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I’m an Adventurer. My Job is Awesome. Here’s what A Day Looks Like…

 

I’m an adventurer. No, make that an “Adventurer”, with a Capital A.

It must be true – it says so on my business card. That’s pretty cool.

My business card.

Sometimes, when I meet new people, I describe myself to them as an Adventurer. Generally I do this when I’m trying to…  

  • Impress a girl
  • Blag something for free
  • Get out of trouble

In fact, those are the only times I describe myself in this way. It’s a bit embarrassing at all other times. Why is it embarrassing?

  1. I’m quite shy and I don’t like the barrage of questions that inevitably follow me telling people I’m an Adventurer (Capital A).
  2. I get really bored of talking about my trips (unless someone pays me to talk – more on this later…)
  3. I feel a total fraud.

Why do I feel a fraud? I feel a fraud because Adventurers (Capital A) are supposed to do stuff like this: Flying an RAF Hawk

Rowing to France. Image by Danfung Dennis. Copyright 2009.Sea kayaking in Wales

Winter climb on Scafell Pikecanoeing the Yukon

Empty Quarter desert

But, although this stuff is supposedly my job, I don’t actually spend much time hanging from cliffs with mud smeared on my face and a knife between my teeth.
Mostly my life is quite boring, repetitive and annoying. It is, in other words, exactly the sort of job I thought I was heroically fleeing from when I turned my back on conventional employment. (You might enjoy Tom Allen’s post on this topic, too.)

It’s foolish to imagine that any job is 100% pure bliss. Every job has boring bits in it. (Great post on the “Do What You Love” myth here.)

But I want to share with you what I’ve been doing this week. Hopefully it will remind you of a few things, including:

  1. Every time you see an envy-inducing “adventure” story or photo online, remember it’s just the tip of the iceberg. That person has probably put in vast amounts of boring computer and commuter hours in order to make that brief adventure moment happen, stick it up on the internet, and make you jealous.
  2. It takes a massive amount of desk work to turn adventure into a career (though this is sometimes replaced by luck, genius, wealth or beauty).
  3. The next time you go see an Adventurer doing a talk on a big stage with bright lights and epic photos and lots of nice applause, remember that by the time you are back home tucked up in bed they are still driving catatonically down a motorway towards their next talk, fuelled by nasty service station food, with a box of books in the boot that they’re really hoping to flog by the end of the week as they are sick of carrying them from car to stage to car to stage.

I am an Adventurer (Capital A). This week I have mostly been…

  1.  Taking my kids to school. Putting my kids to bed.
  2. Building PowerPoint presentations, booking train tickets, fighting off spammy press releases and people trying to steal my time.
  3. Fretting about tax returns.
  4. Cursing over Excel spreadsheets (see 3) for hours and wanting to punch myself in the face for light relief.
  5. Going to the gym for an hour because I’m too “busy” to run up some hills or ride my bike for a few hours. Checking emails in between deadlift sets.
  6. Driving up and down the M1 / 4/ 3 / 6 / 25 incessantly. Running for trains. Waiting for trains.
  7. Eating crap service station food at vastly-inflated prices.
  8. Drinking coffee by the gallon to stay awake (see 3 and 6). Gobbling Haribos (the fizzy ones). I’m so weak-willed that I have to chuck the packet into the back of the car where I can’t reach it to stop myself chain-eating them till my teeth hurt.
  9. Giving presentations to earn money (see 3) about all the great adventures I have all the time.
  10. Hoping to flog books at the end, then loading up my car with all the unsold books to try my luck again tomorrow night.
  11. Getting home at 2am after 17 hours on the road in order to commence Point 1 again.

In other words my job is pretty much the same as loads of people’s jobs!

And I absolutely love it (most of the time). I’m definitely not moaning here. I’m my own boss. I make my choices. I set my standards. I often work in my pants (except during Point 9 above). There’s a lot to be said for the satisfaction of earning your successes, and for really, really appreciating the times I do get to be out in the wild having the adventures I love and which drive everything else.

This post was supposed to be much wittier than it has turned out to be. Turns out that a day of Excel has sucked all the funniness out of me. Sorry!

Happy Weekend!

alastair humphreys

Read Comments

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Comments

  1. Mick Bailey Posted

    Strangely comforting that you have a level of normality and it was interesting and insightful. It didn’t have to be funny as well 🙂

    Reply
  2. Don’t forget the inspiration you give to people like me who read your books and create their own adventures! Last year after feeling stuck in my day job I read There Are Other Rivers and decided to walk 400 kilometres in 2 weeks for my annual vacation from work. I slept in the bush on the side of the road, ate canned tuna, and attracted a lot of funny looks. It was one of the most difficult challenges I’ve ever done but it was an awesome adventure. That walk changed my life and you’re a big part of it. Thanks for everything you do for people like me!

