I’ve always been drawn to the outdoors and have enjoyed a few climbing trips in the past few years. But in my previous office job, I often found it difficult to find the time to get out of town and into nature. I dreamed about doing something big and exciting – leaving the confines of London behind me and heading into the unknown. All of a sudden, it seemed the right time take a big adventure.
The idea of doing something like this has always appealed to me: I’ve been adventurous as long as I can remember. As a kid, I fantasised about motorcycle adventures. At university, I toured part of India on a motorbike. After university I lived on a houseboat that me and a friend rebuilt after it sunk. I lived in Tanzania to work as a journalist for a year. But it didn’t really occur to me that such a big journey could be undertaken on a bicycle.
The original idea was to cycle around the world. I liked the ring (excuse the pun) of a round-the-world trip. But when I broke it down and thought more about where I really wanted to visit, I realised many of the countries were in Latin America. There are so many in that stretch of land that I was fascinated by, and round-the-world morphed into a journey around Latin America. Once I planned the route and saved some money from my marketing job, I handed in my notice. It was nerve-wracking at first, telling my boss in my comfortable job that I was leaving it to go do this. But the nervousness quickly turned to excitement when it became clearer that I was actually going to do it. It became all I thought about for months!
I learned quickly that cycling is something that you can build up quite easily. If you ride nearly everyday, allowing the occasional rest day to help your body repair, you can really build up the stamina. A lot of my friends were amazed to discover I was riding well over 70 miles a day for some stretches. But if cycling is pretty much all you’re doing everyday, your body does adapt.
I rode the majority of the trip with my girlfriend. Before training for the trip, she hadn’t ridden a bike in over 10 years. But she adapted quickly and it wasn’t long before she was speeding up ahead of me, daring me to try catch her up! It goes to show that your body is capable of far more than you might think.
The most challenging part for me, by far, was learning how to share the journey with somebody else. I had spent 6 weeks on the road on my own before Sophie flew out to Buenos Aires to meet me. I loved being able to go at my own pace, testing myself and pushing my own cycling abilities. But when Sophie arrived, I had to take a big step back and change pretty much everything.
At first, I was very controlling, not only with the cycling but with the camping, the cooking, the immersing in a different culture. Looking back now it’s hugely embarrassing! She taught me a lot about what it means to share with somebody. It was steep learning curve for me.
For me, the joy that adventure brings comes from experiencing something new. I believe experiences give life a richness that the material lifestyle can’t buy. Being outside your comfort zone, I find, gets your blood pumping and makes you feel alive in a way that routine can never match.
I truly believe adventure can help reconnect people to something very primitive, natural and wholesome. After all, we have evolved from hunter/gatherers who spent much of their time running around outdoors. I find the experience of being outdoors, in the elements, helps set the rebalance switch: I can forget about the stresses of modern living and find an inner calm that’s difficult to reproduce in the city.
Aside from this, I'm firmly of the view that adventure helps make people more adaptable and confident. When they are out of their comfort zone they are forced to adapt to situations they’ve not come across. Getting through tricky situations can give people a new mental strength.
I believe everyone can benefit from this - particularly those who’ve not had the opportunity to go on an adventure. EC do a great job of encouraging people to get out there and explore and I’d love to see more people, especially those who’ve not left the city before, take the jump and immerse themselves in the great outdoors. Adventure doesn’t have to be huge trip!
Going away also helped me to realise that I wanted a career change to something more adventurous. I regularly checked the EC jobs board while I was away, and found a new job as a Camp Leader for the Bushcraft Company, which I start in April. I’m hugely excited to be starting, and hope my passion will inspire the kids I’ll work with to be as enthusiastic about adventure as I am.
The season ends in October, and after the work finishes I hope to gain a number of national and international qualifications to help me get into outdoors and expedition leadership. It won’t be long before I get itchy to set out on a new challenge and dive into a new adventure!
Words: Michael Edmonstone