Alastair Humphreys : 2012 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year

Posted by: Caroline Walker



I have had the opportunity to get to know Alastair Humpheys over the last few years through email while following his crazy adventures all over world.  Alastair has rowed the Atlantic Ocean, ridden his bike around the world, canoed the Yukon, and compiled a massive list of incredible expeditions and adventures. In 2012 he was named the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year and the title did not change his heart, soul, and love for people in any way. One characteristic that I love about Alastair is that he has taken the opportunity to invest in people everywhere he has traveled. 

Over the last few years, Alastair has had to find new ways to channel his spirit of adventure and love for the outdoors with a wife and 2 children. He came up with the term "microadventure", a way for him to continue to embrace adventuring while being a father and husband. As Alastair says, "WE ARE DEFINED BY OUR ’9-TO-5′ BUT WHAT ABOUT THE 5-TO-9…?" No matter what type of life we lead, there is always a way to get outside, enjoy the creation around us and play. Even if it is for a micro amount of time! A few weeks ago he came to Austin for a speaking gig and we had the opportunity to hang out and do a few microadventures together.  Al is one of the most incredible human beings I have had the pleasure to know and is a walking example of the Kammok vision: "To Equip and Inspire for Life Changing Adventure."

I figured I had to introduce him to the Kammok MOB.  Here is an interview I did with Al last week.

Where did your passion for adventure and exploring come from and has it grown over time?

Originally I loved reading about adventure: Shackleton, Thesiger, Scott etc. Then I got curious to explore the world: to experience other people's normality (a great way of learning more about your own life, culture, and perceptions of 'normal'). Finally I got interested in exploring in ways which were physically and mentally challenging to myself: by bike or on foot, for example. 

You were the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2012.  How has this title or community impacted your life?

It's had zero impact on who I am, personally. It was a fabulous authoritative validation of the microadventure concept, and it certainly helps open a few doors. But I'm acutely aware I didn't win it for anything epic that I myself achieved!

You created the microadventure movement.  Where did this idea come from, or why do you feel it is important in todays culture?

It came from realizing that people perceived me differently because I'm 'an adventurer' not a 'normal person'. This was so silly! Most people want more adventure in their life but there are many barriers to entry: time, money, expertise, suburbia. I wanted to show that people can focus on the opportunities for adventure rather than the constraints that limit their adventures. A little adventure is better than no adventure at all. 

What kind of things have you learned on your adventures- whether risk, passion, determination- that people can take from your experience?

I've learned how ordinary I am. I'm not athletic, I'm a bit of a wimp, I cry and moan a lot, I'm lazy and disorganized. Which, I guess, proves that anyone could row an ocean or cycle round the world if only they commit to getting started and then show some determination not to give in. Ordinary people achieve extraordinary things by getting out of bed or turning off the TV and simply committing to themselves that they are going to make this thing happen. I've also learned that spending time living hard and simple out in the wild places is good for your soul, for your perspective, and for your creativity. 

Your new book Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes comes out this week, tell us a little about it?

Although it is a book based in Britain, it's deliberately not tied to location. It's a book full of stories from my microadventures designed to sow seeds for other people. If people do not read it and think "you know what, this weekend I'm going to head out of town and sleep under the stars" then I have failed. Once the book inspires people to try something, the latter chapters set out to answer questions ("what do I need?" "Where can I go?" "Isn't it scary?" Etc)


You recently came to Austin, TX and hung out with us for a bit on a few micro-adventures, how was your Texas experience?

I had some preconceptions, I'll admit! 

But I LOVED Texas. I've been raving about it to everyone in England. It was so beautiful, so friendly... So much brisket and big skies. I absolutely want to return. I would love to do a big journey in the US- either a wilderness one or a cultural one. The US gets quite a bad rap in the rest of the world, but I'm a big fan, I really am. Oh yes- I'm also converted to Hammocks too!

What are the top 5 books you have read in recent years?

As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning (Nonpareil Books)

The Worst Journey in the World (Penguin Classics)

Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys

Wind, Sand and Stars (Harvest Book)

Waterlog: A Swimmer's Journey Through Britain

What do you think the greatest innovation in the next 50 years will be?

I hope it will be a slowing down. I really hope people will not only continue to embrace wonderful technology, but also learn once again to turn it off, to run up a hill, swim in a river and sleep under the stars now and again...

You can order Alastair's book "Microadventure" here:  

Make sure to follow Alastair at: