My name is Alastair Humphreys, a National Geographic Adventurer of the year. I have spent the last decade or so making my living from adventures such as cycling round the world, rowing the Atlantic and walking across the Empty Quarter desert. (proof of who I am is at

EDIT: Thank you for all your questions. I need to go write my book now! Have a look at - it will answer most of your questions.

Comments: 656 • Responses: 62  • Date: 

tagsnap361 karma


alastairhumphreys415 karma

I became an adventurer gradually. At university I started dreaming of big adventures. So I saved up and then, after graduating, set off to cycle round the world. 4 years later (and £7000 / $10,000) I arrived back home, wrote a couple of books, and began trying to earn a living from my adventurers. Now I earn money from writing and speaking and save up until I have enough cash to go on the next adventure (which gives me more stories to write / speak about).

tagsnap114 karma


alastairhumphreys128 karma

Here's a video to encourage people in offices to have their own adventures:

Pariel25 karma

You traveled around the world for 4 years for $10k?

How is that possible?

Trent_Alkaline13 karma

Seems reasonable to me as a seasoned shoestring backpacker. Couple close friends recently did around the world in a little over 380 days on about $3,000 per person.

Lots of couchsurfing, squatting/camping, and knowing how to cook. A little bit of busking here and there. And there was still drinking/drugs and partying on this trip, so they coulda done it even cheaper if you cut that out.

Not hard to keep costs down when you cut luxuries. Usually the highest costs are the tickets for planes/trains/boats; which he's mentioned in another post that he tries to avoid flying, which will save you a thousand dollars or so right there.

RideBmx117 karma

Man I would love to do something like this. Probably the only dream I actually have.

alastairhumphreys5 karma

Do it then! You won't regret it.

jlew24asu4 karma

does anyone ever actually pay you to go on an adventure?

alastairhumphreys2 karma

No - but I'd be happy if they did!

alastairhumphreys170 karma

Here is my business card:

firetyo251 karma

What is your opinion on Dora the Explorer? Do you feel that she deserves the global recognition she has gotten, especially with the younger generation? Also, do you accept Dora's legitimacy as an "explorer"?

Thank you for this AMA though!

alastairhumphreys209 karma

Definitely! Kids in schools often ask me if I know Dora...

becface89 karma

Hi! I've been a big fan for years. I love your concept of micro adventures. I just had one myself cycling and camping in the hunter valley of NSW in Australia!

Question: What/who inspires you the most?

And what do you do in your down time?


alastairhumphreys121 karma

Thank you!

I'm inspired by great adventurers of the past (Shackleton et al) but also the great travel writers (Paddy Fermor, Laurie Lee, Eric Newby).

I love lying on the sofa drinking beer and watching sport on the TV (especially if it involves England beating Australia...)

teahc75 karma

Do you ever get lonely? I backpacked for 2 years and it was amazing, but towards the end I felt like I was missing out on forming relationships that didn't consist of only seeing the person every couple months when I passed through their country.

alastairhumphreys4 karma

Definitely - one of the hardest parts of it all.

NomNomMeatball63 karma

Why didn't you answer any questions on your last AMA?

Link for the lazy

alastairhumphreys275 karma

Because I had not realised you were supposed to do it 'live' - I had intended to return in a day or two to answer them.

TheObviousPie44 karma

Can you be an adventurer and still be afraid of spiders? :c

alastairhumphreys43 karma


Aquaqt41 karma

Do you do any adventurous sports at all? Also of all your adventures, which woud be the easiest for someone to do on a low budget?

alastairhumphreys66 karma

I guess mountain biking is the most adventurous sport I do. I'm not really an adrenalin junky!

Cycling is definitely the cheapest way to go and have an epic journey.

Aquaqt13 karma

Awesome! I'm pretty into mountain biking myself, just loading up with panniers and head off into the distance?

alastairhumphreys41 karma

If you have a mountain bike, panniers and a tent you are ready to cycle round the world:

franklin_stubbs10 karma

Join us at /r/bicycletouring . Biking around the world is not that rare of a feat these days. Hell I have some friends right now biking from Spain to Singapore.

