adventure

Something had to change

I’ve been working on my storytelling recently, by condensing what could be pages and pages (or books and books) into a few sentences.

I’ve just finished the first episode of a series of 60 second films that tell the story of my last few years. This is the first one, a general overview that ends with what feels like a natural call to action: which is, how can I help? Other episodes will zero on on each one of my Expedition1000 journeys, and different aspects of SayYesMore’s creation. But for now, here’s Part 1! Let me know what you think!

A sneak peek around a brand new GoOutdoors store in Reading

With the warmer months approaching, Emma Taylor visits Reading's newest outdoors store for some inspiration and a cheeky bit of shopping.

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I've always been of a minimalist mindset when it comes to owning stuff. Creating surplus waste or filling space with items I’ll rarely use isn't a hobby, so like many other nature lovers, it takes a very specific mood to motivate me to go shopping. Occasionally this is brought about by a chance encounter of something exciting and I just can’t help myself! 

As you might guess, this is what happened this week when Dave and I were invited to get a look behind the scenes at the new Go Outdoors store in Reading, which opens its doors to the public at 9am on Saturday 17th March.

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The new store is a massive Aladdin’s cave of outdoor wonders spread over two floors and when an outdoor tent village is part of a store, you know you're in for a treat. Any adventurer’s dream! We happily got lost in there for a couple of hours browsing everything from solar-powered gadgets, to expedition gear, geeking out on all the camping essentials and checking out outdoor cooking options for The YesBus. 

We do differ slightly on our ideal new toys in the new Go Outdoors store though; while I was skipping off happily day-dreaming of the horse riding gear I could invest in (for my non-existent but very gorgeous horse!), Dave’s attention was captured by the gorgeous neon yellow fat bike suspended up on a pedestal, just waiting to be played with! It got us thinking of where he could take it off on an adventure worthy of those epic beast tyres; Iceland, Canada, or maybe somewhere in the Middle East…? 

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Besides the vast amounts of gear to fit even the pickiest adventurer, the overwhelming positive of visiting the new Go Outdoors store at Reading was the staff. Every staff member we spoke to not only had in-depth understanding of all the products but had their own tales of adventure to tell and a wealth of knowledge that can only be earned by having a background spent in the great outdoors. It was so lovely to see so many people truly enjoying their job because they get to encourage more people to get outside and share the happiness of being in nature. 

Of course, as we're doing just that with SayYesMore and the YesTribe we were lucky enough to get a bit of pocket money to spend at the store, so walked away with plenty of new bits and bobs which we decided will live at the YesBus and help people get their outdoors fix, even if they can't afford their own gear.

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If you get the chance this Saturday to visit the new store on opening day, you won’t be disappointed. Not just because you can get a balloon giraffe and your face painted like a tiger if you want, or even the fact that Ross Kemp will be cutting the shiny blue ribbon, but it might surprise you with inspiring a new passion you never even knew you had.

And with all this done, I'm going outdoors!

Waterbiking the UK: a communal adventure

2018 began with aching bones and a crumpled mind. It was taking longer than expected to recover from the previous year's waterbike journey along Norway's coast and in these situations a few things help the steady crawl out from a pit of adventure blues.

Problem is, winter doesn't bring much sunlight or incentive for exercise, so I turned to my old friend: planning an adventure.

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I love having an idea and then making it happen without so much as a second thought, there is so much power in not letting any doubts get in the way of something crazy and just going for it. Mapping out a big old plan and finding support is right up there as one of my favourite things to do, and the focus and excitement generated from a project like this never leaves me feeling bluesy.

Quite often in the past this has resulted in a personal project or journey but as I write this in early March I still don't physically feel like heading off on my own trip.

So I got to thinking about creating a communal ride, one that would harness the potential power of the British public, include hundreds of different people in a single adventure, and one which would have a positive social and environmental impact along the way.

