Alastair Humphreys

We talk Macro- and Microadventure with a Nat Geo Explorer of the Year.
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Nov 14, 2013 | By Matthew Ankeny

Alastair Humphreys has been busy at work. A lot of business—writing a book, making a movie. A lot of travel—rowing across the Atlantic Ocean, trekking the Arabian Peninsula. And a lot of hours in the office.

Of course, for Alastair, the office isn't a terrible place to be. When you're donning the title of Explorer, you've got, really, all of Mother Earth as your workspace. And when we talked to Alastair from across the pond (he’s currently in London), he didn't seem to sweat the hard labor.

A little background: Alastair’s a National Geographic Explorer of the Year, the force behind the “Microadventure” movement, a prodigious blogger, motivational speaker, author of five books, and full-time adventurer. Beyond that, he's normal—36 years old, married (irony withheld, his wife's an accountant), enjoys beer.

After college, he taught in Africa, and struck with a wave of wanderlust, he set off around the world. By bike. Four years, three months and 46,000 miles later, he rode his bike back to his home in Yorkshire.

Lately, he’s done a few trips:

  • A 150 mile race, the Marathon des Sables in the Sahara (“the toughest footrace on earth”). In his words: It’s a marathon everyday for 7 days…There’s 800 idiots running through the desert and by the end everyone is f---ed.

  • Racing across the Atlantic in the Cape 2 Rio

  • Canoeing the Yukon

  • Walking across India. His words: There’s a lot more challenges when you do [an adventure] on your own. If you succeed, you’ve done that by yourself…and I quite like that.

  • An Arctic Expedition

  • Walking and Packrafting across Iceland

  • …and Rowing across the Atlantic ocean, unsupported. In his words: Knowing that one little stumble overboard and you’re dead is an extraordinarily intense experience.

For all that circumnavigating of the globe, Alastair’s pleasantly down-to-earth. He’s a genuine, good guy (If you ever come to London, I’ll buy you a warm beer), and he makes exploring seem like a natural extension of life. As he said:

I do have a totally normal life. But, I’m lucky in that when life gets annoying, mundane or tedious, that’s usually the time I’m ready for my next trip.  

It’s a formula he hopes other people are keen to adopt—slip in an adventure on the weekend, and keep it simple. Find a place you’re interested in, then go there. Microadventures are everywhere, don’t overlook exploring them.

In talking about adventure, we also discussed documenting, something Alastair’s got an interesting take on. His thoughts: I think it’s really important to be present in the moment, but I also think that trying to take photos or make film or telling a story really helps to focus more on the journey. So, I think I like both sides. 

These days, he does enough documenting to keep him busy, and when we talked he was putting the final polish on his upcoming film. Like all that Alastair does, he hopes the documentary will give some sense of vicarious adventure enjoyment, and give people that little nudge to actually get out and adventure.

Because, as he'd tell you, the adventure—cycling the globe, trekking Greenland, or camping in your backyard—is the easy part, the hard part's just getting out your front door.

For more, follow Alastair on Twitter and Instagram, or check out

And, check out his upcoming film, Into the Empty Quarter.

Images ©Alastair Humphreys.