This Everyday Adventurer Says Being First Isn’t Everything

Most of us dream of a life beyond the 9-5, but Tim Moss actually acted on it in small ways and then bigger ones to go Around The World In 80 Ways, walk across Patagonia, make first ascents of remote Russian mountains, and cycle 13,000 miles

In our competitive, connected world it’s easy to think ‘biggest and best or nothing at all.’ But sometimes you need to look at your dreams laterally to bring them into reach. Tim Moss was working as an accountant when he started to think that life should have more to offer than the 9-5.

Rather than waiting for adventure to find him, he and his wife used their own ingenuity and imagination to seek it out. From brilliant ‘everyday adventure’ firsts like running the length of every tube line, to far flung adventures on mountains emerging from the old Soviet Union, Moss soon had a portfolio of adventures under his belt.

He has combined whimsical ideas like setting a World Record for the longest journey by rickshaw (it was 1,000 miles) with ambitious targets like the first ascent of a 6,000m peak in Kyrgyzstan – he admits to spending that trip terrified after self-arresting several falls down the steep snow with his ice axe. So, what does has a life of adventure told Moss about the benefits of pushing past your comfort zone?

We trekked across Wahiba Sands carrying our own water and it felt like we were on

Q: Unlike many outdoor people you don’t subscribe to the idea that a journey has to be epic to be a real adventure, do you?
A:
‘No – the biggest trip I’ve done is with my wife where we spent a year and a half cycling 13,000 miles around the world, after quitting our jobs and moving out of our house. Alongside that a couple of my favourite trips have been much shorter.’

‘We used to live in Oman and we walked across the Wahiba Sands desert with endless sand dunes for 60 miles, in three days, carrying all of our own water – it just felt like we were on Mars. It was physically tough and felt like a really pure expedition but we packed it into a long weekend.’

Q: So, is it possible to be a spontaneous adventurer?
A:
‘Yes, absolutely. Obviously, you can’t just row an ocean or climb Mt Everest without training but there are millions of other adventures you can do that still give you the same sort of buzz. Alastair Humphreys, for instance, recommends micro adventures, which usually revolve around camping out on a hill in a bivy bag because there are few simpler, easier ways to get that kick of adventure.’

Q: Have you had a meaningful adventure that didn’t require lots of planning, time and money?
A:
‘Shortly after I met my wife we were planning to do an adventure but she was a full time solicitor, so she came up with the idea that we would run the length of every tube line in London, above ground. We ran one line at a time so it started off at only five or ten miles but by the end it was 30, 40 and even 45 miles. It took us 12 hours to run the Central Line, starting in corn fields in the North East, running right through town and then arriving in cow fields. It had never been done before and we’d never run that far before in our lives – we were super fit and had really explored London but it had only taken a few weekends and some train fares.’

Q: That said, you have done some first ascents of mountains too?
A:
‘I’ve done a few trips to try and climb new mountains but even at my peak I was never a pro climber, so the niche was finding mountains in obscure areas, like Russia’s Altai mountains. The novelty of it is not coming home and shouting that you are the first guy on this peak, but the exploratory feel. You don’t have a guide book so you don’t know if it’s easy or hard, or how to get up. I really like the feeling that you have to explore your own way.’

Q: Part of adventure is going outside your comfort zone, to explore your limits – is that important for you?
A:
‘I have explored physical limits, like cycling or walking up sand dunes carrying heavy packs – seeing how hard you can go and come out the other side. Sometimes pushing how much misery you can handle, how cold you can get or little you can eat, how long you can keep trudging on. There’s a sort of masochistic pleasure from doing that and then coming back to the modern world where everything is nice and easy – I enjoy that contrast.’

Q: We often associate adventure with isolation but what about the people you meet on a around the world trip?
A:
‘Yes, you also push personal, social limits. On our around the world cycling trip we spent so many nights staying with other people because you’re invited into their homes – one of the difficulties is being a polite guest in rural Turkey or wherever. I’m not a natural extrovert but I was spending night after night entertaining families and kids with Google Translate or my ukulele, stuff you’d never do in normal life, and I really enjoy that.’

Q: Can you pick out a particularly glorious moment in an adventure?
A:
‘One was in the Wahiba Sands. We timed it for a full moon so we could walk at night but during the day it must have been getting to 50°C. It was a real slog but I remember waking up on the final morning and stopping on top of a dune at sunrise. All we could see in any direction was rolling sand dunes. It was like another planet. You couldn’t see another soul and you just felt like the King of the World. I felt it was such a privilege – you could have driven there in a 4x4 and had the same view, but after walking there for two days you felt like you had earned it, and could really appreciate it.’

‘With The Sun On Our Right’, Tim Moss’s new book about his around the world cycle is now available from www.thenextchallenge.org/books/sun/