Paperback: 240pp

Published: Eye Books (July 2021)

ISBN: 9781785633003

Ask an Adventurer

Alastair Humphreys


Live adventurously, be creative, make a living

‘Interesting, lucid, down-to-earth and practical’
Buzz Magazine

Adventurers cross deserts and row oceans, appearing to live the dream. Yet they also must pay the bills and carve out time to get away.

Are you trying to make a career doing what you love, daring to go freelance in a creative industry, growing an audience or curious about an unconventional career? What is it like to build a life from living adventurously?

Whether you are adventurous, creative or just curious, Ask an Adventurer answers your questions from behind the scenes, rather than the usual questions adventurers hear: there are no kit lists, practical expedition planning advice or daring deeds in these pages. Instead, Alastair tackles questions asked by readers on social media such as:

  • How do you make a living?
  • How do you make time for adventure?
  • How do you stay motivated and focused?
  • How do you deal with post-adventure blues?
  • How has social media changed story-telling?
  • How do you find sponsors?
  • How do you get your work done?
  • How can we make the world of adventure better?
  • How do you get a book published?
  • How do you get paid to give talks?
  • How do you start a podcast?
  • How do you launch an email newsletter?

And more...


What on earth is an ‘adventurer’?

My short definition of a Working Adventurer is someone who earns money from their adventures as opposed to someone who enjoys adventure as a hobby or takes a break from work to go travelling. But an ‘explorer’ or an ‘extreme athlete’ could also do that. What is the difference?



What on earth is an ‘adventurer’?

My short definition of a Working Adventurer is someone who earns money from their adventures as opposed to someone who enjoys adventure as a hobby or takes a break from work to go travelling. But an ‘explorer’ or an ‘extreme athlete’ could also do that. What is the difference?

Calling yourself an ‘explorer’ certainly sounds impressive. Everyone has an idea of what an explorer is. If you can pull it off, then I can think of no finer business card. But I am not an explorer, sadly. I’ve never been somewhere that hasn’t been mapped. I’ve never discovered anything new, let alone anything that is both new and useful. I believe that an explorer needs to return home with knowledge. There are also old-fashioned connotations of the word that don’t feel appropriate for what I do. I don’t wear a pith helmet.

If you Google ‘adventurer’, you’ll find 76 million pages beginning with a bunch of dictionary definitions, and then comes an article by me! Compare that with twenty times as many pages about explorers. Even removing those linked to Microsoft Explorer or the Ford Explorer only culls a tenth of the entries. That these companies have hijacked the explorer word and image makes it feel even less suitable for my own life.

‘Adventurer’ is a vague term that depends upon the root word ‘adventure’. I have always been adamant that everyone’s definition of adventure can be different. One person’s little jaunt is another’s Everest. Someone else’s Everest is another’s vanity project. Yet if I leave it up to you to define adventure it doesn’t make it easy for me to explain ‘adventurer’. So here is my take on it.

To my mind, being an adventurer is linked with the experiences you have along the way more than the lands you conquer. It feels like a 21st-Century term, an excitement-seeking soul rather than a serious fellow with a patron or independent means. Being an adventurer feels accessible to more people and free from stigma, dogma, or restrictions of elitism or gender. It is possible to be both an average person and an adventurer. An adventurer belongs in our era of social media, story-telling, enjoyable journeys and challenges, rather than the days of Columbus or Shackleton. The worst of what adventurers do is an exercise in vanity, chasing a scrolling, envious audience. At best, an adventurer makes people smile, challenges them to think, brings about change and inspires action.

How else might I describe myself if not as an adventurer? Dispelling some other titles might counter any illusions you might have that a Working Adventurer is somehow exceptionally talented, skilled or qualified in a way that you are not.

Athlete? I have run marathons and an ultramarathon or two, but I certainly am not an athlete. I have never won a race, and I am happy to swap running for tree climbing if I get the chance.

Traveller? Romantically appealing, yes. But I have spent the past decade championing the merits of not needing to go on long, meandering journeys in order to live adventurously. It is also liable to be confused with other traditionally itinerant groups.

Microadventurer? This, perhaps, is the best description for most of my life at the moment, but it is an ugly word, and you first need to establish what ‘adventurer’ means anyway.

Writer? I would love this to be the one-word summary of my life, but imposter syndrome and income percentage deter me.

Motivational Speaker? I enjoy giving talks; I have been doing it for many years; it feels worthwhile, and it pays most of my bills. But it also feels like a job description rather than a life description, and not one I particularly aspire to.

Film-maker / podcaster? I like making films, but I’m only a dabbler. I’m enthusiastic about podcasts, but I’ve only been doing it a short while. I cannot claim to be defined by either of those.

Social Media Influencer? *Wipes vomit from floor…*

Perhaps being an adventurer is about the difference between being a jack-of-all-trades versus being a specialist. ‘Jack vs The Specialist’ is the title of a long-running email discussion I’ve been having with climber Paul Deegan over many years.

Back when explorer Ben Saunders and I were working on a South Pole expedition, he would berate me for spreading myself too thin and trying to do a little bit of everything, rather than just doing one thing well. I took Ben’s point, but I just can’t help dashing off like a puppy to investigate all the different, delightful smells and adventures in the woods. Ben is a focused explorer. I am a dilettante adventurer. All I am interested in is everything, ‘desirous of everything at the same time’. With this comes an acceptance that in its place I must forfeit the chance to be the best at anything: I will never be an ‘explorer’ or an ‘athlete’ or a great ‘writer’ without narrowing my focus. And I am OK with that.

Whatever I decide to call myself, the work aspect of all this adventure stuff only occupies a mere 30 hours out of my week’s 168 hours anyway. The majority of my time, I am just ‘Dad’, picking my kids up from school and cooking tea for the family. A crucial part of my personal definition of being an adventurer is that its essence ought to run right through all those other hours in a way that it might not if I was a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker. This is more than my job. It is my life.

I don’t want to think in terms of adventure or work, adventure or downtime, adventure or family. I want my life to be adventure and work, adventure and downtime, adventure and family. To build my life around the intangible essence of all that being an adventurer implies.

My choice of the word ‘adventurer’ is a statement of intent to myself, a reminder to be curious, enthusiastic and as bold as I dare to be at all hours, not just those when I’ve clocked on for work.

‘Adventurer’ might be a clunky label of convenience, but it clarifies that I am not an explorer nor an accountant. It goes some way towards encapsulating my passion, my income and my lifestyle priorities. I have no other job or hidden wealth. As a Working Adventurer, I pay my bills solely via the adventures I go on and the stories I tell afterwards.


‘The gospel of short, perspective-shifting bursts of travel closer to home’

New York Times

‘A life-long adventurer’

Financial Times


Ask An Adventurer gives you all the essentials on turning your hobby into a paying profession. A really interesting read, yet down to earth and practical…Get this book and see where it takes you’

Buzz Magazine



Alastair Humphreys

Alastair Humphreys is a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. He has cycled around the world, rowed the Atlantic Ocean and walked a lap of the M25 – one of his pioneering microadventures.

He is the author of 14 books, including Great Adventurers, which won the Stanford’s Children’s Travel Book of the Year and the Teach Primary Award for Non-Fiction.

He has written eight books for Eye including the bestselling The Boy Who Biked the World trilogy, a series of novels for 9–12-year-olds based on the real-life adventures he recounted in Moods of Future Joys, Thunder and Sunshine and Ten Lessons from the Road. His more recent The Girl Who Rowed the Ocean is a similarly novelised version of his transatlantic crossing. It was shortlisted for the Stanford’s Children’s Travel Book of the Year.

He is a qualified teacher.