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Advice for Young People Dreaming of Adventure


“All of our days are numbered; we cannot afford to be idle. To act on a bad idea is better than to not act at all because the worth of the idea never becomes apparent until you do it.” ― Nick Cave

I received an email last week. It asked a simple but difficult question:

“What advice would you have for a younger person who wants to go on a longer adventure, perhaps involving walking or cycling to a very distant place?”

Writing posts like this makes me feel old!

But here’s what I think would have been helpful to hear back when I was 23 and trying to summon the cojones, the cash, the capability to leave my comfortable domestic orbit and blast off to attempt something big, difficult and with a very low probability of success. You can read the text below or watch the video – they say more or less the same.

  1. Begin saving. Today. Here’s how to save £1000 without really noticing. £1000 is loads of money for a cracking adventure. You could cycle all the way from the UK to Japan for that amount of money, and I promise you that is £1000 that you would never, ever regret having spent.
  2. Doing your first ever big trip is daunting. If you’re nervous, that’s probably a good thing. This may be your first extended period away from home, away from your friends and family, away from the comfortable familiarity of your own country. No offence, but you’re probably pretty clueless about many things – finance, logistics, expedition skills, interacting with different kinds of people. I certainly was am. But these are all good reasons why you should try to be brave enough to head out into the world. To learn, to grow up, to make your CV awesome, to have fun. The rite of passage journey is thousands of years old, and rightly so. If you’re doubting how worthwhile it may be, go speak to your Grandpa. Ask him about his first youthful adventures, mishaps and escapades. Watch his eyes light up as the torrent of tales pour forth about those glory days.
  3. You have so many years and decades of “career” ahead of you that delaying this for a while whilst you go do something crazy is not a bad idea. Anyone who tells you that it is is an idiot. You can quote me on that. I cannot think of a single occupation that you will be worse at after spending time slowly exploring the world.
  4. You are inexperienced and broke. I understand. But please believe me when I tell you this is the very best time in your life to go and explore. If you doubt me, speak to any tired-looking 40 year old on any commuter train in any town. Ask them if they have six months spare to go cycle off into the sunset? Ask them about the ties that bind their lives. They may be good ties (family, career, a home), but they certainly are ties that make adventure more complicated. Ask them if they think you should go do it. You will never again have so much free time and so few commitments. At least not until your knees have packed up and you have to go for a wee three times each night.
  5. You do not need to be an expert to cycle a very long way. I’md certainly recommend you learn how to fix a bike (or carry a book that tells you how, plus the appropriate tools). Your Mum will be glad that I encourage you to get vaccinations, carry a First Aid kit, brush your teeth, eat some vegetables, and pay heed [though not too much] to advice about which parts of the world are currently best avoided. Remember to phone your Mum too.
  6. Work out which countries you need visas for, how long they last for, and where and how to obtain them. Research the countries you are excited by and ask questions from people who have been there, not from the Doom And Gloom Merchants who’ve never even been there. The Lonely Planet Thorn Tree is a great place to hang out. If you’re going by bicycle then buy the Adventure Cycle Touring Handbook. Now put a Start Date in your diary. Tell everyone you are going on that date. Commit to it and begin on that date, even though I guarantee you won’t be ready by then. Nobody is. It doesn’t matter.
  7. Don’t get hung up on sponsorship. Save your own money. Buy kit on eBay. Eat bread. Sleep wild. Live cheap.
  8. Don’t get hung up on publicity, social media, fame and “careers” in adventure. Go do something awesome just because you want to, because you need to.
  9. I believe that a long, slow, frugal bike journey is the best adventure any young person can ever do. Nothing beats it. It will teach you more than most degrees. It will get you leaner and fitter than any diet or gym. It will make you more employable than any shiny suit or posh accent. It will make you more attractive to girls (and/or boys).
  10. If not now, then when?

You might also find these posts useful

My new book, Grand Adventures, answers many questions such as this. It’s designed to help you dream big, plan quick, then go explore. There are also interviews and expertise from around 100 adventurers, plus masses of great photos to get you excited.

I would be extremely grateful if you bought a copy here today!

I would also be really thankful if you could share this link on social media with all your friends – It honestly would help me far more than you realise.

Thank you so much!

Grand Adventures Cover


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

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  1. Great advice.

    Having cycled across the states, I completely agree that long distance cycling is a great adventure for low budget. For any age. Young and old.

    Also, completely true that with age and success come greater obstacles to adventure.

    Here’s my take on the hardest thing about adventure, which it seems Grand Adventures will help people solve,

  2. I love your honesty! I took the plunge, quit my job & went backpacking for 8 months. No cycling though. But I will never regret it.

  3. Thank you! Im currently in a dilemma and this helps a lot! In 2014 and the beginning of 2016 i got 3 months off (6 in total) from my boss. But now i cant really let go of the idea of hiking the Te Araroa trail (3000 km). Cant get the time off again. Will have to quit my job which i kind of like. No relationship and still living with my parents and im 26 years old. Maybe this will give me the courage to start planning for a october 2017 leave

  4. The idea of a micro-adventure is a great way to start AH! It’s also about over coming fear. I’ve got more advice on my adventure blog



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