I spent the penultimate weekend of January at Kensington Olympia attending the massive annual Adventure Travel Show. It is essentially an exhibition where travel agencies large and small as well as tourism boards showcase their services, but what interested me most were the specials: talks, seminars and the Adventure Film Festival.
Travel on film – the weird, the obscure and the inspiring
Saturday night featured a selection of indie travel films, some as short as 100 seconds.
One of the shorts that stuck in my mind was the ‘Lonely Planet Omelette Shop‘, a warm, funny, ironically told story of a tiny store in Jodhpur, India, which sells as many as 22 different kinds of omelette. It was just an ordinary shop until it rose to fame after being featured in the Lonely Planet guide. The film achieves two things extremely well: it captures the spirit of entrepreneurial India, but it is also a satire on the lonelyplanetisation of travel. And for me, it brought back memories of a certain omelette shop in Old Delhi, one that is not featured in the Lonely Planet, which undoubtedly sells the best combination of eggs, vegetables, spices and bread I’ve ever eaten in my life.
The main feature of the festival was ‘Gold of Bengal‘, a story of a young French engineering student who, inspired by the concept of a low-tech life, builds a small eco-boat out of locally grown jute and takes a solitary voyage from Marseilles to Indonesia. We watch with fascination how the lad attempts (and fails) to grow his own vegetables and raise hens on his boat, desalinate water by hand, handle storms and learn to fish, like a modern-day Robinson Crusoe. It is a nice story of youthful idealism and following one’s dreams, even if the ideals of a fully sustainable, low-tech life crumble in the end.
Travel blogging – tips and personalities
On Sunday morning I attended a blogging seminar where the main speaker was Charli Moore, an inspiring traveller of 5 years and a blogger at Wanderlusters.com. Much of the content was rather obvious, but worth being reminded of. My main takeaway was a simple message: write out of passion and focus on good content and the rest will follow. This being said, I took a lot of new energy from the seminar to make my blog a bit more professional by investing more time in the look and feel and social media, something I don’t usually have time for, juggling a full-time job and a busy social life.
But the best part was for sure other people in the room: imagine 20+ intrepid travellers, some of them already blogging and some planning to. Most were about to embark on a journey of a lifetime, for a year, or, as one middle aged couple put it: 5 years at the minimum, or longer, maybe forever.
Travel photography – breaking rules and making contact
Rather apprehensively, I also took a photography seminar. The room was full of professional or semi-professional travel photographers with fancy equipment, which made me feel a bit intimidated.
But the key messages were far from technical and rather uplifting:
1. Break the rules, such as always having the sun behind you, or the rule of thirds.
2. Focus on the story rather than technical perfection.
3. Take your time, talk to people, make friends, before taking your camera out.
4. Don’t forget to put your camera away sometimes and just enjoy life as it happens.
Inspiration talks – ordinary people doing extraordinary things
But the best was saved for last. The closing panel was a discussion among a diverse crowd of people who have all chosen to live a life of adventure, in very different ways.
Dave Cornthwaite is an organiser of adventure expeditions, a writer and a blogger. He has initiated the Yes Tribe movement, a group of people who inspire one another to undertake adventures of all kinds. Laura Kennington is an athlete who takes on challenges such as solo kayaking across Russia. Danny Bent is a HuffPost blogger, motivational speaker and Guinness World Record holder.
And finally, there was the Meek family, who a year ago decided to quit their jobs, sell their house and take their two kids out of school to embark on a life of adventure and travel.
The panel, and especially contributions from 12-year old Amy Meek, reminded me that adventure is always at your fingertips waiting to be invited into your life. It doesn’t have to involve a long and expensive journey, it can be something you do with your family on a Sunday afternoon. You just need to dare. Now that’s a very good message for a traveller about to go on maternity leave.