I took a 700 mile bike trip in Chile myself. It's not that difficult. Hardest part is setting off. From there it gets easier.

alastairhumphreys2 karma

I agree!

kittenberrypie38 karma

When people ask me what my profession is I often say I am an adventurer/explorer - but you actually do it for a living. Awesome.

My question is, What has been your most memorable airport experience? Or favourite airport you have traveled through.

alastairhumphreys67 karma

I try to avoid airports! I managed to cycle round the world without flying across an ocean. I quite enjoyed people watching in Doha - the terminal was full of people travelling home from a Formula 1 race and people on their way home from the Haj in Mecca. Quite a contrast!

gentleberserker25 karma

Hello! Fascinating! I was wondering how one gets attention, sponsors, or generally how to make a living off this? Do you knock on doors of magazines and newspapers to get published or how does it work?

EDIT: Grammar.

alastairhumphreys61 karma

In the early days there is a lot of cold-calling of magazines etc. You need to be targetted though rather than just spamming. In other words when you approach a magazine with a story idea you have to be sure that it 'fits', that they haven't recently covered the same country etc. I got into speaking by giving free talks for local groups, schools etc. As I got better and started getting good references I was able to start charging a small fee. Over time (hopefully) this fee can increase and so can the number of talks. Eventually (a few years for me) I was earning enough for it to be my full time job. It won't make you rich, but it's a privilege to earn a living doing what you love.

gentleberserker12 karma

I absolutely agree. I have over 250 pages of notes from my last big trip which lasted 8 months and photos and been thinking about putting a website together where I can publish it as a blog, with photos and all!

Craziest event during your adventures?

alastairhumphreys27 karma

The important thing to do is get those notes written up. Once you begin you'll find the rest much easier. And only put the best bits up on your blog: less is more!

Craziest event? That's classified...!

chr0s19 karma

Wow, this is awesome. I'm leaving my job in 2 weeks and heading to Canada for a summer of adventures, hoping eventually to have a similar lifestyle to the one you describe (adventure, write, save, repeat).

Couple of questions, - What are some non-obvious things you recommend packing for long cycle trips? Doing 800mi in July and don't want to forget anything! - How often (if ever) do people tell you to 'get a real job'? Or are people pretty accepting of what you do?

alastairhumphreys34 karma

Take some chilli sauce / pepper / good coffee something nice but light. Take a good book - something like War&Peace which you'd never get round to in 'real life'. Make sure you write a diary.

People often say I am "lucky" to do this. There is an element of that, of course, but mostly it just comes from persistence and hard work.

Good luck!

chr0s6 karma

That's excellent advice, thanks. Wouldn't have thought of either chilli sauce or coffee, but realise both are eminently necessary!

Cool, it's great that it worked out for you :)


alastairhumphreys26 karma

Also popcorn kernels (and a small bit of oil / salt). They are tiny to carry, pop up to be huge, and are a lovely salty snack when you stop at day's end and write your diary.

alastairhumphreys29 karma

This would be good on a business card / website strap line: adventure, write, save, repeat

McSkwishfase16 karma

What did you study at university to help in becoming an adventurer?

alastairhumphreys57 karma

I studied Zoology and then trained to be a teacher. Neither was any use in my adventures, but training as a teacher felt like a sensible option of a career that I could move into later in life if I wanted to. I always encourage people to get as much education as they can before heading off on adventures.

Lez_B_Honest14 karma

How much research and training do you do before going on an adventure? Do you consult experts in order to best prepare yourself for the element(s) you're about to encounter?

alastairhumphreys30 karma

It depends on the trip. For something like rowing an ocean ( research and planning is vital. When I walked across India ( I deliberately did no research in order to keep the surprise and spontaneity which is such a joy of adventure.

rotub12 karma

Hi Al,

Big fan!

I recently did a micro adventure, I think you have seen it already (

Thank you for seeding the concept of micro adventures in me and most importantly making the most out of every day life. I could see that you are just an ordinary dude, and that's what I like about you.

In terms of a question... is your cycle around the world your favorite adventure to date, and are you still hoping to walk to the South pole?

alastairhumphreys11 karma

I enjoyed your story! Microadventures are becoming really important to me (examples here: and I'm focussing more and more on that. I'm no longer heading to the South Pole. And I think my favourite trip was Greenland:

viralthoughts10 karma

How does your writing process work for your books? Do you start writing as soon as you get back home, or do you start from day one of the adventure?

alastairhumphreys24 karma

That is a very good question given that I am doing this - I was supposed to be starting a new book chapter but this procrastination seemed more fun!

