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atlantic row

I wish my life was less simple. I wish I spent more time in front of a screen. I wish I had fewer adventures.


I can’t imagine many of us ever say “I wish my life was less simple. I wish I spent more time in front of a screen. I wish I had fewer adventures.”

Trouble is, it feels devilishly tricky to escape from the busy treadmill, to get out under the sky, to carve time for adventure. I’m as guilty as anyone of over-complicating, procrastinating, being addicted to my iPhone, and wallowing in the sickly-sweet enjoyment of moaning about how “busy” I am.

But I am also fortunate to have glimpsed the other side, to have tasted life when it IS simple, adventurous, and every day becomes one worth remembering. A few years ago I rowed across the Atlantic Ocean. Four of us spent 45 days tackling 3000 empty, fulfilling miles. It was an extreme experiment of enforced simplicity, and a fierce detox from my vices of choice – digital, alcohol and coffee. We wore the same clothes every day, we did one thing every day. And we did it to the very best of our ability. If we did not then the consequences were death, failure, or a prolonged number of days at sea.

Sadly I don’t have the willpower to live as focused, simply and efficiently back in the real world. But I have seen the other side, I’ve tasted it, and I like it.

So here are 10 things I’ve learned from my expeditions that help me try to keep my everyday life simple and adventurous.

  1. Dream up a massive, complicated, ambitious adventure plan. And then go do a tiny, simple one instead. This way you will actually get on and do it. You will build momentum. And once you have momentum the big adventure dreams begin to take care of themselves.
  2. The quickest way to generate an adventure with momentum is to do it all by yourself. Hatch your own plan, spend your own money, tell the world, and begin. At this point you may choose to hurl petrol on the flames of momentum by teaming up with someone else who is as excited by the project as you are. Exponential acceleration ensues!
  3. Spending years making plans and raising huge money for an expedition to the South Pole is an adventure. Cobbling together a plan with the cash you already have in your account to go and walk across the Empty Quarter desert next month is also an adventure. Consider whether or not the benefits of the former are significantly better than the latter. Simple, immediate plans don’t preclude big, long-term goals. But long, complicated visions do get in the way of immediate adventures and the momentum they bring.
  4. When I’m swamped with emails, admin jobs and boring forms to fill in, I’ve learned a counterintuitive way to get it all done. My secret is to head outside and go for a long muddy run in the rain. When I get home again, glowing, I find I can work like a ninja and get twice the work done in half the time.
  5. Perfect is lovely, but good enough is usually good enough. Bodge things from what you already have. Ask folk you already know to help. Spend money you already have. Just start. Making do feels good.
  6. Spending four years cycling round the world is a terrific adventure. But you can get many of the same benefits and memories from spending a night under the stars on your local hill.
  7. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because an adventure (or a project) is not gigantic and complex that it’s not worth doing. Start small, but do start. Momentum, competence, confidence and contacts will start to accumulate.
  8. ‘Simple’ and ‘Easy’ are two very different words. The best things in life are simple but not easy.
  9. You don’t need to have ten things in a list when nine say all that you want to say.

This piece originally featured on Hiut.

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  1. Davide Posted

    Quick tip for emails I discovered and tested successfully on myself. Deal only with yesterday emails.

    Go in your inbox, quickly identify what is urgent and requite to be replied now. All the rest goes in the “yesterday box”. Then you go to your yesterday box and deal with it.

    It will be a finite set and once over you can close emails.

  2. Common theme throughout the post is momentum and I couldn’t agree more. Once I began settling for the baby steps in adventure, my bigger dreams began to manifest as well. Something that has worked for me too is to approach the future with deliberate steps. By deliberately choosing job opportunities and lifestyle changes that are in sync with my adventure goals and personal objectives, I’ve been in a much better position to actually see them realized. Thanks for the post, Alastair. – Nick



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