Notes from last night: "An Evening with Alastair Humphreys - Adventurer, Author, Entrepreneur"

Al Humphreys

Round-the-world cyclist, Alastair Humphreys, needs little introduction to most Escape the City members. Back for a fourth time last night, Humphreys inspired a heap of people in a packed Bathtub to Boardroom with tales of his earlier adventures and the pathway to his latest project, Microadventures.

What’s a microadventure, I hear you ask?

The blurb from Humphreys ‘Microadventures’ book sums it up best:

“It’s close to home, cheap, simple, short and 100% guaranteed to refresh your life. It takes the spirit of a big adventure and squeezes it into a day or even a few hours…whether it’s sleeping on a hilltop, or going for a wild swim…”

The starting point on Humphreys microadventure journey was his realisation that most people are interested in adventure, even if they may not want to go on an adventure themselves. This prompted him to consider how he could get more people to get outside and explore. So instead of embarking on his initial plan of a trip to the South Pole, Humphreys decided to “dick around (circumnavigate on foot) on the M25” instead. Living on ketchup sandwiches and foraging in kebab shops, the journey started to feel like an adventure – “there were so many comparisons with cycling around the world”.

From the M25, Humphreys explored several ‘types’ of microadventure (all set out in his book), eventually arriving at the ‘5-9’ as something that would be accessible to most people.

The idea is simple. Pack kit, meet friends, have dinner, take a short train journey somewhere, find a comfy field or a hill, sleep under the stars, wake up, get back on the train in time to be at your desk for 9am.

So why should we microadventure?

“It’s a fantastic thing to step back from your life.”

Reflecting on a recent sojourn up a hill in Glasgow, Humphreys showed us a pic of a local policeman who had swapped a night of racing around town, flashing blue lights on, for a night under the stars. This change to normal routine allowed him see Glasgow in contrast – as a city of silent beauty.

You just need to “trust yourself that you’ll find some countryside. All the good stuff is on the other side of uncertainty.”

Indeed, Humphreys’ path from cyclist to adventurer to writer to entrepreneur shows us that adventurer and entrepreneur are just a few letters short of being anagrams of each other. Humphreys sees the similarity too: “Escape the City is such a good thing – it’s something I associated with even though I had no city to escape from.”

With that mind, some lessons from last night: 

1. Say it often enough, people start to believe you.

Once you know what you want to do, start calling yourself an adventurer, entrepreneur or writer. If you say it often enough, people start to believe you. Ignore negative people, or use their negativity to move yourself forwards. Humphreys message was “To those who knock me back, thanks for fueling the fire.”

2. The hardest part is forcing yourself to begin.

“Just go from somewhere to somewhere.”

On one of his microadventure test runs, Humphreys went from the highest point in Cumbria to its lowest point accompanied by his mate who lives in the area. And as his friend discovered, if you try a new way of travelling, you just might discover roads that you have never been down before.

3. Pare it down

In kit terms, this means just take the essentials with you (bivvy bag, lots and lots of warm stuff, waterproof coat).

In business terms, it means focusing on what the absolutely must-do next steps are. What do you need to take with you right now? Don’t try and do it all at once as you’ll weigh yourself down.

Humphreys didn’t start out as an entrepreneur, author, or corporate away day business owner. He started out just knowing that he wanted to cycle around the world. That was enough. From there everything else grew until his ‘life in adventure became self-financing.’

4. Focus on 5-9

Humphreys looked at what could be done in the 16 hours that we have between each working day. What kind of adventure could we fit in overnight and have us back at our desks by 9am the next day?

If you are currently trying to change career or do things around your day job, change your focus. Look at the opportunities that each day brings instead of the obstacles. Work out what you can do outside of work or in the time that you currently have available. What will help fuel your dream or take you that step further? Use that time wisely and in a way that refreshes your thinking.

5. Do something out of the ordinary in an ordinary environment (and people will respond to it).

Like his turn about the M25, microadventuring has also inspired the masses. Loving Humphreys’ concept, Anna McNuff started a mini microadventure movement by recruiting randoms via Twitter/ Facebook to sleep under the stars in the six counties around London. Living proof that you “don’t need to go far, you just need to decide you are going to do it”.

If you want to get involved, McNuff’s next microadventure is on Wednesday 30 July. Click here for details.

6. In short, just start.

alastair humphreysI’ll leave the last word to Humphreys: “If you take a big step away from the road that everyone else is on, you have the entire road to yourself. If you don’t care what’s around the next corner, but are curious to find out, then it’s a great road to be on.”

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Guest Reviewer: This post was written by Lara Hayward. You can follow her on Twitter (@auspiciouspixie) or on her blog.

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