It’s fair to say that Dave Cornthwaite is a pro-adventurer with many amazing expeditions under his belt. We caught up with him to find out more about his epic adventures and what it’s like to be an adventurer.
How did you go from being a graphic designer to a record-breaking adventurer?
Well, I woke up in the morning on my 25th birthday and I looked at my cat who was asking me for breakfast, and just realised that she was going to have a much better day than I was. Then I thought ‘that’s ridiculous’ and I just started thinking that there’s no way I can just carry on going into work doing something that I’m not very good at, or that I don’t really enjoy, for the rest of my life—it just didn’t really make sense. So ever since then, I’ve had a mission to make my life better than my cat’s. I started doing new things, I started saying yes more and eventually, I found myself a skateboard. Two weeks after stepping onto that I quit my job and decided that I was going to try and get the world distance record on a skateboard. I went from John o’Groats to Land’s End and then crossed Australia—almost 4,000 miles—and after I got a book deal, continued life as an adventurer, and I’ve never really looked back!
What’s been your most memorable expedition so far as an adventurer?
I’ve currently completed 12 of the 1,000-mile trips, so I’ve travelled over 20,000 miles under my own steam and I’ve been to every continent but Antarctica. I think paddleboarding the Mississippi or crossing Scandinavia in a pedal kayak two of my favourite journeys. There’s something really special about being surrounded by water at the best of times so to do a journey on there—and to travel months and months just finding camp every night on the bank of the river or the shoreline—it makes me feel really happy.
What’s been the most challenging?
I swam 1,000 miles down the Missouri river in 2012 and I didn’t really know how to swim when I started. I never trained for any of these journeys, so as soon as I jumped in the river, straightaway I thought, ‘what strokes do they have in the Olympics?”I tried every one out and did it for a week until I was good at it. Swimming is super tough and I was swimming for 58 days for about 11 hours each day in the water. It was getting cold towards the end!
Tell us about your most recent trip…
I recently went to Japan to do the 12th journey of Expedition1000 and I travelled from the north to the south on a kick scooter. Thankfully there were some racks on my scooter to help carry my gear. I’d never been to Japan but had heard that the culture and the countryside are beautiful so I was looking forward to exploring it in a really weird way. I made a film along the way—I had a little drone that tracked me for some of the journey—so I’ll be turning my experience as an adventurer into a film.
If you could recommend one thing to our readers to do on their travels, what would it be?
Have a reason to go somewhere, or a theme—even if it’s having a journey without a motor that gives you some parameters to make the most of your time and gives you something to talk about when you meet somebody and they say “what are you doing here?”. How boring is it if you just say “oh I just had a couple of days off and I just decided to go somewhere’? That’s cool, but you can add so much more to an experience and get more out of it if you give yourself a reason to be there. So that’s what I’d say—just come up with a little project and then go somewhere and make that project into a reality, rather than flying somewhere and then in a year’s time just forgetting all about it because there was no real reason behind it.
What advice would you give to aspiring adventurers who are worried about how they’re going to afford it?
Well, first of all, stop worrying! Worrying is just a whole bunch of negative energy and 90% of the things that we worry about are never going to happen anyway. It’s easy to let money get in the way of everything but you don’t have to spend a lot to have an amazing time. Air travel is cheaper than ever—you don’t have to travel halfway around the world to have an amazing experience, and if money is really tight, explore your backyard. The UK is beautiful and there are so many wild places here to go and adventure in. Every one of my 1,000-mile journeys—which usually take about 1–3 months—cost less than £1,000, so you can have an epic adventure and not spend much money. Just stop making excuses and get out there, commit to a date, stick to a plan and make it happen. You’ll always look fondly on these things; you can never regret going and doing something epic.
Favourite destination: Mississippi River
Favourite mode of non-motorised transport so far: Stand up paddleboard
Strangest cuisine you’ve tried: Guinea Pig! (It’s a delicacy in Ecuador).
Scariest experience: I was riding a four-wheel pedal car whilst I was on my way to Miami, and just four hours into that trip I got hit by a car at 80mph and ended up 30 metres off the road. That is definitely a moment that stands out as one that I don’t want to repeat.
The best thing you’ve learnt: I don’t want to sound cliché, but life just whizzes on by. We could look back and think ‘I missed out on a lot there”. Don’t let opportunities that are going to be awesome pass you by, even if they scare you! Every morning if you wake up with a smile on your face, every single person you meet sees that smile and they pass it on; but if you wake up moody and you’re rude to people, that just spreads negative energy — and goodness knows we need some positivity now. So choosing to be positive rather than negative in any given moment is really important.