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Tackling 25 Journeys Of 1,000 Miles Or More

At 25, Dave Cornthwaite felt compelled to do more with his life, so he waved goodbye to his dead-end job and vowed to ‘say yes more’ – a decision that’s seen him skateboard across Australia, paddleboard the length of the Mississippi River and sail across the eastern Pacific

It can be all too easy to accept monotony; to do more of the same is simpler than breaking free. But the risk you take in setting off in a completely new direction has the power to reward you with experiences and perspectives that would have remained otherwise unknown.

At 25, Dave Cornthwaite did just that: quitting his dead-end, 9-5 job in the belief that life could and should be so much more rewarding. Fast-forward 13 years and the 38-year-old has transformed his life of mundanity to one of adventure and exploration – testing his limits, discovering new perspectives and inspiring others to do the same.

At present, Cornthwaite is 14 journeys into ‘Expedition1000’: a challenge to make 25 journeys of 1,000 miles or more using non-motorised transport, which began with a 3,681-mile world-record skateboard trip across Australia. He’s also water-biked the coast of Norway, ridden a scooter around Japan and kayaked the length of the Murray River – each expedition the result of his guiding philosophy: ‘say yes more’.

In adventure I had found the thing that brought me the most delight

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Q: What’s been your most rewarding adventure?
A:
‘If I had to pick a favourite, it would be paddleboarding the length of the Mississippi River, because I really felt on top of my game, and realised exactly what I wanted to get out of life. It was an amazing time: spending three months on a paddleboard, meeting incredible people from a part of the world which is so misunderstood. Every time someone asks me for a recommended adventure, I say: “Just go and paddleboard the Mississippi!”’

Q: Do you think we’re all capable of extraordinary things, or are you specially hardwired to push your limits?
A:
‘I definitely don’t think I’m specially programmed to do these adventures. I’m a super-average bloke! I guess I just hit that confluence at one point that drove me to find out what else I could do. I think we’re all capable of doing, knowing and achieving so much more than we do at present. If we want to evolve we need to give ourselves the chance to, which often just means doing more stuff and gaining some perspective on life. What we believe in – from religion to specific laws – completely comes down to peer groups and upbringing. We all react to our surroundings and the things we hear, so I think travelling is a really important way to get perspective and take on new challenges – social and physical.’

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Q: You rarely train for your journeys – before you swam the Missouri River you had never swam more than 100m in your life. Why is that?
A:
‘For me, taking on trips without being particularly adept was largely due to lack of finance; I never had that much money, but I knew that in adventure I had found the thing that brought me the most delight. I wanted to give myself the chance to make that work, which simply meant not spending much money. If I was going to prepare properly for one of these trips it would cost a huge amount in gym, kit and coaching fees, so I thought there was a different way to do it. I always take things slow at the beginning of the trips – to ease myself in – and I’m never racing anyone, which takes all the pressure off. If you can move a little distance, you can move a long way – you just need time.’

Q: You don’t extensively prepare for your trips, either. Are you motivated by the unknown?
A:
‘When you know what’s coming, there’s much less incentive to go round that corner. I’m driven by curiosity, and while I know this stuff might be hard sometimes I’m also really eager to discover what’s next. Knowing exactly what’s to come makes that journey far less interesting. I need a life of variety, on a daily basis – I switch off now if I’m doing anything that has a capacity to be boring.’

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Q: Your motto is ‘say yes more’ – why is that important?
A:
‘I think it’s important that we do as much as we can in our short time here, just to see what we can achieve. I think it would be such a shame to get to Day X and think, I wish I could have done more. For me, saying yes is incredibly powerful. When you say yes to something you end up doing something new, and you might learn that you never want to do that damn thing again, but that’s just as useful as finding something you want to practice every single day.’

Q: Another of your projects is ‘20 A Day’: learning a new skill every month by practising it for 20 minutes every day. How important is it to learn new things?
A:
‘It’s so easy to accept monotony, but there are 1,140 minutes in every single day and my proposal is if you spend 20 minutes – just 20 minutes – learning a new skill each day, dedicating one month to each skill, by the end of the year you’ve learned 12 new things. It makes life so much more interesting. If you can do something really well, you look at decisions and choices in a different way. You’re more likely to think: “Yeah I’m going to take that on.”’

Visit www.davecornthwaite.com for more information on Expedition1000, and www.sayyesmore.com to join The Yes Tribe

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