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Extreme is not exclusive but it does take dedication

Extreme is not exclusive but it does take dedication

I like to go on extreme expeditions in extreme environments. Admittedly the main and initial driving force for going on them in the first place is for purely self-indulgent reasons as I have found what I love and just keep finding ways of continuing doing it. No harm in that, right? Other parts of my life suffer from that passion but compromise is the golden word here. Thankfully there are other elements that come out of it which also give me a kick. They have less selfish reasoning behind it like promoting the can do and self-belief attitude and defying stereotypes as well as highlighting the biggest issue of our time, climate change. All of these make it all the better. I am one of those 'lucky ones' who has found their passion and is able to make it a reality but if you haven't found your passion or you are not doing what you love for whatever reason... Why not? There's a whole world out there for you and you can make it yours!

I really want to drill home to you guys reading that what I do is not exclusive. It takes time, effort and complete dedication but that’s the beauty of it as I enjoy all of that just as much as the expedition. It all goes hand in hand.

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Balancing work and play... Or in my case, not very well

Balancing work and play... Or in my case, not very well

I was told a memorable bit of advice when on an expedition in Svalbard for 10-weeks in 2011. For the whole team, it was the first long haul expedition we had ever been on. We had no outside contact at all, were completely self-sufficient in the Arctic wilderness. We were moving, climbing and partaking in science work for the duration and it took some of the team more time than others to adjust to this life. We were told that it would take each person different times before our 'spirit' traveled from the UK to Svalbard.

The idea being that our spirits would be left at home when we arrived in Svalbard whilst we adjusted to life in the Arctic. But when we were in the swing of things and the expedition became our world, our spirit would return to us and we would feel whole again. It would take even longer for our spirit to return to us when we got home. For many months post expedition it would be left in Svalbard as we adjusted to civilian life again. Thing is, I don’t think my spirit ever came back, my spirit is essentially always on the next adventure. That’s not a cry for sympathy, I love my civilian life but what makes it so great is that I can keep adventure a part of it. Without it I would have a big piece of me missing.

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The Million Dollar Question

The Million Dollar Question

How do you afford adventures?

Expeditions do not have to cost a lot of money. We now live in a world where the cost of a flight is very reasonable and the internet opens doors for numerous ways of fundraising.

Okay I'm not in denial, the larger expeditions do cost a lot. Anywhere like the Arctic or high altitude mountains require an awful lot of kit and some pricey insurance. These take time to save and fundraise but it is, just like everything else, all possible if you want it bad enough. There's crowdfunding and trusts that can all help get you the pennies for the bigger trips.

So excluding those kind of adventures, the others can be done on just a few hundred quid. I've recently found myself going on adventures with a smaller price tag whilst I save and plan for the bigger ones. 

In the last 18 months, the cheap adventures I have been on are as follows: Walking across Spain (on my own route, not the camino), trekking in Scotland (45 miles per day!), the GR20; the long distance scramble across the whole of Corsica and finally, and epic adventure in Iceland.

It doesn't take a lot of money to have some great adventures. Nor does it take a lot of time for some. I am very aware that with a full time job and a family, it's not as easy to get out for months at a time. However, for a dose of the outside, a 40 minute train ride out of London and you're out of the city and into the countryside. Take along some mates,  a sleeping and a bivvy bag, a field somewhere and you're set for a night in the semi-wild! Alastair Humphreys is the expert on Micro Adventures. See what he has to say on these type of adventures here

What I'm talking about is somewhere in-between a micro adventure and an epic long haul expedition.

Getting there

Living in the UK means we have easy access to the Alps, the Pyrenees and the Atlas mountains. So that's cheap transport covered. 

Food

Next is food. Planning is the best way to make food on adventures as cheap as possible. See if there are cheap supermarkets where you begin your adventure or take it with you in the first place.

Route

Research, learn and apply. The great thing about having experience and knowledge of the wilderness is that you  don't need to pay for guides. Obviously this can't always be the case for safety reasons but when you are able to guide yourself or go with friends who are more experienced than you, it'll save heaps of cash. 

Kit

Warmer destinations require less specialised kit. I have to admit I've accumulated kit for a huge range of adventures now but admittedly it has taken years.

I've got a low cost but exciting and wild adventure planned very soon. Flights were £50 return, I'm going somewhere I've never been before and spending a lot of time planning and researching the area to get the most out of the environment I'm heading to.

The hardest thing is always deciding where you're heading and then committing. Commit and you've already began your journey!

Short term memory

Short term memory

I usually complain about the fact that humans have a short term memory. We do though, we will watch a hard hitting documentary about climate change and extinction and how we are one car drive away from wiping out this whole planet.. Then we will switch off the telly, get up and switch on the fan heater instead of putting on the wooly jumper grandma gave us. We are short term creatures, only a couple of meals away from starvation.

There's no wonder why most of the world can't see beyond their own lives and don't give a monkeys ass about what happens after they're gone.

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This short term memory is something to be ashamed of.

However the short term memory I am talking about is the kind that gets me through hard expeditions and training. It may be the only thing that will get me through Patagonia. (Although I really hope it doesn't apply with the skill sets I need to remember, such as rope and kayak skills!)

I went for a run this morning and I feel great now but if I really think back to just an hour ago when I was on that run; in the rain, wind and mud, going up hills and feeling like my legs were made of lead, I realise that I've forgotten those bad parts. For me, any good that can be found in that kind of thing, out ways the bad.

It's the same on bike rides. Going up a hill feeling like you're not making any progress as your thighs burn and you wobble because your speed isn't enough to keep you riding smoothly. Your lungs are at full capacity, your breathing hurts, your heart is pounding out of your mouth and your eyes droop as the hill doesn't ever seem to end. But then, you're at the top, the incline has changed and now you are going down, free wheeling and you think "that wasn't too bad." Already you've forgotten that feeling of struggle.

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I'm all too aware that Patagonia will consist of extremely hard struggle the majority of the time. What I've got to cling on to however is the idea that any little ray of light or enjoyment, will allow me to forget the terror and let me look around and appreciate what I am doing and where I am. Our team camaraderie should assist in this.

Because let's face it, it's been my choice all along to sign up to this ridiculous challenge that I am in no way qualified for. It should also be my choice to have a little fun with it and be grateful to everyone around me who have supported me in this insane idea.

My next challenge

My next challenge

My next challenge is a 'biggun' (big one). Thinking about it now makes me gulp and feel like I should run around the block and do some press ups in order to prepare.

I am the captain of a four person team taking part in the Patagonia Expedition Race 2016. This race is serious. 'The Last Wild Race' 'The Toughest Race on Earth'. It will seperate the men from the boys. (In my case the women.)

Patagonia is not to be taken lightly. The race is over about ten days covering between 700 - 1000 km. Sleep is optional. A team is disqualified if they do not make the check points in time. The checkpoints are given only 24 hours in advance and from there it's up to your team to figure out how to get there in the fastest way possible.

The race consists of hiking, climbing, mountain biking and sea kayaking. My biggest fear is not cycling fast enough as my other team members are all accomplished cyclists - and they have the muscle on their legs to prove it! It's going to take a lot of hours on the bike to get up to speed. See what I did there?

Sleep deprivation will be hard, especially trying to map read... All part of the fun!

On this blog I'll make updates on my team's training progress. We are looking for sponsors for this race too.. Hint hint.

More on the race will follow.