With foreign travel still off the cards, we’ve been taking ourselves on journeys of the mind. This month we’re listening to / reading / watching a stunning array of real life adventure stories to transport us far from our front rooms. We’re going on trains of thought and ascending peaks of self-discovery through other people’s stories! Here are our perfect travel companions for an armchair adventure.
Top adventure podcasts
To take you on a journey while you drive, do the washing up or out on a run, tune in to these awesome podcasts.
An absolute tonic for lovers of the outdoors, in which journalist Shelby Stanger interviews athletes, explorers and entrepreneurs about how they’ve taken really wild ideas and made them into their own reality. She’s giving you the chance to think about how you can too… Hard to resist. The most recent episode featured mountain runner Adam Campbell describing how he recovered from a life-threatening fall down a ravine in British Columbia, and the subsequent death of his wife in an avalanche while they were both out skiing. Thought-provoking stuff.
For a campfire stories vibe, head to The Dirtbag Diaries. A long-running podcast for normal people - you don’t need to have aspirations to climb Everest to want to hear these sometimes funny, sometimes serious stories. It’s tales of skiing, climbing, sailing and travelling that you’d normally hear around a fire at the end of a long day on a hill. For the grassroots explorer and traveller.
A more in-depth explanation of why humans need to have adventures comes from adventure filmmaker Matt Pycroft in the Terra Incognita podcast. Lose yourself in a 40 to 80 minute conversation or dip into a short ‘dispatches’ little story from mountaineers to Arctic scientists, tree climbers and polar explorers. Most recently, Robert Swan, the first person in history to reach both the North and South Poles on foot, before GPS or satellite phones, took the hot seat. Robert shares his extraordinary experiences of the polar regions, the promise he made to Jacques Cousteau 26 years ago, and how he appears to have a knack for staying alive against all the odds.
Greatest films about real-life explorers
Break out the popcorn and settle in for Banff Mountain Film Festival, now online so everyone can go! You’ll get four or five short films taking you from the remote, stunning Indian Himalaya to the highest point of the Americas, from indigenous Bolivian women scaling Aconcagua in the Argentinian Andes to slack liners facing their greatest fears. Several collections to choose from.
Our top-rated full-length classics include:
The story of top student and athlete Christopher McCandless who donated his £25,000 savings to charity, renamed himself Alexander Supertramp, abandoned his car in the Mojave desert, burned the cash in his wallet and vanished into the wild. Four months later, his body was found by moose hunters. Sean Penn’s class retelling of the story leading up to his disappearance is must-see viewing.
For a slice of Herzog humour, Encounters at the End of the World delivers. In this offbeat travelogue, we’re treated to Antarctica's bizarre natural phenomena including the active volcano Mount Erebus and a parade of bohemians, nomads and scientists living a highly alternative existence at the McMurdo research base on the planet’s seventh continent.
A bone-chilling true life tale from Danny Boyle. Veteran outdoorsman Aron Ralston paid the price for skipping a few safety steps when during a solo hike, in a freak accident, a boulder pinned his arm against a wall in a narrow canyon. He survived for five days on a diet of rationed food, water and urine. With no hope of anyone finding him he eventually used a pocket knife to … yes, you guessed it. Harrowing and nauseating in equal measure.
Best travel books
If you prefer your armchair travels to be taken via the written word, here are our top three non-fiction travel books to carry you away.
What is it like to live next door to mighty, intimidating Russia? Fatland, Norwegian social anthropologist and acclaimed author of Sovietstan, travels through 14 countries along Russia’s border in this lyrical exploration of modern history. Without ever entering Russia, she reveals the deep influence it has on half the globe. The Border is a chronicle of the colourful, exciting, tragic and often unbelievable histories of these bordering nations, their cultures, their people, their landscapes, from North Korea, to the former Soviet republics in Asia and the Caucasus and countries on the Caspian Ocean and the Black Sea.
This is the true story of a man literally walking away from death. Jake Tyler walked 3,000 miles from his home town of Maldon, Essex, around Britain after a terrifying brush with suicide. Setting off with only a small backpack and a pair of walking boots, he discovers the kindness of strangers is what he needs to bring him through his depression. His retelling of his journey of discovery is just the tonic after many months spent at home.
When the age of 30 rolls around it’s a moment to pause for thought. Jedidiah Jenkins’ response was a little more extreme. He quit his dream job, jumped on his bike and spent sixteen months cycling 10,000 miles from Oregon to Patagonia. He chronicled this extraordinary adventure online, bringing thousands of followers with him, virtually. At the heart of his quest was a journey into faith, the constraints of masculinity and ultimately, what makes life worth living?
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