Whether your trip is self-propelled or harnessing natural power, here's why the reward of a long, slow journey is unrivalled by any other form of travel.
Since 2006 I've covered over 25,000 miles using a variety of non-motorised contraptions. I've completed twelve blissfully gruelling journeys of Expedition1000: twenty-five different non-motorised adventures over 1000 miles, and I can categorically say that slow travel has transformed my life and formed the backbone of a lifestyle I wouldn't exchange for anything.
Of course, there are plenty of ways to mix things up, but in my 37 years I haven't yet found a self-development tool stronger than planning and completing an adventure without the aid of motors. It's the best school I ever had.
Taking small, incremental steps is a key part of any growth, whether you're slowly building up to a certain fitness level or breaking up a bigger journey into manageable mile or day-sized chunks.
Movement and purpose is always strengthened by an end goal, so blending the naturally unpredictable nature of adventure with a challenge creates an environment and focus that will inevitably take you places.
The health benefits: both mental and physical
You don't need to be a superhero to go on an adventure, you just need to decide you want to and then act on it. Even before you've taken any physical steps the power of sticking to a decision gives you an edge that leads to confidence, inertia and a greater chance of completing whatever goal you've set yourself.
But while your mind is a muscle that responds to a challenge, your body is in for a treat. For me, even if I haven't exercised much for three months it takes just four or five days to find expedition fitness. If you do anything all day for a week you'll get good at it, and our bodies adapt so wonderfully fast to new environments and stresses.
Enjoying the outdoors and moving for multiple hours a day is one of the richest gifts a non-motorised journey can give you. To make your bike or skateboard or kayak an office and the creation or take-down of camp each day your commute, there is work involved but the satisfaction is resounding, every different way to travel works out a different part of your body and mind.
When we value every sip of water and milestone reached, we know our place and it's very rarely one we'd choose to escape from.
Going on a journey is good for you. It's that simple.
The next level
Ok, it's time to up the anti. Repeating tasks you know that you can do eventually gets stale and what better way to step up your game than plan a road or water trip that takes you way beyond what you've done before.
Every time I've finished a long journey I'm overwhelmed with the sense of possibility. 'Man, I did that! And sure it was hard but if I can do that I can do anything.'
Skateboarding across Australia was the most worthwhile test I'd ever taken. I was crap at school and uni but for the first time in my life I was setting and marking my own exams. It made me feel invincible.
You owe it to yourself to crank the gears every now and then. You're not just an amoeba designed to slug in the same spot as part of a thousand-generation evolutionary shift, you can actually change shit.
You're a human being god dammit, so take the opportunity you've been given. Don't wait for someone else to open the door for you, just get out there.
Even if it's stretching out your legs on a weekend, tickle the underside of possibility, imagine if you repeated that day-long ride and overnight camp for a month or four. How far could you get?
Start thinking bigger, that's what your brain is for.
Save the pennies
Take away the cost of fuel and repairs (the more parts to an engine the more likely you are to break down) and suddenly you've got a fairly cost-efficient way of getting around.
Ok, any kind of travel can be expensive even without a motor (just ask anyone with a bike habit) but you got this, it's your choice. If you can't afford a flight then adventure in your back yard. It's beautiful, did you know? Have you checked recently?
Stepping out the front door with a rucksack on your back is free. If you're ever unsure about going on an adventure because of the cost, just remember that it also costs money to stay at home. It doesn't matter where you eat dinner - on a hilltop or on your sofa in front of Netflix - you still gotta pay for it.
Having an awesome story to tell makes the world go round. If all you've got to share at the dinner table are opinions, recollections of what you saw in the news or even other people's tales, it's time to create your own.
And the cool thing, so often overlooked, take all the options you have at your disposal right now then imagine what the coolest story would be. Then make your decision accordingly and just make your story happen.
In the midst of a self propelled trip you will be exposed to constant reminders that humans are good. If you're dirty and weathered you'd normally be ignored but when travelling with your bags layered up on the back of your trike or bike you're a magnet. You have a story and people want to be a part of it. It might be directions or a meal, a bed or shower or something else but, it feels good to be living a narrative.
If someone was making a film of your life right now would you watch it?
If not, pick up the pace, you have a script to write.
So much choice
I cherish the ability to travel in so many different ways. I started out by seeing something new in a long skateboard. It wasn't just a means to carve up the pavement and replicate snowboarding on a tarmac hill, it was something more.
Take the most normal idea and give it a different spin. Although there had been a couple of long skate trips before my Australia crossing it definitely wasn't a thing yet, but after I pushed that world distance record a little further suddenly hundreds of people were going far on boards, it was awesome.
The variety is endless. I have a list of over 100 ways to travel without fuel or motors and it's growing regularly. Bear in mind that you could choose a million different destinations with only a bicycle or a stand up paddle board as your favoured weapon, so really the only problem you have is how to choose your adventure, not whether to...
To make things easier, give yourself a theme or a wider puzzle to complete. My big one is Expedition1000, it helps me narrow the parameters. But the key is to fit your project around you, your wishes, your likes, your time, availability, responsibilities.
Whatever you do, make it yours. Whoever said every adventure had already been completed didn't have a clue what they were talking about.
If you haven't done it, it hasn't yet been done.
This is more than just your chosen mode of travel, it's a way of life.
Taking control of our own time is surely the end game. For so long retirement was the hallowed period where you'd done your time and could now do whatever you liked, but attitude and audacity carries us further these days, where an individual's voice and action can travelling around the world, if not simply allowing them to make a living, their way.
You don't have to quit your day job. You don't have to race or train for a marathon or a tri. You don't have to cross a continent or break a world record or frankly do anything, if you don't want to.
But if you do, just push yourself a little, you'll be amazed where it takes you. Show me anyone who has tried out a huge personal challenge and then subsides peacefully into servitude, letting other people tell them what to do. I bet you can't!
Take a simple trip on a unicycle or swim down a river for a day. Borrow your kid's scooter and take it 26 miles, walk home instead of taking the train.
See the world from a slightly different angle, travel it slow, feel it, keep things simple.
You are your own motor and ignition all in one. You were born to move. How far is up to you.
THE END NOTES
And why not join one of my workshops on adventure planning, filming, social media and more.
If you find this blog helpful, enjoyable or valuable just remember that there's only one reason I can write this stuff.
I'll do you a deal. I write because I enjoy it and I don't expect payment. But for every new steamy, yummy tankard of donated caffeinated joy I'll write a new blog. You can't get fairer than that.
Here's my PayPal tip jar (I'm pretty sure it's not even real money if you can't touch it...) or just share this blog with someone if you think it's worth it. Have a great day!