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jump in a cold river

When people ask what my job is, I never know how to respond. I go on journeys and set myself challenges. I write - for books, for magazines, for blogs. I give talks and take photographs. But none of these actually feel like a "job". And for that I am a lucky man. Do what you love, a wise man once said, and you will never work a day all your life.

It didn't start out as a career plan though. I was too short-sighted for one of those. I was too much of an angry-young-man, too frustrated at the golden cage of my nice, easy, dull life, too anxious to chase all the adventures and lessons that were waiting out there if only I would make the effort to begin chasing. I started chasing. I chased hard. I spent over four years cycling a lap of the planet.

Cycling round the world changed the direction of my life forever. For it clarified for me what I really love and care about, the things that make me come alive: it taught me that they are attainable (or might possibly become attainable) if only you summon up the nerve and the energy to take the first step towards them. You might not even know what they are. You might not end up where you thought you were going to go. But, fingers crossed, you'll end up in a good place. This excites me a lot and it's what I'm going to occasionally write about here on the howies blog. (Which, in itself, is an example of the weird and wonderful paths life can take - that someone very un-cool like me ends up getting to write for such a cool lot as howies)

But it's not all sunshine, rainbows, "chasing your dreams" and "being the best you can be". After spending over six years overseas, travelling, and being in the world's wild places I often feel trapped and bored as I try to balance my wanderlust and ambition with a desire for "normality": for friends, family, community, and stabilty. I listen to The Smiths more than is healthy. So I'm also going to write about the small but really significant little things that re-spark the soul in the course of a normal working week: the whooping mountain bike rides on frosty mornings, the great books that teach you as much as travel ever can, and the microadventures that service all the same needs as massive expeditions but in a fraction of the time. And rivers. Jumping into rivers. Yes, mostly I'll be writing about the uncontrollable whooping and grin that comes from leaping into a cold, clear river. However cold the water, however heavy your work woes, you will always feel better after a dip in a river, lake or ocean. Indeed, if I can persuade just one reader to go for a wild winter swim then I'll definitely have done my job.

At last, I know what my job is...

Alastair Humphreys
(Find out more about me and my adventures here)