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Cooper Union ​Translator: Cristina Bufi-PÜcksteiner Reviewer: Ellen Maloney Good morning. Looking back, I'm constantly amazed that I had the audacity, aged 24, to think that I might be able to cycle around the world. I look back and I can't quite believe that I even tried to do this. I had no particular skills, I'm not an athlete, you can probably tell, I'm no muscle man, I am not even a cyclist, I am just a depressingly normal person. I didn't have much money, I didn't think that something as boring as money should get in the way of this dream that was brewing in my head. I figured that more important was just to get going and see how far I could go. I didn't think I was going to make it all around the world when I set off, I thought it was beyond me, but I decided, somehow I managed to persuade myself that failing wouldn't really matter. that much more important would be that I didn't want to be old, look back in my life and regret not even having begun. Somehow, I summoned up the nerve to get on my bike and set off, to try and ride around the world. I was inspired by all my heroes, all these great heroic explorers, whose books I read all the time. But as I set off from home, I realized I was different from all these heroic explorers. There is never any mention, in these great books, of people crying, when they said goodbye to their moms, or having very, very sore back sides as they cycled along. I didn't even really know how to mend the bike. I carried a book with me, "How to fix your bike", for an alarmingly large proportion of my journey, before I felt confident enough to mend the bike without a book. Somehow I got on the road and this became a new life on the road, making my way through all sorts of incredible environments and landscapes, people and experiences. This is my office. I set off riding, following the open road, if you get on your bike outside your front door and you pedal, it's an incredibly simple concept. You get on your bike outside, you keep pedaling and before you know it you're in Africa; the signpost for this. (Laughter) I was making progress now, but I was about to head into something that I was very nervous about, riding through Sudan, Northern Sudan, the Nubian Desert. I'd never been to a desert before, I'd been to a the beach, not in a desert; I was quite alarmed that I might have bitten off more than I could chew. I was riding along: "What would it be like in the desert? I was getting very nervous. One day I had to find out: the road ended and the desert began. This is officially the end of the road and then I was into this desert. What was amazing here, I'd been nervous, thinking: "Will I survive?" I was surviving, thriving, having the time of my life, I loved it: "Wow, this is the life I want to be living." On and on, I pedalled through all sorts of adventures, incredible people, down through Africa, until a good day I saw a first signpost of Cape Town, I was nearly at the end of Africa, that's one continent done. From Africa I jumped on a sailing boat, sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and then started to cycle again right from the very bottom of South America, Southern Patagonia, and I wanted to ride as far as I could to the Arctic Ocean in Northern Alaska. I rode through the Andes for a few months, through the Atacama Desert, through all sorts of beautiful places that were so incredible that they reminded me although this journey was very difficult - I spent a lot of my time feeling very sorry for myself and wanting to go home and watch TV and sit on the sofa - places like these reminded me perseverance will be rewarded, at the end, and I shouldn't give this up lightly. Another good day, I saw a first sign post to Cartagena, the end of South America, so another continent done. I rode on up to North America, the wonderful West Coast of the States, and on into Canada, British Columbia, the Yukon heading up to the Arctic now, where forest fires blocked my route. Forest fires in Yukon are enormous, especially for an English guy trying to grasp the size of fires. This fire is the size of Wales. The firemen said to me: "Sorry, this fire is going to be burning for weeks, no way you can carry on." By now, I've been cycling for about three years (Laughter) and one thing that I'd continuously come up against in the three years was this wimpish negativity of people. People's default settings seem to be quite wimpish, pessimistic, and negative: "You can't go there, it's too dangerous, too high, too far, too hot, too cold." There's always a way around this, so I thought: "Right, I can't carry on cycling down this road; clearly, there must be a way round it." I popped my bike in a canoe and paddled down stream, down the river Yukon, for 500 miles, 800 km, till I passed the forest fire, I could get back on the bike and cycle along up into Alaska, up into the Arctic, and see the first signpost of the end of North America. Another continent down. All I needed to do is to cycle back through Asia and Europe and back to home. (Laughter) Asia, I was going to begin in Siberia. Didn't know much about Siberia, all I knew is that in winter it's very cold. That is the iconic image of Siberia. Obviously you need to time your arrival there very carefully. I thought to myself: "If I'm going to Siberia, I want to do the job right, I don't want to do this any half measure." I timed my arrival to coincide with the winter. I spent three months cycling through Siberia in the winter time, which was about as much fun as it sounds. I then spent three months cycling the length of Japan. I cycled right the way across China on into


