This was a question that plagued me for a long time; how exactly do an adventurers make a living? Now nearly ten years older, I’m finally in a bit of a better position to answer this often-asked question. Short answer, they work. Long answer… ah it’s a bit tricky to explain, but here goes.
When I first started out, I wanted to be a professional adventurer. Actually, at first I wanted to be a war correspondent, then a professional rock climber, before finally settling on a professional adventurer and explorer. So I started going on big expeditions, mainly to Central Asia. They were long and tough and gruelling, and put me through the wringer, changing me in many ways—not all of them good (I became considerably more mute and introvert as a result of many long days in the saddle through Kazakhstan in 2013, for instance).
Returning home, I figured I’d done my ordeal and now I could reap in the rewards any ‘professional’ adventurer might expect, acclaim in the press, possible TV gigs and a paid income of some description. I did get public speaking engagements and motivational talks but this was about it. I had no knowledge of how to monetise the journeys, and after all those back-to-back expeditions, felt little inclination to keep throwing myself away from normal life in the steppe of Central Asia. So I quit. At the end of 2014, I wrote an article about what I’d learned, packed away my expedition things, put them into storage and got on with the next stage of my life. What that might be, I didn’t then know.
I chose to run instead. Virtually every day for past two years I’ve thrown myself under the millstone of the 10k-15k daily run, the endless dark commutes home in the wind and the winter rain or waking up at 6:30am to go do the Sunday morning 20 miler. I got good at racing too, with the country’s 84th best one mile time (4:34) for 2016, although I always tended to push myself too hard, to blow up in the last half of the race and carry on going anyway without a chance of placing well as I might. I conditioned myself through injuries and tried not to get too down when I couldn’t perform my best.
Hannah and I got engaged and we bought a house, me learning a thing or two about responsibility along the way—I’m still learning today. I threw myself into my work too, transitioning from journalism to marketing and then content marketing, I taught myself about ROI, about strategy, about how businesses operate and where they fail and how I can help them not. I developed a toolkit of inspiration for my public speaking, and am honoured enough to be doing a TEDx talk in the city this March. For the past two years, I’ve learned so much, none of it as a result of being adventurer but all of it related to how I can continue my passion in a professional setting.
So to return to the question, the long answer is there is no short answer; there’s no easy and simple hack on the way to becoming a paid adventurer. It’s just work—a challenge. But like any challenge, you don’t need to tackle it all at once, it is instead something you can chip away at bit by bit, day after day, year after year, until finally something gives and you’re there.
Today, I’m proud to say I am now a Challenger with Christopher Ward Watches, who are amazingly helping me put together an expedition for 2017. It won’t be long journey, less than a week, but it’ll be perhaps the most gruelling undertaking I’ve ever tried. More details will be released shortly, but I wanted to write and convey something of my experiences over the past few years and to affirm, if you’ve got an adventure you need to do in your life keep going for it, because one day it’ll be possible.