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So, the idea is to launch a Schiller Bike into the English canal and river system in April 2018 and invite the public to claim a leg of a 2000-mile loop of the waterways. A leg could be an hour or a week - whatever people feel comfortable with, and along the way we'd aim to hold events alongside the journey and inspire regions far away to join a collective goal to pick up #onemillionpieces of litter from our beautiful countryside.

Just imagine how much positivity this adventure could create, and how many people could get involved to be a part of something bigger. 

I'm excited. Are you?!

If you are, here's a really short form that will take about 30 seconds to fill in. Sign up if you're at all interested in riding a leg, getting a group of people involved, or simply supporting from afar. 

Very soon I'll be building a small team to ensure that this project is successful as possible, and at this stage am totally opening to ideas, support and enthusiasm! We're also looking for a little corporate backing to cover the costs for at least one part-time co-ordinator to keep this going for what I reckon will be a project lasting from April to October. Any thoughts, pop a comment below or get in touch here.


You can follow my adventures, articles and reviews on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

And why not join one of my workshops on adventure planning, filming, social media and more, held either in a double decker bus conversion or in my floating home in East London.

Said Yes More: 2017 in Review

Another year down. So much happened in 2017 it's taken me the first two weeks of 2018 to recall it all. I've visited thirteen countries, camped under the stars 52 times and spent 183 nights at home this year. Ticked off two more non-motorised journeys over 1000 miles (that's 14 in total, now!) and became engaged to my partner in crime (life).

Behind the scenes it hasn't always been easy and I touch on this at the end, but all in all I've been lucky enough to have another super year and would rather focus on the positives; the results of lots of hard work and a few well chosen yeses. Here goes...

 

January

I started the year with a delicious spell of man flu, but once movement was possible Emms and I explored London using our non-motorised fleet, including Swifty and Trikey.

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The first show of the year is usually the Adventure Travel Show in Olympia, and this was no exception. My role as host is to introduce speakers on the main stage and interview the main guest. This year, Extreme Fisherman Robson Green and a few professional adventurers joined the stage.


February

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A brand new mindset project kicked off in early February, where SayYesMore partnered with Way of Nature for the first Winter Quest. We headed to a gorgeous remote base in eastern Iceland with a group of twelve lucky souls.


LIFEHACKING Workshops

In early February I started hosting regular workshops on Enigma, passing on skills like planning big adventures, making a living from a passion and filming with a smartphone among them. I really enjoy these sessions, especially seeing the subsequent growth of participant's careers and skills.

 

March

It's always a privilege to receive an invite to speak at a TEDx event, especially when it's one of the biggest on the continent. I really struggle to retain new information and credit to Emms for helping drum a new 12 minutes of content into my tiny brain. And a big thanks to Tegan Philips, who skilfully illustrated several slides of this speech with her fun, quirky style.

 

TEDx Square Mile

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With a stroke of luck, or perhaps the opposite, a week after TEDx Brussels I took to another TEDx stage, at the Square Mile in the centre of London. This talk, again pounded into my head by Emms, was inspired by a single line fired in my direction by my brother at four years old - "Dave, you're a waste of sperm." I've been determined to a live a life unworthy of that accusation ever since.


April

This month should only be started by testing out how gullible your friends are. First, an announcement that training has begun for a cross-ocean run in a hamster ball.

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And then a cruel promise to the YesTribe that the community would soon be owning a herd of Alpaca. I must admit, it took me a few days to build up the courage to come clean on this one - mainly because everybody absolutely loved the idea! 

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The early signs of summer always do wonders for my motivation, so I started a regular blog called Self Propelled which honed in on adventure planning, gear reviews and regular articles about non-motorised transport, including the wonderful Halfbike.

Tentsile make some awesome tree tents and after an old film I made for them translated into a few sales they sent me their latest companion, the Trillium. It's a three-sided hammock and seemed like a good item to take on the YesTribe's April campout. 

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And then Em and I took the SayYesMore ICE trikes on a little weekend micro adventure around the south of London. This film was filmed and edited entirely on an iPhone...

