Last week I gave a talk at the Royal Geographical Society trying to offer some advice to people getting started in the world of adventure.
One of my slides was about the things I wish I’d done more of in my years as a ‘professional’ adventurer.
1. Travelled more slowly
2. Kept more decisions in my own control
3. Written fewer blog posts and more books (and all that metaphor implies)
4. Filmed more
5. Discussed things more with my peers (a.k.a. Stayed later at the bar)
A couple of them are pretty obvious and need no explanation.
Keeping things under my own direction is not just about being a control freak (though editing Into The Empty Quarter and arguing about semi-colons for my latest book suggest that I am more of one than I’d realised!). It is that I have wasted so much time and energy chasing other people and depending on other people. That can be people promising the earth and then vanishing, or people doing a poor job of what you have trusted them to do. Overall I would advise people, at least at first, to take control of their own adventures. Save up your own money for the trip. Film the trip yourself. Write your own book. Do all these things. At some point you will learn what you are not good at or do not enjoy. Then find other people to do those things for you. But, in the early days, just make stuff happen yourself.
Point 3 means that I want to sink my teeth into deeper projects with more lasting impact. I love blogging, but too often I write fleeting blog posts with no significant lasting value. If I added up all the time I’ve wasted on these (and don’t get me started on Facebook, twitter, etc.!) then I am sure I could have written another book or made another film.
And Point 5, staying later in the bar, is where the good ideas come from. I enjoy the open, mutually supportive approach of most ‘professional’ adventurers and always get great benefit from bouncing ideas off them. I just need to learn to leave the pub before the last train leaves: I’m too old now for sleeping on railway platforms, but still too young/tight to get a hotel room for the few hours until the trains begin again…