Central Asia, through a lot of the "stan" countries. In particular I was heading to a place called Samarkand. When I was at university I daydreamed about whether I should get a proper job or whether I should cycle around the world. I read this poem about the golden road to Samarkand and it sounded like the most exotic, far off place imaginable, "We are the pilgrims we should go always a little farther." Though, wow, one day, I love to go to Samarkand. And so to arrive there, it's a wonderful place to get to, but the reward really was the slog I got into, rather than the place itself. Technical point, this is Bukhara, not Samarkand, for any pedants out there. On I went across the rest of Asia, till I saw the sign post to Istanbul, the end of Asia, the start of Europe. All I needed to do was a quick dash across Europe back home again, for a nice cup of tea. By the time I got home, I had cycled 46,000 miles, 72,000 km through 60 countries, 5 continents. I did it by living in a tent, eating banana sandwiches. The whole journey took four years and three months and it cost me less than ÂŁ7,000. I was rewarded with a lifetime of memories and lessons and experiences, that just continue to overwhelm me and influence everything I do from now on. I got home, I thought, I've cycled around the world, I'm 28, what am I going to do for the next 60 years? (Laughter) One thing that struck me from this experience was that what I really loved was having adventures and in all sorts of different forms, living adventurously, and it seemed to make sense to me that surely a good strategy for life is to find what you love and do a lot of it. Do it well, with relentless enthusiasm and passion, and I thought, What I do love is having these adventures so I'm just going to try and live adventurously in all different guises and just follow whatever path that takes my life down. All of these adventures, they're all good fun for me and they're fun but they're a bit stupid as well. The more I've done them, I've realized that by sharing the stories it starts to have a bit more of a meaning to me than just me sitting in a tent by a waterfall. The amazing world we live in now, the world is as huge as it's ever been, geographically it's as massive and fascinating as ever, but it is also tiny. The Internet technology has made things so small now, you can get a high definition camera smaller than your fist that can broadcast beautiful footage and the potential for sharing your stories is better than ever. Up in the Arctic Ocean, you can get: (Video) Good morning Internet, my name is Alastair Humpreys, I'm looking forward to be chatting with you - That's meant to say, "Chatting with you on Twitter later." I did a live Twitter interview with kids in a school from a tent on the Arctic Ocean and there is no limit to the age you can influence children at. There is awe and wonder that children have even young ones, you can get in touch with small ones as well. (Video): This is the communications tent, this is the science tent, this is the kitchen tent, and this is the toilet tent. AH: Children love hearing about toilets around the world. (Laughter) It's all you need to talk about really. Earlier this year I rode across the Atlantic Ocean. We did a daily blog from the ocean. Which seems a fairly normal thing these days, unless you think about it. The craziness of how easy that is to do. I phoned up schools, I spoke to this wonderful school in Yorkshire, who started to follow our expedition. An amazing teacher decided to recreate our rowing boat in the classroom, with living quarters, a rowing machine, a toilet poo bucket. And the educational potential: the science, the math, the geography, the creative writing; but more importantly just the subversive notion that there are oceans to be rowed, there are adventure to have, there is so much to do in our lives. It's great, to just be able to do, to touch children around the world like that. Last week I came home from an expedition in Greenland, a really tough journey, but we thought nothing, after a long day hauling sledges, to update our website. Just seems, if you are going to spend your life banging your head against brick wall, simply for the pleasure of stopping, it becomes slightly more useful if you share this with the world. Like a lot of aspiring non-famous writers, I wanted to try to become a travel writer. I've been doing the long, tortuous journey towards getting books published, which is a painful, long process. A year or two ago, I was on a journey, I was walking across Southern India from coast to coast. As I was walking I realized the story I wanted to tell from this trip wasn't really a linear A to B book type. I thought there might be another way of