Shouting from my shed

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Some Thoughts after 18 Years of Blogging

Way back in the dark depths of time, both the world and the internet was a very different place. These were the days when people would read out website addresses on the radio by spelling out “w w w dot…”. Personal websites were rare, social media did not exist, but even then it was obvious that the internet would become a powerful place for sharing stories and ideas. The year was 2001.

In that year I began two hefty projects. One of them – riding my bike 46,000 miles round the planet – took me four years to complete. The second project, my blog, is still going. I’ve written almost a million words and more than 1800 blog posts. Back in 2001 the word “blog” did not even exist.

I wrote my stories as I cycled around the world and updated my website intermittently whenever I found an internet connection stable enough to send a bunch of text. The screech of dial-up internet and being plunged into darkness by power cuts were regular accompaniments to my early days of blogging. I enjoyed two directly contrasting aspects of writing for the internet: the anonymity of writing for a website with no idea of whether anyone would actually read it, and the slowly burgeoning community of people from all over the world who stumbled upon my words. I remember the excitement of receiving an email from a lady who was reading my stuff from Antarctica. This internet thing is here to stay, I thought to myself, presciently.

I kept travelling, and I kept writing. Through my blog I slowly developed enough of an audience to be able to make my adventures self-financing and sustainable. I don’t earn money from my website, but I give talks — about my expeditions and about the lessons I have learned from them — and I write books. Those two things are what has paid for my life since I finished cycling round the world.

I have learned lessons about creating the best product you possibly can, and hollering loudly but nicely about that product. I understand that it is possible to be professional and ambitious whilst still remaining small and personal.

I’ve learned how powerful the idea of story-telling is in building your business, and all the many ways in which you can tell a story.

I’ve enjoyed the scary process of flipping direction, turning volte-face from my steady cycle of “big expedition — talk, book, articles — money — big expedition” to gamble on finding a tribe of people who agreed with my suggestion that adventure is everywhere and accessible if we choose to make it so: the concept of microadventures and sleeping on hills on work nights has now sold far more books than my four-year labour of love cycling across five continents!

I have had painful periods of aspiring to become big and well-known and rich and famous. Every time I have headed down this path I’ve had to battle deep unease in my gut about moving away from the things I loved which set me down this path in the first place. None of those things were what drew me into this life. And then I remember that what I really care about is the freedom to forge my own path, to live adventurously, to take risks (both creative and physical), to be my own boss, to make stuff I really care about, and to earn enough money to live on at the same time whilst simultaneously finding 9am on Monday morning the most exciting moment of the week.

Amongst these years that I’ve found so busy and exciting, I have still continued to blog. It takes a lot of time and effort and thought to write a regular blog. And it earns precisely zero cash. Why have I persevered with it? I do it (and will continue to do it) because I enjoy it. I enjoy blogging because it allows me to think about the stuff that matters to me, to digest it, and to try to articulate it succinctly. A pithy blog post can be as hard to write as a long book chapter.

Over the years I’ve written about a real variety of topics that interest me. I’ve written about adventures of course, both my own and those done by other people who I admire. I’ve written lots about books, the ones I’ve enjoyed, the stuff I’ve learned from them, and the dark arts of writing and publishing them. I’ve written about social media, planning expeditions, making films, and loads of practical information to help people make their own adventures happen. All of that’s pretty sensible stuff for an adventurer and writer to blog about. But I’ve also enjoyed blogging about more offbeat stuff too, whether that is Roger Federer, heavy metal, sushi, or golf.

Then there are topics that, over the years, I have returned to again and again. The lessons that have become the mantra to my life, whether I’m trying to cross a desert, write a book, drum up some speaking work, or try to convince people of the benefits of microadventures. I guess overall my blog pretty much comes down to this:

  1. Dream: What do you want to do?
  2. Commit: Turning a dream into a plan.
  3. Begin: The hardest step of all.
  4. Stretch: Constantly seeking to improve and build momentum.

And I’ve now begun condensing all of this into one weekly newsletter. I’d love it if you signed up.

Here’s to the next 18 years! I can’t even imagine what this blog (or the world) will look like in 2037…

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