Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said "the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." As I sit here typing, Englishman Dave Cornthwaite is about to embark on an epic three month walk through the Middle East. At the age of 25 Dave Cornthwaite left his job as a graphic designer to begin a new life adventure. Expedition1000 is his 12 year project to undertake twenty five journeys of 1,000 miles (1,600 km) or more, each using a different form of non-motorised transport.
Slow Travel Magazine caught up with Dave on the eve of his next adventure to talk about adventure, love, slowing down and saying 'yes' more!
Interview with Dave Cornthwaite: English author, adventurer and 'yes man'
BY NICOLE FOX NOBLE
dave, What would you say your ratio of Practical Sensible Fellow to Barking Mad Man is? Does the approach to your style of expedition travel require more ‘crazy’ than ‘practical’?
Honestly, I’m probably the most sane person you’ll ever meet. I quietly enjoy plodding on and knocking the ‘oh, you say yes to these things which makes you crazy’ out of society. I’m spontaneous, yes, and have no qualms about facing a fear, but really pretty much everything is common sense. If you can skate ten metres you can skate across Australia. If you can stay afloat, the first two weeks of a 1000 mile swim will train you to swim pretty well.
If I was still behind that desk, living the same day again and again just so I could pay a mortgage for a house that I only need because I have a job nearby - then I’d be crazy! Instead, I make a living from adventure purely because I decided to. It’s awesome and everyone can do it (whether ‘it’ is adventure or starting a business or building a house or working off a laptop from a beach).
tell us about your expedition training
I don’t train for my trips, they’re all pretty cheap and I’m fairly inept at most practical things in life. But I do like the simplicity of having an idea and just going for it, and thus having been subjected to so many experiences because of that attitude I’ve learned so much and met so many people that I otherwise wouldn’t have.
When you’re out there in expedition mode, which do you find proves to be more reliable: the kindness of strangers or the unpredictability of Mother Nature?
Oh, both. On kindness: I travel to meet people and realise how odd I am in comparison. There isn’t a story worth telling that doesn’t involve humans, and a good endurance adventure reminds us just how good humans are. Hundreds of times I’ve pedalled or skated or swum or paddles into a town only to meet someone by chance and finding myself being fed, showered, watered. People are magic.
And Mother Nature: she teaches you respect. To be in the middle of the ocean or a wide river when a storm comes through, or on a mountain or in a desert and boom! Yet another reminder that we’re tiny and insignificant and in a moment we might not be here. It brings to reality the stupidness of all the tiny things we worry about in our man-made lives. Give me a monsoon or hurricane over the drizzle of London any day.
what ranks in your mind as the most remarkable scene of nature you’ve come across in your travels so far?
I remember one night watch whilst sailing the Pacific when a splash signalled me to the bow. There, bathed in phosphorescence was a pod of 50 dolphins swimming and jumping, totally neon and glowing in the blackness. It was gorgeous, memorable, and another reminder that we’ll never see or know everything, there’s always more to surprise us.
“LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE” IS A FANTASTIC READ FROM A TRAVEL AND ADVENTURE PERSPECTIVE, BUT YOU ALSO GIVE THE READER SOME VERY PERSONAL LIFE INSIGHTS. DO YOU THINK THAT FALLING IN LOVE WITH LIFE IS WHAT MADE IT POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO FALL IN LOVE?
Oh, the love question! I don’t have any lines between life and work and fun and play and love, it’s all the same. I get as much enjoyment from creating a plan or project on a laptop as I do from experiencing it a few weeks on. There’s certainly a connection between the way I approach life to the way I approach the potential of love. I’m not much a fan of being closed off and unpredictable and I’ve enjoyed as much love as I’ve suffered heartache as a result.
If you were to take a year holiday with the one you love, without the expedition focus, where would you go?
I’d still choose the expedition focus! I love having that purpose behind any travel, it gives me reason to engage and move forwards (and sometimes backwards) and as someone who only travels slowly, without motors, I enjoy that connection with newness that only comes when you extract yourself from a hurtling, growling, metal case. I have nowhere specifically that tempts, just all those places I haven’t yet been.