The World According to Alastair Humphreys

The cycling enthusiast and adventurer reminisces over his travels; revealing the highs and lows of his life on the road

The World According To …
05 June 2011
Mountain/ocean/jungle/desert – which are you?

Hmm…I’ve been mulling this question for five minutes now which suggests I’m going to find this questionairre tricky! Ocean wins in a photo finish.

What was your first great travel experience?

Arriving in Africa for the first time, aged 18, and driving north from Johannesburg into a land of red earth and massive skies. Still makes me smile.

Favourite journey?

Walking the length of the Kaveri River in India.

Top five places worldwide?

Arctic Ocean, San Blas Islands, Sierra Leone, Patagonia, Karakorams.

Name a special place to stay.

A log cabin in the woods in Hana, Kauai, Hawaii.

What three items do you always pack?

Reading book, silk sleeping bag, headtorch.

Which passport stamp are you proudest of?


Which passport stamp would you most like to have?


What is your guilty travel pleasure?

English Pubs showing football.

Which do you prefer: window or aisle?


Who is your ideal travelling companion?

Laurie Lee

Best meal on the road? And your worst?

I probably shouldn’t say barbecued whale in Iceland so I’ll go for a Lebanese iftar.

Worst – a week living on pasta and sugar after a provisioning miscalculation in the Atacama desert.

Most surprising place? And your most disappointing?

Japan – I had no interest in the country until I arrived. I loved it. Ditto Dubai.

I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed by a country.

Where do you NOT want to go?

I can honestly say I would like to visit everywhere, if only once.

Who/what inspired you to travel?

Reading great books and wondering whether I would be capable of a great journey myself.

Any travel heroes?

So many! Scott, Fiennes et al from the expedition world. Laurie Lee, Paddy Fermor et al from the travel world.

What do you listen to on the road?

Nothing usually – silence reminds me to appreciate music when I get home again.

Does any song take you back to a particular place?

Despite my last answer SO many songs take me back. Mariposa Tracionera reminds me of happy times in Ushuaia and Patagonia.

What do you read when you travel?

Something that is nothing to do with the place I am in.

Is there a person you met while travelling who reaffirmed your faith in humanity?

SO many – this is probably the best aspect of travelling by bicycle. It brings out the best in people.

What’s the most impressive/useful phrase you know in a foreign language?

That is ‘Поехали!”, which means ‘Let’s go!’ in Russian.

What is your worst habit as a traveller?

Wishing I was back home again.

Snowbound in a tent in Antarctica, how would you entertain your companions?

A cup of tea and a game of Mallet’s Mallet.

When are where in your travels have you been happiest?

Packrafting across Iceland last summer.

What smell most says ‘travel’ to you?

That wonderful reek of sewage, smoke from cooking fires, body odour and tropical earth – that takes me back to so many wonderful places.

Given a choice, what era would you travel in?

100 years ago this year, with Captain Scott to the Pole. With the benefit of hindsight I’d give him the few tiny bits of advice that would make all the difference…

If you could combine three cities to make your perfect metropolis, which would they be?

The scenery of Cape Town (or Rio) mixed with the friendliness of Jaipur and the sense that anything’s possible of San Francisco.

Don’t miss Alastair Humphreys’ Night of Adventure later this month, where a bunch of eclectic travellers join to share their stories of travel and adventure. However, they only have twenty slides, or photos, to talk through and only twenty seconds to explain each one. Can they keep the pace…? More information about the event can be found here.

Alastair Humphreys is an avid cyclist, adventurer and a regular contributor to Wanderlust. You can read more articles by him here.

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