Generally I write detailed diaries on the trips. Then when I get home I just type them up verbatim. That then forms the skeleton of the book. And I flesh it out from there.

viralthoughts8 karma

Also, if you don't mind, what is the one piece of gear that you realllly wished that you had brought on your last adventure?

alastairhumphreys16 karma

Given that I stupidly lost my Thermarest on Day 3 of walking across a desert I'd definitely vote for a new Thermarest!

viralthoughts5 karma

Hah! That made me laugh, not that losing a Thermarest is a laughing matter at all... I, like an idiot, didn't bring mine to shave a little weight on a week long backpacking trip once. Never again.

le-tis10 karma

Hi Alastair, I'm a big fan and loved your books. Just a quick question, do you ever feel your enthusiasm waning for big trips? Do you get the same feeling before an adventure now than the one you had before your round the world cycle?

alastairhumphreys23 karma

That is a good question. There is undoubtedly a law of diminishing returns to adventure: the more you do it the less there is that is new, fresh and surprising. Additionally now that this is my "job" my outlook changes too. As well as anticipating the trip, I now also worry about the "story" and if it will be good enough to pay the bills when I get home. That's a bit sad, but I guess inevitable when your hobby becomes your job. I suspect nothing will ever match the anticipation before your first great adventure. But that does not mean that later ones are not thrilling too!

lurchyboy10 karma

Hi Alastair, I came across your microadventures recently and I'm hooked! It's such a good idea. You should write a book about them - I would buy it anyway.

I saw a Channel 4 programme recently about people going off on gap year adventures round the world. It was basically men having mid-life crises and I think it was just because they were so stuck in their every day life that they were so unhappy. I love the idea of microadventures because it's saying that adventure is right here on your doorstep and you don't have to put your life on hold, or have a big bank balance, to live an adventurous life.

My question is, what do you think it is about adventure that is so appealing? So necessary even?

alastairhumphreys28 karma

Adventure is a loose word, a spirit of trying something new, trying something difficult. Going somewhere different, leaving your comfort zone. Above all, adventure is about enthusiasm, ambition, open-mindedness and curiosity.

If this is true then “adventure” is not only rowing oceans, climbing mountains or cycling round the world. Adventure is everywhere, every day and it is up to us to seek it out.

You probably can’t go on huge adventures all the time. We all have to pragmatically juggle the commitments and constraints of our “real lives”.

But you can have a microadventure.

Because you do not need to fly to the other side of the planet to find wilderness and beauty.

Adventure is only a state of mind.

Adventure is stretching yourself; mentally, physically or culturally. It is about doing something you do not normally do, pushing yourself hard and doing it to the best of your ability.

You do not need to be an elite athlete, expertly trained, or rich to have an adventure.

A microadventure is an adventure that is close to home, cheap, simple, short, and yet very effective.

A microadventure has the spirit (and therefore the benefits) of a big adventure. It's just all condensed into a weekend away, or even a midweek escape from the office. Even people living in big cities are not very far away from small pockets of wilderness.

Adventure is all around us, at all times. Even during hard financial times such as these. Times when getting out into the wild is more enjoyable, invigorating and important than ever.

alastairhumphreys15 karma

I am writing a book about microadventures right now. (Why do you think I am procrastinating out my lunch break here on Reddit?!)

Salacious-8 karma

What feat would you like to accomplish someday but, given current technology, you can't do it yet?

alastairhumphreys24 karma

I'm reading an amazing book called Moondust now which really makes me want to go to the moon. So I guess it would be to travel far into space.

le-tis7 karma

Hi Alastair, another question here: I'm about to enter my final year of University and am considering a long distance bike ride when I finish in order to catch England Cricket play a Test Series in Sri Lanka. As I'm sure you can imagine, I've received plenty of advice advising me to go straight into a job/save up to put a deposit on a house etc. I also have a girlfriend that wouldn't be too happy if I went on this trip.

