THE BLOG
22/11/2013 06:28 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 16:01 GMT

The UK's Top Explorers and a Futile Battle to Not be Inspired

Before you start reading this I had better issue a bit of a warning. By the time you get to the end of this blog post, there is a real danger that you could feel a severe case of wanderlust. Those of you who already suffer from pedes pruritus (Latin: itchy feet) best look away now.

Before you start reading this I had better issue a bit of a warning. By the time you get to the end of this blog post, there is a real danger that you could feel a severe case of wanderlust. Those of you who already suffer from pedes pruritus (Latin: itchy feet) best look away now. On the other hand, it's more likely that what you are about to learn will galvanize you into making amazing achievements, so please hang on in there.

This dilemma was roughly what I faced when I visited the Royal Geographical Society's London HQ recently. It is arguably the world epicentre of daring-do, and this is never more the case than when it holds its annual 'Explore' festival. Would-be and wannabee adventurers are given the chance to meet up with those who have been there, done it and bought the lightweight breathable fabric jungle ravaged t-shirt. The aim of the event is to provide a forum for swapping ideas and as a consequence the seeds of future explorations start to grow.

Before walking thought the doors, I had told myself that no matter how tempting any of this seemed, I must resist the allure of joining in any exploration schemes. After all, I am a man with huge responsibilities. If I don't put the rubbish out on Monday morning before the bin-men arrive, who will? So, with this heavy sense of unjustified self-importance hanging over me, I strode through the doors, determined to resist all comers.

The first person I spoke to was Paul Rose, the RGS' Vice-President and one of the world's most experienced polar travellers. He's instantly likeable, with charisma and energy tumbling out of him. I believe that during any kind of power shortage the National Grid often phone him up, knowing that he could give them enough wattage through the force of his enthusiasm alone. In short, he is not the kind of man you want to encounter if you are trying to dodge inspiration. His opening gambit was to encourage newly retired folk to turn their back on a future of lazing on sunny beaches and instead become explorers.

However I tried to counter this with the tired old cliché of "surely all the big adventures are done, and there's nothing left to achieve any more" hoping he would confirm my thoughts, and give me one less reason to get out and do something. Sadly, he let me down:

"99% of our space the planet is the ocean, but we know less than 5% of the ocean floor and less than ½% of the water so there is a lot to go at. There's is also a lot of new explorers going at things with new eyes and bringing new insights."

As you would expect, the RGS was that day home to many people who explore the oceans, and carry out worthwhile research whilst doing so. Take Emily Penn for example, someone who has discovered previously unknown oceanic gyres - huge areas of plastic pollution accumulation. Her next mission is to sail the formerly formidable North West Passage in the Arctic.

She wasn't the only one at the RGS who would be getting chilly whilst pushing the boundaries. There was also Felicity Aston, the first woman to ski solo across Antarctica and soon to embark on a mission called the "Pole of Cold' after winning a bursary from the RGS and Land Rover. Quite simply, she is going to the coldest places in the world and seeing how people there cope.

I must admit, whilst the trip and the associated fieldwork seemed amazing, the thought of constant sub zero temperatures for weeks on end wasn't hugely tempting, so at this point I thought I may get out of the RGS without signing up for anything.

However, I had let down my guard.

That's because my next encounter was with Alastair Humphreys. He attended 'Explore' whilst still at university and was inspired by the event to cycle round the world. Since then, Alastair has rowed the Atlantic, walked across India and trekked 1000 miles through the Empty Quarter desert. However it was his words about 'microadventures' that finally pushed me over the edge, and made me commit to being a bona fide explorer. With our time-pressured lives, he believes that small, intense challenges (not too far from home) are the way forward.

Alastair once walked all the way around the M25, but even that could be considered as a pretty big 'micro adventure'. As a more manageable expedition he suggested drawing an imaginary circle around your house and then walking its circumference - a great way to discover places you have never seen that are right on your doorstep. Of course something like this could take no more than a day, yet still leave you with a sense of achievement and discovery, and so that's exactly what I have committed to do. Admittedly, my resolution to not be stirred into action by the folk at the RGS had failed, but at least doing it this way means my bins will get emptied.