In 2001, Alastair Humphreys spent four years cycling around the world. Starting from the front door of his home in northern England, he cycled through the Middle East and down to South Africa, then sailed across the Atlantic to ride from Patagonia up to Alaska. He then pedaled from northeastern Siberia across Asia and back home to England.
“It was my first really big adventure and those always hold a special place in people’s hearts—when they trade in normal life to do something epic and realize they’re doing the things that most people are reading about back home,” Humphreys says.
His biggest challenge wasn’t weather or physical exertion. It was dealing with the journey’s mental aspects—the loneliness and boredom that accompany traveling nearly 50,000 miles by bike. The people he met along the route provided a welcome relief. “Being on a bicycle, you don’t look threatening, just sweaty and smelly,” he says. “It really opens conversation and helps you engage with people, even when you don’t speak the same language.”
He says he was most surprised by his time in the Middle East. After starting in Europe, he rode from Turkey into Syria, then through Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt. “That section of the trip was the one I was most nervous about, but the Middle East turned out to be one of the most safe, fun, and welcoming places I had ever been to, which boosted my confidence for the rest of the journey,” he says.
British adventurer Alastair Humphreys has ridden his bike 46,000 miles around the world, rowed across the Atlantic Ocean in 45 days, and crossed Iceland's rugged glacial highlands on foot. But he’s made the biggest impact advocating for micro-adventure—short trips near home that prove adventure isn’t dependent on size or distance. Read his Adventurers of the Year profile.
Alastair Humphreys' Gear Pick: Therm-a-Rest
“When I first started camping I couldn’t believe someone would spend the money for a Therm-a-Rest, but as soon as I tried it, I became a convert," says Humphreys. "I take it on any trip, big or small. It’s money well spent.”