That little trip got the legs moving for a much bigger one. We ended the month by heading over to southern Germany, where the annual Spezi event plays host to an endless array of special bikes, recumbent trikes, and non-motorised contraptions the rest of the world haven't cottoned onto yet.

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Our idea was to leave this awesome show on a form of tandem bicycle, and we asked Facebook to vote on which one we should choose - just so we couldn't take the blame if everything went badly.

 

May

On the 1st May we left Germersheim and our annual hosts to embark on what would become my 13th thousand mile journey, and the first Em had completed with me. We zoomed East (once we'd gotten used to the Hase Pino hybrid tandem) and followed the Danube to Budapest.

Seeing as tandem bikes are known as 'Divorce Bikes' it was just as much an achievement for our relationship to be strengthened by this journey as it was to ride 1000 miles together. So it seemed fitting to take things to another level on the last day of the trip. You'll just have to watch this film to find out what happened...

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ETAPE CALEDONIA

For the first time the annual Etape Caledonia bike race opened their weekend with a series of talks. I was honoured to open up the schedule ahead of the always motivating Chris Boardman. I remember being a kid and watching this guy zooming around a track in a futuristic helmet, and now my head was bigger than his body on a poster!

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At the end of May Em and I joined our favourite adventurous family for a weekend of swimming down a little river. Fellow Ordnance Survey Outdoor Champions The Meeks were completing a big old triathlon; running 1000km, cycling 1000km and swimming 17km in 2017, and it seemed like a great reason to squeeze into the old wetsuit and spend a few hours underwater. 


June

In early June another attack in London claimed eight lives and filled the city night with sirens and horror. How are we supposed to feel in the aftermath of a terror attack? I wrote this blog the next morning. 

 

The YesBus

For over a year the mighty Chris Barnes had been leading the renovation for SayYesMore's new countryside HQ, the YesBus. Turning a double decker bus into a co-working, learning and events space was never going to be easy, so we decided to wait until the renovation was close to completion before trying to raise the money and support needed to make the project work.

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In June we launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the YesBus, thanks to a wonderful group of volunteers, and other people and brands who offered up prizes in return for donations. On the opening and closing day of the campaign we drew a prize every single hour, won by someone who had donated in the previous 60 minutes.

All in all we raised just over £22,000 towards the ultimate £50,000 goal, enough to get the project finished off. The rest of the total will be raised in the first months of 2018 once the YesBus opens up a regular programme.


JULY

My first speaking gig in July was at the awesome Sunday Assembly community, a kind of church for the positive. With SayYesMore and the YesTribe taking up so much of my time and admittedly, becoming an extreme struggle periodically, it's always nice to see other communities working well - ideas a plenty to take home.

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Kudos

In July the UK's most famous explorer, Ranulph Fiennes, was kind enough to send a message of support ahead of my 14th non-motorised journey over 1000 miles. Very kind of him.

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Before the journey started, though, I had one more speaking gig, this time on the eclectic Sunday Papers Live stage at the Citadel Festival. What a great venue and a superbly engaged crowd, nestled into sofas and bean bags. Awesome!

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To norway

At the end of July I jumped onto a plane and flew to Tromsø, Norway, then boarded the MS Finnmarken, a Hurtigruten ship heading north to Kirkenes. A couple of days later I began a journey by Schiller Bike, a water bike built in San Francisco.

August

Emms and I live on a boat in London, and every couple of years the boat needs to be taken to a dry dock for the hull to be repainted. There are a lot of boats vs not so many dry-docks in London and it was impossible to shift our booking, which had been made long before I decided to water bike the Norwegian coast. So I took a few days off, flew home and didn't get much rest at all. Turns out painting a boat is more than a full time job!

 

September

I returned to Norway a few days later and continued south, encountering endless kindness from the Norwegians I met alone the way. When people have a big connection to the nature around them it brings out there own good nature, and the people, as always, left me with so many fond memories.

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Perhaps my favourite moment of the trip was being invited dinner by a farmer named Marten.

While I was there a new addition to his herd was born. Seeing as it was a redhead and a bull, he decided to call it Dave!

