Once named National Geographic Explorer of the Year, Alastair Humphreys has never been a stranger to feats of daring. But for his latest challenge, he took on something much more daunting, albeit entirely more relatable for the average person: his midlife crisis.
Humphreys, an Englishman, has ridden his bike all the way around the world. He has rowed across the Atlantic Ocean and trekked 1,000 miles through the Empty Quarter desert of the Arabian Peninsula. The "micro-adventuring" movement he started inspired others to do things "small and achievable" but still wild enough to shift their perspectives-things as simple as swimming in an untamed stretch of a river or to "pitch a tent in nearby woods, explore their city by moonlight, or hold a family slumber party in the backyard."
But that was then and this was now. It was 2016. Nearing 40 with a wife and two young children, Humphreys felt the familiar tug of adventure while riding the train. In earlier years he had lived as adventurously as anyone in the world, but he still felt like a fraud, stuck at home being a "normal" dad most of the time. Humphreys was afraid to let the outside world know that he wasn't always the explorer he appeared to be. Sometimes, actually most of the time, he was just a guy changing diapers or packing lunches.
"You see your hero on the internet and you assume that person's got their life figured out," Humphreys says. "And I'm guilty of that myself. I'm often putting a better version of myself out into the world in my books and online."
But the veil we put up to the world doesn't halt the internal monologue or the feelings of inadequacy. Continually, Humphreys' mind would wander back toward one of the books that inspired him to become the adventurer he did.
And so, beginning from the western coast of Spain, he started walking.
ONE MIDSUMMER MORNING
His trip, planned from the coast to Madrid, in the center of the country, would covered hundreds of miles--a long way to walk, for certain, and an even longer way to go without the benefit of sleeping indoors.
It was modeled on the same venture by British author Laurie Lee, who busked his way across Spain in the 1930s and wrote about it in his book As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning.
Humphreys first read Lee's book at the age of 22, when his life of adventure was beginning. To pay his way across Spain in the same fashion as Lee, Humphreys only had his violin. He busked for money in town squares across the Iberian...