The Great Outdoors (UK)
Ask an Adventurer
is a loaded term. Does it mean the actual outdoor activities that make our heart beat faster, or is it all the other stuff so often surrounding it: the corporate speaking events, the book deals, the Instagram posts, the brand sponsorships? Ask an Adventurer by Alastair Humphreys is an unusually (perhaps even uniquely) candid look into what the life of a working adventurer is really like.
The author earns his living by giving talks, working with brands and writing books. He’s known for both big, grand adventures and closer-tohome microadventures. The book, he writes, began from an awareness that the ‘Instagram glossiness’ of his online life was only the tip of the iceberg. It’s structured around a series of questions posed by readers (questions such as ‘how do you get companies to support your adventures?’ and ‘what is your backup plan if adventuring doesn’t work out?’). In answering these questions, Humphreys reveals a surprising amount about how his business works and how he’s decided to live his life: how he makes money, how much he makes, what he chooses to focus on and why, his worries and fears, pitfalls he’s fallen into or avoided, and reconciling adventure with family life.
This is a peek behind the curtain. It isn’t often that this stuff is written about so openly. People making a living (or a portion of it) in this world are often highly guarded about the money side of things, and maybe there’s still a lingering sense amongst some that making money from outdoor activities at all is somehow cheating. Perhaps that’s why this book feels so fresh. Humphreys writes with vulnerability about the path he’s taken – about his bad habits and blind spots as well as his lucky breaks. And, yes, he is refreshingly open about privilege too. He acknowledges that his position as a well-educated white man has given him a massive leg up – and that the safety net of a partner’s income has made taking risks much easier at times. There’s also a strong undertone of self-deprecating humour. At times it’s possible to sense that this can be a lonely path.
I admire what the author has done here, shining a bright light into the shadowed corners of the professional adventurer’s career. If you think that a career as a working adventurer might be for you, or if you’re just curious about how it all works, then this is a must-read. As Humphreys writes: ‘I have ended up earning a comfortable living mostly from what an insider might perceive to be drinking coffee in a shed or riding a bike and telling an audience about it.’