 

Another chance meeting meant that I ended up spending a night at Fordypningsrommet, otherwise known as The Arctic Hideaway. Created by musician Håvard Lund, my favourite hut in his retreat was fondly nicknamed The Nest and I resolved to return and write a book about this journey in the spectacular hut, raised up on a single shaft.

Travelling Norway's coastline by waterbike was undoubtedly one of the toughest missions I'd ever taken on. But for any mild hardship on this waterbike, I loved spending the best part of nine weeks getting absolutely nailed by a raw, gorgeous, ruthless coast.

Spending the Summer as the smallest 'ship' in Hurtigruten's fleet was made all the more special as the other ships started to outdo each other. The MS Lofoten dropped a goodie bag down to me. The MS Richard With sent out a tender with a takeaway meal, and the MS Spitsbergen opened up their tender deck and set up a table for one, serving me a burger as the hotel manager rode around on the Schiller Bike and hundreds of passengers stared in bemusement at this weird chap holding up their schedule. Magical!

October

Due to bad weather I made the call to halt my journey to Bergen 90 miles early. The back end of hurricanes that had ravaged the Caribbean and Southern USA had made their way across the Atlantic and going the distance was simply impossible without putting myself in danger. With much more important things in life than adventure, it was definitely the right call. 

Still, I'd pedalled 1243 miles from Kirkenes, making this the 14th 1000-mile journey of my life. Another, huge tick on the list.

Here's a playlist of video diaries I made from beginning to end, in case you missed it at the time.


Ontario

Without a moment's rest, I flew direct from Norway to Ontario to write an article for Active Traveler Magazine about the amazing paddling in Killarney Provincial Park. This place is absolutely gorgeous!

If you like the look of this, you can win an 8-day trip to the area with yours truly in 2018.


The YesBus comes home

Two days before Yestival, the annual SayYesMore Microfestival for Positive Change, the YesBus finally rolled down the lane into its new spot. It was quite the moment, a dream in the making for over two years and here it was, a double decker bus in a field! I was in tears as the bus parked up in its new home, wearing a brand new blue coat. What a moment!

Yestival 2017

The third Yestival went down a storm, quite literally, thanks to Storm Brian, but despite 50mph winds our largest crowd yet enjoyed a weekend in a field dripping with inspiration, kindness and stories of adventure, survival and ambition. Always my favourite weekend of the year, and this time round much more so because the SayYesMore team did the majority of the legwork, especially Andy Bartlett and Emms. Managing to pull off another single-use plastic free festival also makes the feeling richer.

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HELLO, THIRTY EIGHT

I'm not sure how this number keeps getting bigger but I can't complain, it's been another full 12 months and our good friend Ged keeps providing the most incredible themed birthday cakes. This one depicted my summer's trip in Norway!

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November

In between the odd talk in Portugal, Spain and Belgium we spent November preparing the YesBus for a busy year ahead, introducing the Schiller Bike to its new home in London, and I became a patron of The Teddington Trust - a real honour to support children and adults living with Xeroderma Pigmentosum.


December

Early December whizzed by and before I knew it I was back on a plane, returning to Norway. The Summer's journey had been eventful enough for a book, I thought, and Norway seemed as good a place as any to write it.

I flew into Bergen and jumped on the MS Spitsbergen, which in September had so kindly stopped and served me a burger on their tender deck. I'm now known as 'The Burger Man' on that vessel!

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It was great to soak up the coastline from a higher, more comfortable viewpoint. Three days later, in Bodø, I jumped ship and headed back to The Arctic Hideaway, where I spent Christmas with Em and New Year with a few extra friends. 

Perfect bedroom, swaying in the wind. And not a bad place to write, either...

Perfect bedroom, swaying in the wind. And not a bad place to write, either...

Snowstorms, northern lights, epic sleeps and a raw, remote environment was just the ticket after a long, successful but sometimes draining year.

Jane having a beer in style at the Arctic Hideaway

Jane having a beer in style at the Arctic Hideaway

Floating in a survival suit in near freezing waters and hanging out with cool people on an arctic island. What a place to see 2017 out. 

