I've never believed in a 'career'. Even as I went along the traditional path of education at school and University I spent more time trying to improve my non academic skills: by setting up football leagues, editing newspapers, managing annual charity events, anything but the perceived 'right' thing.
This approach stood me in good stead once a quarter-life crisis presented me with a skateboard and the idea of riding it across Australia. To many, this was a bizarre notion even to consider, let alone practice, but personally I had never been faced with a larger opportunity. It wasn't crazy, it couldn't have felt more sane. For the first time in my life, I felt I had purpose.
Five years on, I still wrestle with the nature of what I do. Thus, explaining it simply isn't easy. From the outside you may see pretty pictures, a life of travel and adventure, images of what basically appears to be an everlasting holiday. Oh the cheek of selective storytelling! It is a menial, everyday, in-between expeditions life. It is a chipping paint-off-the-walls, cereal pouring, email-writing, coffee drinking, 'what next' wondering, food shopping life. Yes, sometimes I have tried things that not many (or sometimes, nobody) has done before, but this doesn't come because I was blessed with trailblazing genes, fat wallet or a bionic physique.
So where did it begin? I haven't recovered from a life-threatening illness, nor been born into wealth. I simply took an opportunity to improve myself. My life is gloriously uneventful unless I decide to make it otherwise. I don't expect to win the lottery, but I live (if not spend!) like my numbers came up.
As a teenager I was an unhappy, friendless soul. Off the football field I struggled to relate to anyone and didn't know what everyone my age was talking about, because when you're young you don't have much experience to draw on. This translated into my first incentive to travel; I guess I wanted to become more interesting, even to myself.
As a young adult I made excuses to avoid testing myself. We all delight in being comfortable; most Brits would rather burn themselves than pull themselves from the sand and find some shade on a beach holiday. Our desk at work becomes our abode, a family photo smiles back at so many of us as we wonder exactly why we're at that desk in the first place. It's hard to drag yourself out of a warm bed on a winter's morning. You feel less like seeing your friends when you're in the blossoming early stages of a relationship. Comfort feels good, but it also stops us from reaching out and possibly doing what we should be doing. Only we are at fault if we continue to make excuses, for excuses are not reasons.
I'd always been told that when fun meets work, then it becomes a chore. Now, we're never going to have everything our own way, but I manage my own life and am so privileged to do so. Sometimes I don't want to get on a train or go through my taxes, but even if your life is shaped by chasing passions the hard things makes the good stuff taste better. By making our passions a priority, everything else has a meaning and its own place. Whether the compromises are partly depressing, unenjoyable or mildly boring, if you prioritise your dreams nothing else can bring you down for long, because you know there's far better to come.
When I began my first big adventure project, BoardFree, I knew I was in it for the long haul, I just didn't know what that meant. A few years on, I have a much better idea.
I know that if I don't believe in myself, nobody else will. Nobody else should. I have chosen a lifestyle that is rewarding in its difficulties. My income fluctuates, I earn from a variety of angles; writing, book sales, expedition consultancy, speaking (but, thankfully, no longer do I rely on my fallback of design work and video editing). Everything revolves around my expeditions and projects. Within these journeys I am presented with a world from a series of angles: I wake wide-eyed, I am tested physically and emotionally, faced with self-set challenges, destroyed by headwinds, my grip fails, I sleep. Another day comes and the sun shines. I know the value of sleep, it replaces so many ills. Rest is more important than money.
We form our own circumstances, just as a decision to be successful is rewarded by success. If we think big and aim high, we achieve much more than if we deny ourselves ambition. If I've ever faced an opportunity and thought I'd regret turning it down, then I've taken it. Of course, we all have obligations and commitments to family, work, the new things life throws at us - these all hasten or delay our plans. If we find only ourselves to worry about it's much easier to take risks, but whatever our situation only we can judge our own costs of failure, of sitting idle.
I have learned more from failing than I ever did from succeeding. But despite numerous failures I wouldn't consider that I've ever been unsuccessful. Knowledge is far more useful than any certificate, treat everything as a lesson you grow from and you bounce into the next opportunity like a wagging dog.
My driving force is that I believe it is possible to make a living by doing something I love. I work more hours than in my long gone days in a full-time job, but whatever we do it's our attitude to life - not towards our circumstance - that defines who we are. Not everyone is cut out for gallivanting around the world making themselves sweaty, but we all have room for new experiences.
The very essence of life, for me, is testing and teasing the boundaries of my comfort zone. We don't improve by completing easy tasks, we only grow when we try new things. With this in mind, I live according to what stretches me in all directions and this way, being suitably stretched, I can attempt to fit more inside.