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Want to be an Adventurer? Some Well-meant Cold Water for you…

 

People often email me to ask advice on earning a living from adventures. Sometimes they come from young people contemplating adventure instead of higher education, or perhaps dropping out of uni to focus on expeditions. I’ll address that first.

Many successful adventurers did not go to college, university or earn any qualifications. Many successful people in life did not, either. So it’s clearly not essential. From my own point of view though, I had the opportunity to go to university. I didn’t particularly enjoy it: I was just itching to get out and explore the world. But, looking back, I am very glad that I persevered and got my qualifications first. I know that a year feels like an eternity when you are young [that sentence makes me feel old!], but for me it was worth the wait. Make the most of the time: earn money, learn relevant skills, squeeze in microadventures. But bear in mind that not everyone who sets out to make their living from adventure will succeed. If you do not succeed at it (or you decide that you’d prefer to keep it as a hobby), what will you do then?

How to Make a Living from your Adventures

A few questions to ask which may help direct you towards your answer. Because the really important question is not “How will I make a living?”, it is “Do I really want to attempt this?”

  • Why don’t you get a “proper job”? You’ll probably earn more money and then can spend your holidays doing exciting adventures. Do not forget that most (not all) career adventurers spend vast amounts of time sitting at a desk to make their adventures and lifestyle happen.
  • What adventures / travels / expeditions are you going to do? They may be important to you, but how will you make them interesting to anyone else?
  • Here are some ways you can earn money from adventure: guiding clients, managing expeditions, writing, speaking, filming, photographing, developing a product you can sell, being a brand ambassador, being famous on the telly. Which will you do?
  • You will not instantly earn enough money for this to be a viable career. You’ll either need to live on savings, work part time, or live somewhere that is insanely cheap. What are your plans?
  • Are you prepared to do all the hard stuff about being self-employed: 7-days-a-week work, worry about where your next cash is coming from, fill in tax forms?
  • Is it a good idea to make yourself the golden goose? If your next cheque comes solely because of your next adventure, then you are setting yourself up for being in this for the long haul.

Some Cold Water to Pour [as kindly as I can] on Your Dreams

  • It was easier 100 years ago: nobody had climbed Everest then. It’s now been climbed by a 13-year old and an 80-year old. What journeys can you do that will be interesting enough for people to pay to hear about them?
  • To guide clients or manage expeditions you need to get a lot of experience under your belt.
  • There is not much money in writing magazines or books, or selling photos or films (I have published 7 books, 1 film, 1 t-shirt, and 1 mappazine and I am a long, long, long way from being able to live solely from those). Magazines pay a few hundred quid an article. Blogs don’t pay you (usually).
  • Most brand sponsorships involve free kit, not cash. Very few brand ambassadors can live off the money they receive. And they have done something special to earn that.
  • Very few people are famous on the telly. Please don’t go into adventure (or anything in life) because this is what you aspire to!

If, after all that, you are still keen then go for it! I will help you as much as I can!

Other reading:

Any other advice for people? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Thank you to the many people who have kindly “bought me a coffee” for just £2.50 as encouragement to keep this blog going.

“Yes, I too would like to donate a couple of pounds to this site..!”



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Comments

  1. A cycnic would say you’re giving advice to people who are ultimately asking how to succeed in being your competitors, but I think it’s excellent that you’re happy to offer guidance to other would-be adventurers.

    Reply
  2. Hi Al,

    On the topic of university I’d like to add a few points. I think it is actually beneficial for a career (or just life) in adventure to go to university.
    University clubs are one of the best (and cheapest!) ways of meeting like-minded people and to learn new skills. These clubs (e.g. mountaineering, fellwanderers, kayaking, …) allow you to learn new skills from more experienced club members and through subsidised courses. These include lead climbing on trad, navigating, winter skills, …

    Many of these clubs also organise talks and invite interesting speakers (at Imperial we had Sarah Outen and Spike Reid, amongst many others, over the last 2 years).
    Some universities have their own exploration board or society, which fund expeditions (after a successful proposal) and provide a lot of support when it comes to finding further sponsors. They also subsidise expedition first aid courses and sort out your insurance for you.

    In short: go to university and make the most of it. and if you’re so into the outdoors, maybe pick a degree that involves a fair amount of field work (e.g. geography).

    Best regards,

    Konstantin

    Reply
  3. I think this is great, even if it’s hard to hear from people who may dream of making money this way. Of course I would love to get paid to travel and explore, but I’ve now realized (as you pointed out) that if you want to make a living, it’s all about selling yourself and less about the adventure. I really like the idea of finding a job which you work 8-9 months a year, and then travel or do your own thing for 3-4… You get the best of both worlds!

    Reply
    • Or even a job you can work 3-4 months a year and spend the remaining 8-9 on adventures!

      I’ve met a few people who do this. Seems to usually boil down to being a highly-paid internet-based consultant and living on a beach in Thailand, but there must be other ways…

      Reply
  4. And you guys even have an adventure/expedition/exploration culture – which again of course has it’s pros and cons…

    Reply
  5. @Tom Allen’s first post. Amen to that!
    @ Tom Allen’s second post. That’s the other way round for me but I’m no consultant.

    Reply
  6. If you’re considering becoming an adventurer, you may want to consider using the military to your advantage. I’ve done 16 years as a Royal Marine and I’ve been to Antarctica, Alaska, Nepal, Norway (loads), to name just a few. And it hasn’t cost me a penny (actually I’ve been paid whilst doing it).

    I’ve had to work a bit too mind (Afghanistan, Iraq, N. Ireland, etc.) But even as a reservist (whist at uni maybe) you are entitled to Adventurous Training, which offers a qualification – the best part is, it’s all free. I’m a mountain leader, climbing instructor, mountain bike leader, survival instructor, parachutist, to name a few.

    It’s a great life and worth considering.

    I’m currently developing a website based around family adventuring – getting kids outdoors. I’d appreciate a Twitter follow – thehoeyfish

    Keep up the good work Al!!!!

    Reply
  7. If you’re thinking about becoming an adventurer, then you should consider looking at joining the military (or Reserves). I’ve been a Royal Marine for 16 years and I’ve been on expeditions to Antarctica, Alaska, Nepal and Norway (loads). And the best thing about it? It’s never cost me a penny (in fact, I’ve been paid to do it). Obviously there’s been some work along the way (Iraq, Afghanistan, N. Ireland, Sierra Leone) – but these were all adventures in their own right.

    If you only want to dabble, then a reservist is still entitled to (free) Adventurous Training – which usually delivers a qualification. I’m a Mountain leader, Climbing Instructor, Mountain Bike Leader, Survival Instructor and parachutist, etc. But none of the (civilian) qualifications have cost me anything – Food for thought?

    I’m currently developing a website aimed at family adventuring (I have two young daughters), encouraging children to get outside – I’d appreciate a follow on twitter – @thehoeyfish

    Keep up the good work Al!!!!

    Reply

 
 

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