Thanks to some free tickets from the Telegraph1, this weekend I found myself at a series of interlinked shows at Excel. The London Bike Show is probably the best known, and seemed to be the main draw for most – certainly it dominated in terms of floorspace! – but I had been attracted by the improbably-titled “Outdoor Adventure and Travel Show”. As well as a variety of exhibitors (from destinations to protein bars!), it offered two stages worth of talks on inspiring / insane expeditions, plus a third devoted to photography; plus a series of bouldering events on a custom-built bloc. Travel, photography and climbing is three-for-three in terms of interests of mine, although sadly I wasn’t able to get a timeslot for tackling the climbing wall and an originally-advertised obstacle course failed to materialise. To give a flavour of what’s on offer – and for my future convenience! – I’ve summarised all the talks I attended below. But first, here are a few visual highlights, from the action sports tour display (part of the bike show, admittedly) and the superbloc masters.
- First up for Saturday afternoon was a talk in the Photobox, by Pete Bridgwood on The Inner Game of Landscape Photography. I imagine it’s difficult to know what audience to pitch such a presentation at, but there were plenty of new ideas for me to consider (particularly related to use of colour). Pete favours the ’emotional honesty’ of a fine art approach to photography, over a literal or documentary style. I tend to follow the latter, mostly because I don’t consider myself much of an artist, but I make an exception for images that capture the passage of time, and this talk particularly inspired me to get out and make more use of my neutral density filter, which last made it into my travel kit two years ago in San Francisco!
- Over at the Climb and Adventure Stage I heard from Ash Dykes, who completed the first solo walk across Mongolia last year. Covering 1500 miles. Unsupported, and thus pulling a 120kg cart. Across mountains and through deserts. Having never previously visited Mongolia (or, presumably, speaking Mongolian). At the age of 23. If you can’t already tell, I’m rather in awe. It must be hard to come up with a travel ‘first’ these days, never mind an adventure of this scale. He’s on a speaking tour at the moment, and there should be a documentary at some point. Then further adventures – definitely one to keep an eye on, even if I feel my own travels are hopelessly tame by comparison!
- It was then back to the Photobox for Ben Pipe‘s take on How to Shoot Powerful Travel Photos. In contrast to Pete’s landscape focus, Ben is very much into the human element, something I need to find the bravery to tackle more often. His tips include getting up early, staying out late, getting closer – no, closer! – and talking to people. Which are probably equally good advice for travel without a camera!
- Sunday I settled in at the third area (the more general ‘Telegraph Travel stage’), starting with Nick Crane, with a map-based talk that appealed to my geekier side. Of particular interest were the pole of inaccessibility, the point on earth most distant from any coast, which he was the first to identify and visit; and his straight-line route through the UK, which restricted him to a 2km-wide corridor for a few months of walking! More generally, he spoke of the merits of exploring the spaces that maps can’t hope to cover.
- Next up was Daniel Raven-Ellison, who shunned the more masochistic feats of endurance being discussed on other stages- exploring, certainly, but in a more accessible (and perhaps socially-enlightening) way. For instance, he has climbed the equivalent of Everest, but in the form of staircases throughout London; and took his son on a series of 125 activities across the UK in honour of National Geographic’s quasquicentennial. He’s also a keen advocate for recognising the green merits of London, through the campaign for a National Park City status. Plenty of food for thought here in terms of adventures I could actually see myself completing – or even starting…
- Finally, Jasper Winn picked up on a couple of Nick Crane’s themes – the straight line route (in his case, recreating Herzog’s walk from Munich to Paris) and the advantages of going off-map, taking Amundsen’s adage “Adventure is the result of poor planning” not as advice to plan, but as advice to not plan! Like many others talking this weekend, he argued for slow travel – be that walking, biking, kayaking or horse riding.
All in all, an excellent event to boost my travel inspiration. Scouring a map in search of a novel hiking route or unique local adventure is not so different to mattress-running antics or taking flights just because they’re there for the taking; it’s just the pace that varies. As I found on Barra, I’m happy to build a holiday around wearing down a pair of hiking boots, so perhaps I should try to raise my ambitions on that front, and take better pictures whilst I’m at it. Just don’t expect to see a trek across a desert gracing these pages any time soon – although a straight-line expedition holds a certain geeky appeal…