    Keep it up,
    Eric

    Reply
  3. Christian Posted

    You got kids?!? Do they share your love for adventure? Or do they only see the boring parts of it? 🙂

    Reply
  4. Nerys Evans Posted

    I used to freelance as a factual TV Producer, which would take me all over the place. It was a similar up and down sort of life: meeting wonderful people, experiencing the unusual, and the honour of travelling to so many far away (and nearby) places. Beyond the production and the photographs, however, life wasn’t far away from what you’ve described as your life as an adventurer (sorry, Adventurer) – ups, down, tax and Excel – though the ups certainly made up for the down, tax and even Excel.

    Reply
  5. I’ve followed you for awhile now and one of the qualities I like most about you is your humility– your willingness to lend transparency to your struggle. You accomplish things that don’t seem human, but you do it in a way that IS human. I like to see when you are disheartened. I like to watch your writing get better through each book. I like when you speak of not wanting a journey to end. It makes me feel that despite my own weaknesses, reaching greatness is possible, however unlikely. Thank you, Alastair for all those hours spent at computer and gobbling haribos. Without your voice, the world would be a far less interesting place.

    Reply
  6. You inspire me to be a better mum and do cool out of the box mini adventure things with my kids. And do it regularly. It’s nice to know that even your life is punctuated by the boring stuff like the rest of us.

    Reply
  7. However tedious your job, the satisfaction you get must out weigh that. Your book has made me revaluate my weekends, my work life balance and my outlook on ‘living’. More people should read your book… Even if just the first few pages. Over and out… On an adventure.

    Reply
  8. Enjoyable read Al, awesome to see your life from a different perspective. I set myself a goal this week, if I achieve it I get to treat myself by buying ‘Into the Empty Quarter!’ Keep up the great work!

    Reply
  9. Fantastic read as I always seem to be wondering what amazing things you might be up to as I cook dinner, pick my son up from daycare, remind our three year old that dinner time is when you eat your dinner not look for alternatives, or lay on the floor next to his crib to tell him of stories when daddy cycled across Central Asia, went horse pakcing over the Tian Shan mountains, or cycled to grandma’s house in Kansas.
    It is surprisingly refressing to know how normal of a life you live and somehow more helpful that all of those motivatinal posts published this month.

    Please keep up this type of writting as it helps to remind us all that we life exists behind those beautiful photos or stuning videos.

    Reply
  10. Love the honesty Alastair, and i found it witty 🙂

    Reply
  11. Two things. First , it is actually very refreshing to hear that you have mundane things to do. Not because I’m glad you have boring chores, chores are rubbish, especially when they involve spreadsheets, but because it means we are not that different, and that is comforting. People like me look at people like you and assume adventure is everyday, which does not feel achievable when giving up paid employement is not an option.
    Second, I love that you chain eat fizzy haribo. when we eventually meet I’ll bring you some.

    Reply
  12. I can relate. I have created the job I wanted (1 man software product company). Mostly its great. But I only get to spend a minority of my time doing interesting programming, as there is a lot other stuff that needs doing. Some of it is pretty dull. But I value the flexibility it gives me. And its just paid for a family adventure holiday to Costa Rica – woohoo!

    Reply
    • A small world sometimes! Being self employed/company owner does have it’s benefits but as we all know, it also can very easily become master and commander of all our ‘spare’ time… For me, maintaining the all important ‘balance’ is actually the hardest part. onwards and upwards, here’s to the next adventure… 🙂

      Reply
  13. Thanks for the post Al, it is heartening to hear that even you are burdened with the mundane like the rest of us from time to time. I loved your Microadventures book and have found it motivating.

    When my wife and I took our first job in a remote overseas community years ago it was joked that people were either there for:
    1.) The money
    2.) Because they were running from someone/thing
    3.) For the adventure
    Usually it was two out of three.

    So thanks for reminding us that Adventure is a state of being, not an end!

    Reply
  14. Jamie Fulbrook Posted

    Well, I found it pretty funny 🙂

    Reply
  15. Barry Davidson Posted

    On yer bix card you forgot Motivator!
    Thanks Al.

    Reply
  16. Great post, Alastair! It’s very cool to see behind the grandiose adventures and tales there is a lot of normal everyday work. Who knew!?

    Reply
  17. Hi Al,

    Thanks for sharing this, particularly the Semi Rad piece- I love that message. ‘Love what you do’. Question: what are your favorite talks to give?

    Reply
    • Alastair Posted

      My favourite talks are either:
      – themed, thoughtful conferences like TEDx or the Do Lectures
      – 6th forms at schools when the audience are genuinely curious about what to do next with their lives
      – ones that pay me lots of money to go to far-off places in the world (I’m not proud of that, but it’s true.)

      Reply

 
 

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