Alastair Humphreys was destined to be an adventurer from a very young age, having completed the 26 mile Yorkshire 3 Peaks challenge at age 8, and the National 3 Peaks at 13. After graduation from University, his relentless love for adventure didn’t falter. Alastair Humphreys has cycled around the world for four years, raced a yacht across the Atlantic Ocean, walked the length of the holy Kaveri river in India and canoed a whopping five hundred miles down the Yukon River. For most people, that would be more than enough achievement for one person, but Alastair has done so much more. So much more in fact, that to list the rest of Alastair Humphreys adventures would run longer than the interview itself! Alastair has become known for encouraging the people of the world to go out on what he calls microadventures, which would become the title of one of his most successful books. Microadventures was an Amazon UK Top 20 Bestseller for all books, whilst his follow up Grand Adventures reached Number 8 for all books on Amazon UK. Alastair Humphreys was also selected as one of National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year in 2012. A keen reader, it was a pleasure to interview him. Please enjoy my interview with the inspiring Alastair Humphreys…
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
It depends! Normally I don’t like talking about my adventures so I often say I am a teacher. But otherwise I would say “I’m an adventurer and an author.”
I am currently reading Caught Inside by Daniel Duane.
What’s your earliest memory of reading?
Sitting as a kid on the floor of my bedroom, my back against the warm radiator, devouring Willard Price books.
If you could encourage young people to read one book in particular, what would it be?
That’s so hard as people are all chasing different things. I’d encourage people to read the autobiography of their hero whoever that may be. If that is too lame an answer, I’ll recommend Living Dangerously by Ranulph Fiennes, purely because that stoked MY fires when I was young.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
Wearing a sandwich board and standing on the high street all summer advertising Ye Olde Mill Shop.
Do you read as much as you’d like to?
Yes. I read loads.
What books do you feel are important reading for people on your career path?
I don’t really think I have a ‘career path’ in my life! However, assuming my career is either Adventurer, Author, or Small Business owner. I’ve listed some of the books that have helped me here and here.
Is there a book that you’ve read more than once? What is it and why did you revisit it?
There are so many books I have read more than once. In fact if I haven’t read a book more than once it probably won’t make it onto any list of recommendations. Normally I re-read a book because I am looking for inspiration to do something.
Probably As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee. It’s my favourite travel book.
What’s your favourite genre of book?
I’ve read so many travel books and for many years that was my favourite. Perhaps I’ve over-indulged, as these days I tend to read more general biographies of interesting, impressive people. I also read too many self-help style books when I’d be better off just ‘doing’ rather than ‘theorising’ about life!
What do you think a world without books would be like?
Books give people ideas, insights, different perspectives, and hopes. If we all had fewer of those the world would be a duller, less inspired, less understanding place. Books are also fun, calming, and escapism-esque (not a word, I know!). Without books we would be even more stressed and self-obsessed.
Is there an author whose writing you’re such a fan of, that you’ll read everything they release?
No. I’m much more of a dabbler.
Do you think digital books will ever completely replace real books?
Every book form in history has evolved to something new. That suggests that at some point they will. But I suspect not for a few decades.
What book do you feel humanity needs right now?
One of my resolutions for 2017 is not to rant to similar-minded people about the state of the world. So I’ll steer clear of politics and suggest we need a book about slowing down, turning off our phones, getting more exercise, and being less self-absorbed.
Living Dangerously by Ranulph Fiennes made me start to think it might be possible to make a career from what I loved, adventure. Tribes by Seth Godin helped me turn that vague daydream into a reality. East of Eden by John Steinbeck and For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway set my personal high water mark on powerful storytelling.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
The Streets by Mike Skinner (if you like his music). Bill Bryson really makes me laugh. So too Scoop by Evelyn Waugh and Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. I read The Quiet Soldier by Adam Ballinger a dozen times a decade ago. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan will make you want to surf the world. Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban I found fascinating, for its style and its perspective.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
I want to read more broadly. More fiction, more poetry, more of the classics.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
All the books I write are autobiographical! I wish I had the imagination to write about something else…