What is it that made you want to go against all this conventional wisdom and embark on your first adventure?

alastairhumphreys30 karma

You know that you will probably have to work until you are 70 to get a pension. So really how much difference will a 6 month bike ride make? This much difference: your CV will look different to everyone else competing for a job. You'll be more confident, worldly and clear about who you are and what you want. Get your girlfriend to come with you, or persuade her that 6 months really isn't that long. Go do this trip. It won't affect your life earnings. You'll regret it one day if you don't...

le-tis10 karma

Thanks for this, it's nice to have someone stand up and encourage you to take a risk, rather than spend your whole life playing it safe.

alastairhumphreys17 karma

And if you set off and hate the whole stupid idea you can always come home and get that job. There is so little to lose and so much to gain.

le-tis3 karma

What a great perspective. I'll probably try and create a blog about this trip so I'll send you the link so you can check it out. It must be nice seeing the multitude of adventurers that you've inspired!

alastairhumphreys15 karma

Until they nick all my work.... ;-)

MountainStandard6 karma

What do you believe is the most sustainable model (financially) to become a professional adventurer? Guiding? create media (writing, blogging, etc...)? or the charity money raising route?

alastairhumphreys17 karma

The simplest would be guiding - a steady paid job. Writing / speaking / making films gives you more freedom and flexibility, but less certainty as to where the next $ will come from. I think trying to make money for yourself and money for your charity simultaneously is an ethically grey area!

iltl324 karma

Any tricks for getting around without spending a lot? I like to travel but flying is too expensive.

alastairhumphreys12 karma

Don't fly! Cycle! Sleep wild not in hotels. Eat instant noodles and banana sandwiches.

iltl324 karma

How do I cycle over an ocean?

alastairhumphreys18 karma

I crossed the Atlantic on a sailing boat - spend time at a sailing club volunteering, helping out, making yourself useful and asking around until you find a passage across the ocean (it took me almost 2 months)

matthewguitar2 karma

How do you wash then?

alastairhumphreys2 karma

Jump in a river.

travissherry1 karma

If you learn how to earn and use frequent flyer miles, you can fly almost anywhere in the world for less than $100. I do it constantly, although I will say it is easier for Americans to earn them quickly than other nationalities because there are more opportunities.

iltl321 karma

Ok. How do I earn and use frequent flyer miles?

Ryfrey3 karma

What kind of stuff do you do for money?

alastairhumphreys3 karma

blogging (, writing books and articles and giving talks.

poonbanger3 karma

Do you think you will ever ride around the world again?

alastairhumphreys11 karma


hcutts2 karma

Hello Alastair, what have been your favorite countries/areas to bike through? And would you ever consider coming to Canada to do your talks or for another adventure? Thanks!

alastairhumphreys3 karma

  1. South Africa
  2. Russia
  3. Georgia
  4. Colombia
  5. Sudan
  6. USA
  7. Jordan
  8. Japan
  9. China
  10. Kyrgyzstan

michaelhands2 karma

how does one become a professional adventuerer/explorer?

alastairhumphreys3 karma

I became an adventurer gradually. At university I started dreaming of big adventures. So I saved up and then, after graduating, set off to cycle round the world. 4 years later (and £7000 / $10,000) I arrived back home, wrote a couple of books, and began trying to earn a living from my adventurers. Now I earn money from writing and speaking and save up until I have enough cash to go on the next adventure (which gives me more stories to write / speak about).

10yrs_to_the_day2 karma

I'm doing something similar to this very soon and have a shitload of questions:

1) How dangerous is Africa/the Middle East? For that matter, how dangerous is the rest of the world? I'm sort of talking about robbers but I'm also talking about police and even poisonous animals. I'm afraid to hike around and live out of a tent in the US due to our strict enforcement of anti-homelessness laws.

2) What is your gear list? I'm planning on bringing a JOOS solar charger and a rugged, waterproof RAZR M smartphone for blogging/pictures/music/etc. Good idea? How many liters was your backpack? Anything you wish you brought but didn't?

3) Would it be worth it to carry a weapon, such as a machete? Would it be confiscated by police or attract too much unwarranted attention?

4) What did you eat? Did you do any hunting/fishing/foraging? About how many calories per day?

Thank you so much for doing this AMA!

alastairhumphreys7 karma

  1. Of course there are a few bad people in every country, but honestly the kindness you will receive in Africa and the Middle East will be astonishing.
  2. Here is a blend of what I took and what I would have taken if I had the money!

