Films Microadventures Other People's Adventures

Microadventure: Swim to an island. Sleep on it.

I’m on a train, speeding north from London for an event tonight in Kendal. It’s the fourth in a run of film screenings I’m doing over the next two weeks. I’m knackered. My body-clock is trashed. And I’m wearing the same clothes I was wearing in my sleeping bag last week on an island in the English Lakes that I swam to with two friends, Al and Ferg.

Swimming back to the mainland

It was a foolhardy plan, concocted by three blokes desperate to justify why they weren’t spending Valentine’s Eve with their other halves. At least the plan was a simple one: swim to an island and sleep on it. The island in question? Peel Island, also known as ‘Wildcat Island’ in Ransome’s classic Swallows & Amazons.

A one-hundred-metre swim doesn’t sound like much. Just four lengths of a swimming pool. It begins to sound more unpleasant, though, once you factor in the water temperature, which sat that day at around 4 degrees above zero. Fresh water begins to solidify at 2 degrees. (Wetsuits, of course, were a luxuriant fantasy.)

Why do this? For me, it was a reaction against a winter of self-imposed slave-labour in my own self-built cubicle. Leave the house; have an adventure in the space of an evening; return home with the reset button well and truly pressed.

And the swim itself sat just on the right side of daunting. I had seriously considered ditching the idea and taking a canoe instead. I stood ankle-deep in the painfully-cold shallows with a sick feeling in my stomach and a suspicion that this might be a really stupid thing to do.

But this meant that when I dragged my stinging body clumsily onto the island — convinced I could not swim another stroke, that my heart would cop out, unable to wrestle my T‑shirt back over my head and get wrapped up warm again — it was a victory that tasted all the sweeter. (For as long as I ignored the fact that I’d have to swim back in the morning.)


Watch Al’s masterfully-constructed video of the trip.

And do check out his Microadventures campaign — simple, accessible adventures (mostly not involving wintertime wild-swimming!) that can be fitted around everyday life.

I’m on the road for the rest of the month, with screenings coming up in Kendal (tonight), Newcastle, Ayr, Edinburgh and Sheffield. Check out the calendar/map and come along if you can!

Films Other People's Adventures

The Man Who Lived On His Bike [Video]


This isn’t exactly a cycle-touring video, but I love it nonetheless.

It’s just a masterful demonstration of the creative breadth of short film. As a filmmaker still very much learning the craft, I’m awed by the passion for the concept and the skill of the execution in this 3‑minute piece. No fancy visual bollocks, just jaw-droppingly clever storytelling.

Practice, I suppose, makes perfect. Chapeau! (There’s a making-of video for it too.)

Feel free to post links to your favourite short films here, even if they’re not exactly cycle-touring related…

Other People's Adventures

3 Journeys In Progress You Should Be Following

I dip in and out of a multitude of blogs these days, in between finishing up my book, writing my own blog and getting ready for Janapar’s release. But there are few which exude the sheer quality and craftsmanship to hold my attention long-term.

Here are the best examples I know of in three traditional storytelling media: film, written word, and still image.

Film: Brazil 9000

Aaron and Gareth are barely out of the starting blocks on their latest journey, but they’ve set the bar incredibly high with this professional-quality video intro. It alone beats most of the trash on Nat Geo Adventure, let alone Youtube.


Their previous photography and video work, plus their dedication to storytelling and cultural immersion (speaking as they do Portuguese and blogging in both languages), plus the access they’ll get through travelling by foot, bicycle and canoe, hints at the beginning of a hugely promising tale of adventure.

Visit →

Written Word: That Emily Chappell

If I could have written my book with half the eloquence and insight of Emily, I’d be… well, actually, I’d probably still be in a state of self-loathing, convinced that my labour of love had in fact emerged as a pile of complete and utter tosh. That’s just me.

Expect no heroic-looking self-portraits, nor endless mentions of distances covered and altitudes conquered. Instead, expect a truly fascinating account of this ex-courier solo cyclist’s inner monologue as she embarks upon the second year of her round the world journey.

Visit →

Still Image: While Out Riding

Cass Gilbert has long been a name in the cycle-touring world. I remember using his Out There Biking resources and his extensive contributions to the Adventure Cycle Touring Handbook as inspiration for planning my own early journeys back in 2006.

Cass’s focus on slowly uncovering the road less travelled — particularly the unpaved back-country roads — brings him and his lens into contact with a world that even the road-based cycle tourist rarely stops to see. He has a talent for capturing evocative images of life’s overlooked detail, never failing to leave me both envious and awestruck.

Visit →

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What’s your favourite travel blog, and why? Join the discussion in the comments.

Other People's Adventures

(More) Evidence For The Value Of Crafted Adventure Media

While defending my views on the use of social media on expeditions or journeys, I thought I’d share a reminder I recently received of why I bother raising such points and investing so much energy in all of this.

Hi Tom,

It’s been great following your adventures thus far, and I look forward to the book with anticipation.

I also want to say a massive thank you for giving me the necessary push, along with Andy last year, to embark on my own adventure! 

Other People's Adventures Websites

30,000 Miles Around The World In (Not Just) A Wheelchair

I’m really excited to have put together this new website for extreme athlete Andy Campbell, who’s planning a 30,000-mile round-the world expedition beginning next year. The difference? Andy’s been paralysed from the waist down since a climbing accident in 2004.