a normal life?
Sort of. On the one hand it is very easy to slip back into normal life. On the other hand Pandora's box has been opened and nothing will be the same again...
12) You now do a great deal of work as a motivational speaker. What path lead you to this? What do you enjoy this or being out on adventures?
I began doing it via speaking at schools which I found very rewarding. I do enjoy it - it is satisfying and it pays the bills. But I'd have to say i prefer being out on adventure!
13) What sort of Brompton do you own and how often do you get to use it?
A 6 speed bright green one. I use it intermittently.
14) Why do you think that people are so enthusiastic about their Brompton folding bicycle?
I love how easily they fold. I like showing it off to people! They are quirky, you are part of a cult club: it's fun!
15) I would love to see more micro adventure videos on YouTube. Do you have any plans for a dedicated channel for such videos?
I've got a Facebook page for it now and I'm trying to make as many videos as I can.
16) If you could give one piece of advice for the readers of my blog and myself what would it be?
Try a microadventure! Leave work at 5pm, head out of town, sleep on a hill, and be back at work by 9 again. It might prove to be an epiphany… (unless it rains in which case you'll just curse me!)
A very big thank you to Alastair and please check out his website where you will be able to find out lots more about what he gets up to.