Bike- Two steel Rockhoppers which were great and finally a wonderful steel mountain bike with downhill rims (I was sick of breaking wheels) made by a company who wouldn�t give me even a tiny discount so I childishly taped over their logos [dream bike though- Thorn Raven], 4 large waterproof panniers, 2 large �Ark� dry-bags, bungees, granny-style shopping basket (so much better than a bar bag), 2 water bottles, Brooks saddle, Jandd Extreme front rack, Blackburn Expedition rear rack, Schwalbe Marathon tyres (1.9s), DT spokes, SPD pedals (one sided), bike odometer (wish I had the Cateye with altimeter), bar ends, horn for amusing kids and easily amused adults, Topeak Alien multi tool, adjustable spanner, Leatherman Wave, freewheel remover, tyre levers, 2 pumps, puncture kit, 2 spare tubes, spare tyre, spare chain (switched them every 3000km), duck tape, superglue, zip ties, string, oil, spare nuts and bolts, strip of sidewall of old tyre to wrap round inner tube in case of split tyre, free-standing Coleman tent, Therm-a-rest, sleeping bag, LED head torch, MSR Whisperlite, pan, spoon, cigarette lighters, mug, 10 litre water bag, iodine for water purifying, 2 zip-off trousers, 1 long-sleeved cycling top, 2 t-shirts, SPD sandals, 2 socks, lots of warm clothes in Siberia and none in Sudan, Karrimor rain jacket, rain trousers, thin gloves, waterproof mitts, thin balaclava, multi-purpose cotton tube thing for hat, scarf, sandstorm face mask etc, baseball cap, helmet (occasionally worn), suncream, Oakley sunglasses (worth the cash), cycling mitts, rechargeable AA batteries and charger, little First Aid and needle kit, insurance and photocopy of all papers, blood group info, dollars cash, lots of credit cards, passport photos, maps, books, diary, camera (dream: tiny digital and big juicy SLR), iPod, passport, toothbrush.

Damadawf2 karma

I've never tried cycling around the world, but I've climbed Kilimanjaro and walked the Kokoda trail! More recently though, my adventures have consisted of trying not to stay in bed all day.

Anyway shutting up about myself, what is the scariest/most life threatening situation that you've found yourself in, and how did you end up resolving it?

alastairhumphreys3 karma

I tend to not do dangerous things: I'm a bit of a wimp. But some of this paddling was way out of my (low) skill range and therefore very dangerous:

Kokoda sounds amazing!

minirova2 karma

What kind of camera do you carry around with you on your adventures? Your photos look SLR quality, but I know that has to be a pain to carry around.

alastairhumphreys6 karma

I used to use a little camera but these days I use a Canon 5D Mkii which is a pain (but worth it!)

SnookSnook2 karma

What is left on your adventure bucket list?

alastairhumphreys7 karma

A big trip in the Australian outback. Scandinavia. And I've barely scratched the surface of the wild bits of the US...

Pranayogikarma1 karma

Going to AK, what do I have to go see / do?

alastairhumphreys2 karma

Cycle to Prudhoe Bay

Sperethiel1 karma

What is the most dangerous situation you've ever been in? And thank you for doing the AMA!!

alastairhumphreys4 karma

I tend to not do dangerous things: I'm a bit of a wimp. But some of this paddling was way out of my (low) skill range and therefore very dangerous:

littlefox841 karma

What were you like as a child ?

alastairhumphreys7 karma

I was not adventurous at all. I grew up in the countryside so I climbed trees, jumped in rivers etc (like these kids: but I was not the bravest or weighed down with wanderlust. I guess I was / am just completely normal. I just chose to do things that weren't very normal.

littlefox841 karma

Thanks for replying ! I could ask you questions and listen to you for hours :) You inspired me to finally explore more.x

alastairhumphreys3 karma

Ask another then!

littlefox841 karma

You have been warned hehe. Is there something so beautiful that you witnessed on an adventuer, that words could just not describe ?

hcutts1 karma

In your books you mention many people that you were able to stay with/meet up with during your cycle around the world. were these your friends/family? how did you make so many connections?

alastairhumphreys3 karma

Mostly they were friends of friends of friends, or else random people who read my blog. Sites like the Warm Showers List and Couchsurfing are good too.

travissherry1 karma

Alistair, found your stuff from Jason Lewis, a friend of mine. Recently purchased your Moods of Future Joy and love it. My question:

What is the hardest part of being an adventurer?