With friends on the last day of the year. Photo: Spike Reid

With friends on the last day of the year. Photo: Spike Reid


the other side of things

It should be said, it's so easy to sum up a year with pretty pictures and a record of the cool things that happened. In time, we tend to look back on the best bits of our years and when it comes to saying yes it's the things we chose to make happen that carry the bulk of our memories.

Of course, there's another side to life. I'm still learning to lead a community and this has an adverse impact on my stress and energy levels throughout the year. I give over half my time for free to making SayYesMore what it is and thankfully in 2018 we're building a stronger platform for volunteers to join the team. Personally, I'm aiming to spend less time online and carve out a more creative role at the top of the SayYesMore tree. I've not created enough this past year and it's down to doing too much without enough me-time. This is so important, lesson learned.

I've also suffered since returning from the summer trip in Norway. That coastline took a lot out of me and I've had a more-than-average stretch of blues in the back end of 2017. At the same time, my 'day job' is to speak to audiences about adventure and positive mindset, and although turning on a performance for an hour is possible, it saps the energy. I gave over 60 talks in 2017 and it has taken its toll, so I'll be winding that commitment back in 2018.

Luckily, I have the most amazing fiancé to keep me smiling and help me with SayYesMore admin. I couldn't do any of this without Emms, and seeing as she's to become my wife in 2018 my aim for the next year is to be as much of a support to her as she is to me.

Here's to making life count, and spending our time with the people who make us most alive.

The Schiller Bike - fit for travel

The Schiller Bike - fit for travel

I'm a week into this Schiller bike journey around Norway's coast and the unusual craft that I first tried one week ago today has now become familiar, and seeing as 90% of the questions I've faced so far revolve around my waterbike, here's an attempt to outline just how fit it is for travel.

Blog 1 - Alice Cooper

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This Summer I'm exploring the Norwegian Coast like nobody ever has, by travelling 1500 miles along the Hurtgruten route between Kirkenes and Bergen, using a Schiller Bike. If successful this journey will be a world record distance by bike on water.


If you ever need to break away and give yourself some fresh headspace, travel. 

Do something new; jump on a bike or a plane, in a car or a train, hope aboard a ship and take in a coastline from the best possible angle - from the sea.

I'm doing just that. After a year of challenges that have tested me in ways I've never before had to deal with it has taken just a day and a half to (almost) switch off. I left London yesterday morning and touched down briefly in Stockholm before descending three hours later through heavy cloud cover above snow-speckled peaks above Tromsø, Norway.

The coolest man in the world was sitting beside me on the plane, everything about him just screamed rock star - the long hair, wide brimmed hat, necklaces, rings and slow, drawling American accent. He even held his iPad like a dude. Turns out Alice Cooper have a gig in Tromsø this weekend and my plane neighbour is the lead guitarist in the band.

I told him what I was doing and he held out his hand, "You're living the life, man, that is a loooong trip."

This stuff doesn't happen when you stay at home, and if by some freak of chance it does, the story wouldn't have been half as good.

I'm ready to play a part in some new stories. The FlyBuss dropped me on a slick sidewalk a few metres from the water and as if it had been rehearsed there was the MS Finnmarken, looming into port, with little painted nostrils and singular fangs on its bow, as if to say 'this is me, deal with it.' 

Hurtigruten, the parent company of this vessel and another eleven that patrol the Norwegian coast between Kirkenes and Bergen, are the reason that I'm here, and their attitude as a company has been exemplified by two people who pushed the idea of this journey and turned it from a throwaway suggestion into reality.

Marcella saw me speak on another (much uglier and larger) cruise ship in the Mediterranean last year and Ant has forced through the proposal, as well as bringing Visit Norway in on the act. These things are always because of the people, and along with Judah and Robyn from Schiller Bikes in San Francisco, and Neal and Tim and Stephanie and Cheese and Carl and David and Jenna and tens of other people who believed in this trip, I'm about to do something bonkersly brilliant.

