Adventure Travel Show 2016

This weekend (23-24 January) was the weekend of the Adventure Travel Show at the Olympia in Kensington. I went along with a friend of mine on Saturday and it was a great day full of inspiration and motivation. There were three auditoriums hosting talks and panels, a load of stands for companies and organisations trying to sell their trips and services, and a photography exhibition. The two panels I went to were fantastic (a little more on them below) and some of the talks were great too; however a couple of the talks I went to were simply sales pitches which were of much less interest to me. Wondering around the stands was worth doing, and some of them more interesting and useful than others, however it was really crowded at times which made it pretty stressful trying to get anywhere.

Sometimes it was so crowded it made it very difficult to move around.

Sometimes it was so crowded it made it very difficult to move around.

The Yes Tribe
One of my favourite stands I visited was for the Yes Tribe. It was one of the smallest stands at the event, although I knew that in Dave Cornthwaite’s twitter bio he mentions that he founded @YESisadoingword  I knew nothing about what that was, so I thought it might be worth having a look. Turns out, it definitely was worth checking out; the Yes Tribe was originally started in London and describes itself as “… a community of people seeking to share friendship, support, positivity and energy in order to make all levels of life count.” It seems to be a group of like-minded people who love to get outdoors, go on adventures and generally say “Yes!” to the opportunities that come their way. On the evening before the Adventure Travel Show a group had camped out on Box Hill because, well, why not? They seem to get together and share adventure inspiration and encourage each other to go on adventures, I certainly plan to get involved soon. There’s more information about the Yes Tribe on their website.

Panel: An Adventurous Life
Sean Conway, Ed Stafford, Rebecca Stephens and Benedict Allen hosted by Dave Cornthwaite

The panel prepare for their 'Leading an Adventurous Life' session.

The panel prepare for their ‘Leading an Adventurous Life’ session.

The very first thing we did when we arrived at the show was head to a panel that we knew was about to start. The session had no real structure which left it free to wonder over a variety of topics, a format that worked really well. The session ended up as a mixture of entertaining and inspirational stories and anecdotes. Dave Cornthwaite said something that really resonated with me, aligns with the Yes Tribe ideology and my thoughts when originally setting up Beyond The Smoke: “Humans are wild animals, and here we are living in this big city and it’s not natural. To thrive we need to get out there and go on adventures, even if that’s just getting on a train and spending a night in a bivvy bag before getting to work on time; there are plenty of places within half an hour’s train journey from London that you can do that”.

Somehow the discussion moved onto embarrassing moments in adventuring and other entertaining anecdotes, Sean Conway told a story about ending up having to use a dead sheep’s rib bone as toilet paper in the desert during his round-the-world cycle. Ed Stafford told us that he got expelled from school for chopping down a tree the Queen planted. Benedict Allen told us about when he underwent an initiation ceremony to become “a man as strong as a crocodile” which involved him being cut many times with bamboo blades and then beaten four times a day, every day, for six weeks, until he was deemed to have achieved the objective. I guess you could say that leading “An Adventurous Life” involves a variety of adventure, mischief and embracing unfamiliar surroundings!

Panel: Meet the Adventurers
Dave Cornthwaite, Leon McCarron, Duncan Milligan and Anna McNuff

The 'Meet the Adventurer' panel included some impressive individuals.

The ‘Meet the Adventurer’ panel included some impressive individuals.

The second panel that we attended was a similar format to the first, and was allowed to wonder across a variety of topics. All the speakers were really inspirational and had some entertaining stories too. Discussion moved to the impact of social media on the life of the modern-day adventurer and it was interesting to hear from what you could argue as very different ends of the spectrum; Duncan Milligan isn’t even really on Twitter from what I can see, compared to Anna McNuff who shared her full range of emotions experienced during her run through New Zealand. Anna also touched on an interesting point, that she thinks it’s important to share both the good and the bad moments, to give those following on social media a full picture. Her first video showing her crying got more interaction online than her other videos, which corresponds with Sean Conway’s story about his video of him falling and injuring himself whilst trying to take a ‘Selfie’ being one of his most popular; but perhaps thats just because people get a kick out of seeing the weaknesses of others?

One of the points that Dave Cornthwaite and Anna emphasised was that anyone can get out there and have these adventures, you just need the ambition and (perhaps more importantly) the guts, to go for it. In my own way I agree with this, whilst I’m at a point in my career as a Civil/Structural Engineer that isn’t conducive to embarking on a major adventure; one of the reasons why I set up this website was because so often people say to me “I wish I could go on adventures like you at the weekends”, to which my answer to everyone has always been “but you can!”

Talk: Blind and Just a Little Bit Dangerous
Dean “Deano” Dunbar

Deano's presentation was one of the most impressive of the day.

Deano’s presentation was one of the most impressive of the day.

One of my favourite talks of the day was by Dean “Deano” Dunbar. Deano was born with full sight, aged 9 his sight suddenly deteriorated over night, causing him to be registered as “partially sighted”. For the next 15 years his sight remained pretty static. Then in his mid-20s, his sight dropped again. This time he was registered “blind”. Deano’s done some incredible things, including quad biking, skydiving and tandem speed flying (it’s really worth checking out the video below about this). It was really inspirational to hear about some of the stuff he’s done and the challenges he’s overcome. I was really impressed with how well he presented, he definitely had the most polished talk out of everyone I saw at the show. 

Deano’s video of him speed flying is inspirational. 

One of the other highlights of the day was a talk by Sean Conway on #FindYourBeard which was both inspirational and entertaining.

For some time I’ve had a bit of a pipe-dream of going on a ski touring/splitboarding trip to Iran. I went and tried to speak to a few stalls who said they operated in Iran, however I was really disappointed by the combination of their total lack of interest in talking to me about the country, what they could offer, getting around the country, or anything to do with snow sports. I guess it may be best to try and go down a different route when trying to plan my trip.

Overall I got a huge amount out of the day, and learnt a lot. I bought a book on overland adventure planning as food-for-thought, I joined the Yes Tribe for further inspiration and future adventures, and I was inspired by all the presenters and panelists to keep on pushing mini-adventurers now whilst preparing for some major adventures in the future!


Hannis Whittam

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