'Adventure means living the life you have always imagined.’
(Chinese fortune cookie quote)
We expected the final St Mary’s lecture of 2015 by Alastair Humphreys to be eventful, especially when he asked for the use of a violin and bow. How right we were! Alastair, who is a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, treated us to an exceptionally vivid account of his daring, and sometimes not quite so daring, feats both at home and abroad.
Taking as his theme ‘The Doorstep Mile’, representing the most difficult and vital first step on the road to adventure, Alastair described how despite lack of athleticism, skills and funding, he had decided to launch himself as an international explorer with what little he had.
Starting with a marathon four-year, 46,000-mile lone bike ride around the world, Alastair showed photographs of the amazing landscapes he saw on his route - spectacular sights that raised his flagging spirits, such as Bolivia’s salt lakes and the wilderness of Patagonia. Passing through 60 different countries, he gave accounts of his trek across sweltering desert sands (45C); the icy terrain of freezing Siberia (-40C); and of the lone Canadian fireman trying to tackle a blaze the size of Wales. Somehow Alastair always found a way through!
This was followed by more tales and striking footage of further expeditions including a 1,000-mile hike across the harsh terrain of the Empty Quarter desert which was made into a film; walking along the course of the Kaveri River in India; and, whilst admitting that the blisters, seasickness and dangers of being eaten by sharks held little appeal, a 3,000-mile rowing voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.
Although to most of us the idea of such an undertaking is a mad dream, Alastair believes that with a little bit of planning, a modest budget and a small amount of time, there is an opportunity for everyone to have an adventure and we do not have to travel any great distance to do it. He proved this by walking a lap of the M25 over eight days, sleeping under a plastic sheet, warding off foxes and eating ketchup sandwiches. Always relishing a challenge, this was during one of the coldest winters in 30 years. If this seems too ambitious, there is always the option of simply sleeping in the open for a night, with mobile phone turned off and gazing at the stars.
Such was the pace and vibrancy of Alastair’s exploits that we felt as if we had experienced a thrilling ‘microadventure’ of our own, whilst sitting in the safety of the school Chapel - well he did say it could be close to home! As for the violin, this is just part of Alastair’s plan for the next great quest, inspired by his favourite book by Laurie Lee about busking around Spain. The task of becoming an expert violinist might just prove to be another of Alastair’s epic adventures!
Signed copies of Alastair’s books, including bestseller Microadventures can be ordered through his website at: http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/books/