And while I'll be solo on the water for much of this journey, I won't be alone. As per usual I'll be sharing tales daily on social media, and I'll also have company nearby in the shape of a Yellow VW van named Yellow Matilda, a wise young dog named Angus, and their owners Adam and Laura. Team Yellow Matilda are currently making their way north on the roads between England and Kirkenes, some 2500 miles.

 

A new challenge 

I was ready for something new, a challenge that didn't just extract the rust from the old joints, but provided a real test in the midst of a dramatic, unfolding story. 

These characteristics always come with risk and the risk here is the sea, and that's why I find myself boarding the MS Finnmarken, because over the next two days we'll be sailing north and east along the route I'll soon be pedalling.

Fear and danger are always greatest from afar, and from afar is where the thinking and planning is done. On this journey, beyond keeping a beady eye on the weather and keeping my head on my shoulders when wind and sea state will undoubtedly force crucial decisions, the biggest challenge is the unseen. Especially for the first 400km, the current is against me. The wind almost certainly will be, too, but keeping a positive mindset is a matter of balance and expectation - pedalling against the tide and trying to measure gains by the movement of the land to my left, that's going to hurt some days.

Scouting the route gives me a chance to see what's to come (which isn't something I'd usually choose to do - often when you know what's next on a self-propelled journey it would put you right off), to ready my mind, to pick out those few-and-far-between camp spots and safe havens on a notoriously aggravated, difficult shoreline.

The scale up here is other-worldly. The Hurtigruten route is known as The World's Most Beautiful Sea Voyage and while it's easy to brush aside a gorgeous marketing line, the 24 hours I've now spent on board have confirmed three things: yes, this is an utterly gorgeous corner of the planet. Yes, this is going to be a huge challenge, and yes, no matter how many journeys I make my way through, there is always another way to stretch out the comfort zone.

In fact, the only pieces left in the puzzle that makes up the pre-trip conundrum, are Schiller Bike-shaped, in as much as the tracker on the DHL website stopped updating on Tuesday afternoon. I was hoping that my Schiller Bike would be ready and waiting in Kirkenes in time for my arrival tomorrow morning but I haven't yet been sent confirmation of delivery, so this looks unlikely.

No journey on this planet has ever begun with every detail nicely sewn up weeks in advance, and that's all part of the show. Roll with the punches, adapt to your surroundings, be prepared to change a plan when the wind demands and most of all, understand that you can try to plan an adventure as much as you like but when it comes down to it, you're never fully in control.

If you don't love that feeling and all that comes with it, I hope you still enjoy following this journey from the comfort of the familiar. Just don't expect Alice Cooper to sit down next to you.


The best ways to follow Expedition Norway:

  1. Everything you could possibly need and more on www.davecornthwaite.com/waterbike
  2. Daily video diaries on www.facebook.com/davecornthwaite
  3. Images on www.instagram.com/davecorn
  4. Tiny 140 character thoughts, snippets and snapshots on www.twitter.com/davecorn

And when you finally succumb to the temptations of Norway, please use the excellent resources on Visit Norway to plan your trip, and consider Hurtigruten as the perfect introduction to this wonderful land.

How to engage others with your challenge

How to engage others with your challenge

Travelling solo or looking for a riding partner? Wondering whether you need a support team or not? Even if you're embarking on a solo self propelled challenge other people are always going to be central to your project. Here are some lessons I've learned about engaging other people in my own adventures.

How to get covered by the media

How to get covered by the media

My first adventure was more catchy, original and memorable than anything else I've done since. Gunning for a world distance record on a skateboard made for awesome headlines, but it was the combination of a good story, the romance of travel and the added quirky elements (big right calf) that made my BoardFree project so media-friendly. 

How to get your adventure noticed

How to get your adventure noticed

Whether you're fundraising, hope to make a career out of content creation, need to offer some realtime return for sponsors that helped your trip happen, or you simply like the idea of people enjoying and getting involved with your journey, this is the guide for you.