telling it. What do I love? I thought I know: I really love travel, writing and photography, maps. Why not mix all these three things together and tell my story in that way rather than through a normal book. (Drum beats) (Video) (Vocals) AH: I decided to abandon my hard-won publisher, go back to selfpublishing, and trade fame, fortune, and glory for the freedom of being able to innovate and be creative and take the responsibility for what I do. Things that I write now, that's self-published, if they're good, if it's rubbish that is because of me. I love that responsibility that that gives. All sorts of different adventures, and I'm sure most people have no desire to cycle around the world, run through the Sahara or anything stupid like that, but equally I think, adventure is vital for everyone. They don't need to be big adventures, they can be tiny little adventures, whatever you want really, adventure is just about doing something you've never done, with enthusiasm and curiosity. Doing something difficult, doing something with enthusiasm and passion really. If that is true, you can have an adventure anywhere: a small adventure, a tiny adventure, so small, it can be a micro adventure. Adventure is everywhere. To prove my point, I set out to have the most boring adventure possible. I set out to walk a lap of the M25 motorway. (Laughter) In case you're fortunate enough to not know the M25, this is the monstrosity of a road that circles London, 120 miles long,


through commuter suburbia hell; everyone hates it. If you can find adventure here, you can find it anywhere. Sleeping under a plastic sheet in January by the motorway is quite miserable, but this was a proper adventure. I found a kids sledge, loaded my stuff into that and felt like a heroic explorer. First time in my life hauling this sledge through the snowy wasteland of Rickmansworth, Junction 17. Unfortunately the sledge broke, found a shopping trolley. (Laughter) It was a silly trip, but there was point to this that you can find an adventure anywhere. This idea of micro adventures felt so interesting to me that I decided that I was going to take a bit of action on this, I was going to encourage other people to do them. I decided I was going to spend a whole year only doing micro adventures, right here in the UK. I started very small: enter a mountain bike race, anyone can do that. I wanted to do something anyone could do, just to prove the point that if you gradually build up, anyone can do any of these things I've done. Most people have proper jobs, nine to five, restriction in some ways. But, what about your "five to nine?" 16 hours from when you finish work till you have to start in the morning. I happened to be in a suit one day. I got changed like Superman in a phone box, ran up a hill, slept on the top, back down, jump in a lake, back at my desk by nine o'clock. You can have adventures in very small spaces of time. You can explore locally in the UK, there are beautiful things. This is the Shetland Isles, in the most Northern point of Britain. Here is my tent, summer solstice, exploring the Shetlands by folding bike. There's adventure everywhere. One of my favourite expeditions ever: swimming down the River Thames: if you get a fresh perspective on normal places, places look beautiful and wild, wherever you are. The great thing about this year of adventure was to share it, to encourage other people, who'd never slept out before, to get on their bikes; I slept on a cliff top with three guys, who had never slept outside before. The essence of micro adventures, perhaps the essence of my entire talk is this: for getting a bit of clarity and perspective and the simplicity and fun in your life, go and sleep on a hill and jump into a river before breakfast. That's all you really need to do. You might not want to; do something else, take a photo every single day for a year. That is a little adventure in its own way. You see things differently, you start to just look differently on the world. There are all sorts you can do. I decided ... In Japan I read this, an advertisement that Shackleton put in the Times newspaper about trying to find people to go to the South Pole. It is an unconventional advert, he had hundreds of replies. At the moment I'm now planning a journey to the South Pole. It is the 100th anniversary of Captain Scott's expedition. No one has yet walked from the coast to the Pole, and back to the coast. I am heading off, at the end of this year, to do this with two other guys. I would never have thought I was suitable for this, I'm really not an athlete, but I am doing these sort of things I really didn't think I would ever have the opportunity or potential to do but I've continually surprised myself at my own potential. I'm a very normal person. "Think Big" is all obvious stuff, I encourage you also to think small. Just do something a little bit different, just try something different if only because it starts to get momentum going and give you confidence. The crucial thing is just to begin, after that everything is quite easy. Have an idea and then begin it. Thank you very much. (Applause) Hartwick College, Oneonta.

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