Shouting from my shed

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My Adventure Timeline

  • 1976 – born. Life begins when something stirs and we feel an urge to get started, to head out into the unknown world, even though our existence is currently so comfy and easy. We are, perhaps, never so bold again.
  • 1995 – My first 18 years were the antithesis of Living Adventurously. I wanted desperately only to conform.
  • 1995, June 16th: finished my A-Levels and left school. Every year I celebrate that date as being the day my education and my life began.
  • 1995–1996 – spent a year teaching in a small rural village in South Africa and exploring the region in our spare time. My decision to do this was helped enormously by going with a friend who was much bolder and more outgoing than me. This year had an enormous impact on me, opening my eyes to the excitement of travel and giving my first taste of the extraordinary variety of the world. I wanted more.
  • 1996 – went to university. There was zero curiosity or boldness in this decision. I went purely because my friends were going and it sounded fun.
  • 1996—2000 – The Army. The Edinburgh Universities’ Officers Training Corps was my first insight into a world of leadership and personal development and it had a huge impact on me. I never much cared for the ‘army’ bits of the ‘Army’ (shooting guns was boring, particularly because you then had to clean them), but I loved the fitness, the humour in adversity, the suffering and the parties. My eyes were opening to a world that valued endurance and perseverance and taking the piss.
  • 1997 – cycled to Engl and for the day. A friend and I skipped lectures and cycled from Edinburgh to the border and back in a day. My bike cost £12 from the police auction, I wore socks instead of gloves, the weather was dark and snowy and 95-miles almost killed me. I loved it.
  • 1997 – Karakoram Highway. I had started to think about cycling round Italy for a month in the university’s summer holidays when my friend Rob passed me a note in a very boring statistics lecture asking if I’d like to cycle over the Karakoram Mountains from Pakistan into China. I had just been taught a lesson in dreaming big!
  • 1998 – camped on top of Ben Nevis with a rotisserie chicken.
  • 1998 – cycled from Mexico City to Panama. First had the idea of trying to cycle round the world.
  • 1999 – organised a two-month charity trip to the Philippines, leading a team of ten students in building a small medical centre and a rice mill in a remote village a couple of hours from the road.
  • 1999 – cycled from land’s End to John O’Groats in 9 days.
  • 2000 – spent a week walking through southern Spain pretending to be a Laurie Lee vagabond after easyJet offered £5 tickets. My stove was confiscated at the airport and we lost the tent poles, forcing us into sleeping under the stars and cooking on fires.
  • 2000 – dreaming now of a huge adventure once I graduated from uni (my original idea was to cross Australia via the Canning Stock Route—’AcrOz 2000′ I wrote on my planning folder), I was torn because I felt that the sensible option was to first qualify as a teacher and then head for the hills. But having the safety net of a useful qualification was the pragmatic choice before I leapt. So I took a deep breath and resigned myself to waiting another year for my adventure.
  • 2000 – cycled from Buenos Aires to Lima.
  • 2000 – Attended the Explore conference at the Royal Geographical Society in London. The experience of being in a room with hundreds of people who thought ideas like cycling round the world were exciting rather than irresponsible and childish was electrifying and gave me great confidence.
  • 2000 – Offered a teaching job that appealed to me. Decided instead to change direction and commit to trying to cycle round the world. ‘Dear Mr Walker…’
  • 2001 – secured sponsorship for cycling round the world. Or rather I received some bits and bobs such as free socks, water bottles and a penknife. I was chuffed. But the ride was going to have to rely on my £7000 of life savings for funding; patently not enough money. I decided to try anyway.
  • 2001—2005 – cycled round the world.
  • 2001 – wrote my first blog post. (https://web.archive.org/web/20011222051020fw_/http://www.spiderstudios.co.uk/roundtheworldbybike/reports_europe.asp)
  • 2002 – wrote my first paid article. Ridiculously chuffed.
  • 2002 – a literary agent enjoys my story, contacts me and suggests we meet when I finish cycling round the world. I sit back and daydream of instant millions. Becoming a travel writer is the easiest thing in the world!
  • 2005 – give my first paid talk at a junior school after returning from cycling round the world. (I had given around 300 free talks during the trip to promote Hope and Homes for Children.)
  • 2006 – write my first book. My agent cannot find a publisher who is interested in the manuscript, so dumps me.
  • 2007 – decide to self-publish my first book as it felt preferable to complete the project rather than give up after failing to find a publisher.
  • December 2007 – email Ben Saunders about joining his South Pole expedition. So begins a glorious, thrilling, exasperating five years in the world of big budget expeditions.
  • 2008 – ran the Marathon des Sables.
  • 2008 – took a 10-week night school photography course. If I wanted to give talks about my expeditions I needed to learn how to take nice photos.
  • 2009 – rowed across the English Channel with a paralysed soldier.
  • 2009 – walked coast to coast across southern India.
  • 2009 – give up writing my book about India because it was rubbish.
  • 2010 – spend £1600 on a Canon 5D Mkii camera. The fact I can still remember the price is a sign of how gobsmackingly expensive that was for me. I bought it on a hunch. I had seen the film quality of this new breed of camera and decided to take a punt on learning how to make films. Until then I had never filmed anything, never even had any interest in making films. But I was trying to work out how to turn my passion of adventure into my job and recognised that I needed to find a way to stand out.
  • 2010 – get paid to spend six weeks out on the frozen Arctic Ocean making films and writing stories.
  • 2011 – decided to remain in the UK for a year in order to encourage people to seek out adventure and wilderness closer to home through microadventures. I was very uneasy about this decision, for I was only just beginning to turn ‘big’ adventures into a viable career. Was I throwing it all away by going to sleep on a suburban hill for a night?
  • 8 Oct 2011 – open an email from National Geographic.‘You are a finalist in the running for National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year. Congratulations!’
  • 2011 – fish the manuscript for my India book out of the desk drawer. Dust it off, rip it up, start again. Decide to self-publish the book so that I can write in a more experimental style.
  • 2012 – row across the Atlantic Ocean.
  • 2012 – a training expedition for the South Pole up in Greenland. Never have I laughed so much. Burst into tears in the tent over how guilty I felt about being away from my family. Withdraw from the South Pole expedition after five years of hard work.
  • 2012 – Walk across the Empty Quarter desert. This is the first expedition of my life where telling the story (filming, in this case) took priority over the journey itself. This did not feel like a bad thing, simply a different way of looking at adventure.
  • 2013 – Our film Into the Empty Quarter is released and picked for the Banff Mountain Film Festival, the most prestigious adventure film competition in the world.
  • 2014 – Publish Microadventures with Harper Collins.
  • 2015 – Try to turn Microadventures into a TV series. Make it as far as filming a pilot episode for the BBC. But Microadventures fails at this final hurdle on the basis of ‘not being epic enough’. Decide that from now on I will keep control of the way I tell my stories (i.e. make my own little films), rather than being at the whim of an executive somewhere. It was also an interesting exercise in asking ‘why’: I though that one of the reasons I wanted the TV series to launch was so that I would be rich and famous. In the aftermath of failing I realised that not only did this pursuit make me unhappy, I actually would hate being famous and recognised!
  • 2015 – For pretty much all my career my earnings divide has been 90% speaking, 10% writing. The improvement in my filming knowledge means that this ratio begins to change for the first time. Over the next four years it will head towards 50% brand work, 40% speaking, 10% writing.
  • 2016 – Busk across Spain.
  • 2017 – 2019 – Build a shed and settle into a life of microadventures, writing books, swimming in rivers, making films and climbing trees.

What have I missed out?

Anything you’d like to know more about?

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Shouting from my shed

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