Obviously, most people see you and think, "I'd love to do that" but what are the biggest obstacles?

alastairhumphreys5 karma

There are practical difficulties (earning cash!) but also it leads to a bit of a restless nature, a constant yearning for more/differernt/bigger/better/harder.

alastairhumphreys4 karma

ps - Jason's journey was EPIC!

drummybear671 karma

When you were cycling the world, how did you stay safe on major roads? I've always wanted to take long bike adventures, but I am scared of traveling on the highways or other busy roads.

alastairhumphreys2 karma

Big roads are often quite safe (large shoulders) but not fun. Small roads can be the opposite. I found panniers helped - they make you appear wider so people give you a wider berth. Still sadly a risk of course.

drummybear671 karma

Any memorable run-ins with dangerous / poisonous animals or plants?

alastairhumphreys2 karma

Not really. Sorry! Dogs chased me a lot cycling round the world, and my arch enemy is the mosquito. But no tiger wrestling - sorry!

Pointy1301 karma

Do you get to interact with local cultures along the way? What's the weirdest thing you've eaten on an adventure?

alastairhumphreys12 karma

Absolutely! Without the local cultures you might as well just sit on an exercise bike in a gym for thousands of miles.

I drank a pretty foul liquor in South America which is fermented by the spittle of old women...

lurchyboy1 karma

Hi - another quick question: I've got a 2-year old boy. Can you suggest any microadventures that would involve him?

alastairhumphreys4 karma

A less elaborate version of this would be great to do as a family -

DCSFoyle1 karma

Have you ever had to deal with dangerous animals? If so, which ones and what was it like?

alastairhumphreys7 karma

Not really. Sorry! Dogs chased me a lot cycling round the world, and my arch enemy is the mosquito. But no tiger wrestling - sorry!

anywhereness1 karma

Heya Alastair, thanks for doing this AMA.

Just a little over a year ago, I had quit my job and gone off on a motorcycle adventure in the USA with hopes to travel abroad. Unfortunately it's somewhat curtailed at the moment due to an injury, but I'm hoping to step back into it shortly. I concur with your statements made below for anyone on the fence about it; adventuring it completely worth it. Do it.

A few questions pop into mind:

  1. Do you feel that the democratization of stories and photography through the internet is adding a delude to the public that is watering down opportunities to make a living from adventuring and storytelling?

  2. When you're evaluating a story to tell, does the adventure come first and find the story within, or does the general premise of the story come first and find how to turn it more adventurous?

  3. How do you balance your personal life against doing "full time adventure". It seems as though if one is gone from "home" for half to many years at a stretch, it would be hard to keep a healthy stable relationship.

  4. Do you find that not having a degree in journalism hinders your ability to shop stories around? How best find to work around this?

alastairhumphreys2 karma

Hope you get back on the road soon. Answers: 1. To a degree, yes. But the tools also helps me massively too. I guess you have to hope that the cream will rise to the top and hard work will shine through. 2. Good Q! It always used to be adventure first, story second. And I think that is crucial when you are starting out. But I have lately noticed myself sometimes veering towards the story more. 3. Agreed! 4. Not one bit. I have never been asked that. All you need is to write well. And all you need to write well is to READ a LOT.

vir_super_hostem0 karma

What's the most dangerous thing you've done?

alastairhumphreys2 karma

I tend to not do dangerous things: I'm a bit of a wimp.

But some of this paddling was way out of my (low) skill range and therefore very dangerous:

vir_super_hostem1 karma

Understandable haha! How do you get into such a profession?

alastairhumphreys4 karma

I became an adventurer gradually. At university I started dreaming of big adventures. So I saved up and then, after graduating, set off to cycle round the world. 4 years later (and £7000 / $10,000) I arrived back home, wrote a couple of books, and began trying to earn a living from my adventurers. Now I earn money from writing and speaking and save up until I have enough cash to go on the next adventure (which gives me more stories to write / speak about).