ADVENTURE TRAVELS. A 15,000 kilometer drive from Europe to Mongolia in a crappy, practically worthless car. Or what about the Rickshaw Run, a “3,500 km pan-Indian adventure in a 7 horsepower glorified lawnmower”. Or why not try out the rock-hard Ice Run: A journey across a “frozen Siberian wilderness on old school Ural motorbikes to the only town in the world sitting on the Arctic Circle”.
Do any of these journeys sound like your idea of traveling? Then you’re welcome to The Adventurists, the British charity organization and adventure organizer that has pledged to make the world a less boring place.
“In terms of the trends, we are still growing, despite the world’s economic troubles,” says Dan Wedgwood, The Adventurists’ press spokesperson.
On the organization’s website, built on subtil British humor, he carries the more handsome title ‘resident media tart’.
→ MORE TO READ: How I quit my ‘sensible’ job and joined The Adventurists
“I think people still want to escape and go on a massive adventure. We’re seeing more and more people sign up from countries outside the UK – in particular from Scandinavian region, USA, Australia and Canada too,” Wedgwood explains to the Traveling Reporter.
How does it all work? The Adventurists organizes a number of adventures each year, inviting anybody who wants to participate and can pay the entry fee. The basic theme for the ‘runs’ is simple: Getting from A to B in a vehicle (or, in one case, on a horse). Currently, there are six adventures to choose from:
• The Mongol Derby, which has 35 riders this year.
• The Rickshaw Run India, featuring 72 teams in its latest version, runs three times a year.
• The Rickshaw Run Indonesia has 28 teams and also runs three times a year.
• The northern Ice Run currently has 10 teams ready to start next February, but The Adventurists have room for up to 20, the organization claims.
• The Mototaxi Junket goes twice a year. 25 teams are setting off in September this year and 50 are expected in April 2013.
• The Mongol Rally has just under 300 teams 2012, with expectations of close to 400 in 2013.
Currently, Africa is among the continents that aren’t covered by any of the organization’s adventures.
“We used to have an Africa Rally, driving from Europe down to Cameroon, but that one got canned unfortunately. We’ll have another adventure in Africa soon, but it won’t involve driving there from the UK, it will be something very different,” says Dan Wedgwood.
Entry fees payed by the participating adventurers are used by The Adventurists to organize a truckload of practical things around the rallies. But in particular, money is raised for charity through the adventures. In January 2012, The Adventurists announced that 6,639 people from more than 25 countries participating in eight adventures in as many years had raised £3.5 million.
“There’s an entry fee for each adventure, which is per team, so if you have two or three people in your team you can split this cost. Each team has to raise at least £1,000 for charity, which is done through fundraising and sponsorship usually. Then you have the cost of flights, travel insurance and when you’re on the road it depends on your style of travel, you can stay in posh hotels or you can camp the whole way, so the overall cost varies quite a lot,” Wedgwood says to the Traveling Reporter.
“Sometimes teams go nuts on the charity fundraising and raise massive amounts, one Mongol Rally team once raised £56,000.”
What does the average participant look like?
“It’s impossible to describe, they range so much, from 18 year old students through to 70 year old retired people,” Wedgwood says.
“I guess one trend is that we’re seeing people who have been travelling once or twice before and now they want to do something harder, more interesting, more extreme. Sometimes they’ve been backpacking or on a guided trip and they realise they don’t need someone to look after them, they want to do it on their own, go and get lost and stuck and get themselves out of trouble again.”
Indeed, charity work combined with hilarious adventures seems like a good match. But however easygoing the language on The Adventurists’ website may be, this is hard work. To these guys, adventures are serious business.
“Tom Morgan, the founder of The Adventurists, has established the research and development arm to research new adventures and set them up, including going out and testing them,” Wedgwood says, himself being one of the company’s co-founders.
The benefits of a good old Indiana Jones-style adventure are easy to spot for the hundreds of people that have signed up for them, too. As Internet, TV and office work take up most daylight hours in a modern person’s life, real adventures are hard to come by and fit into the schedule. Who hasn’t dreamt about getting in a car and just drive away from it all. This getaway from ordinary life can be achieved here. In one of The Adventurists’ website videos, shot during a rally in India, a participant claims he can pinpoint his location exactly on a map. Then he does it: “Somewhere in India.”
The videos provide an interesting insight for potential adventurers into the life on the road (or, often, off the road): Parties at exotic locations, fantastic postcard views, high speeds and, quite frankly, what seems to be dangerous driving in substandard vehicles on bad roads. And The Adventurists do indeed warn potential participants of the risks involved. On its website, in the Mongol Rally section, a rather daring note is posted that cannot be misunderstood:
“Your chances of being seriously injured or dying as a result of taking part are high. Individuals who have taken part in previous Adventurists’ adventures have been permanently disfigured, seriously disabled or lost their life.
This is not a glorified holiday. It’s an unsupported adventure and so by its very nature extremely risky. You really are on your own and you really are putting both your health and life at risk. That’s the whole point.”
According to Wedgwood, though, adventures shouldn’t be too safe anyway.
“If you like everything to be safe, you really should stay away from The Adventurists and all our adventures. If you get excited about having no idea about what will happen next, and you like the idea of getting into some scrapes along the way and understanding that proper adventure always involves risks, then you’re the right kind of person for our adventures,” he says.
→ External link: The Adventurists website
For most of the adventures, you pretty much just need a driving licence to participate. But there is one exception – the Ice Run. This rally is real hardcore stuff.
“For the Mongol Rally, Rickshaw Runs, Mototaxi Junket, as long as you’re medically fit enough and you have the right attitude and a driving license you can come along. For the Ice Run, you have to fill out an application form, and we need to be sure you’ll be able to cope with the extreme cold. You also need a motorbike license,” Wedgwood says, adding that a driving license is not always enough for the rest, either: ”On the Mongol Derby, you have to be an experienced horse rider, because riding 1,000 kilometers on semi-wild horses across barren Mongolian steppe is pretty tough on the humans. We always keep horse welfare as the number one priority, so riders have to be able to look after the horses properly.”
Taking part in these events might seem like a lot of hard work, and it certainly can be. For some of the adventures, The Adventurists provide the vehicles, which makes it possible in theory to pop out of office on a two week leave and join, though you still would have to finance the rest of the adventure.
But then there are all the unexpected things that are expected to happen along the way from start to finish.
“You have to be pretty self sufficient and able to cope when things go wrong, and you have to be up for talking to people and interacting with people as you travel, because often you’re going to need their help,” Wedgwood says. “So if you’re used to travelling in a guide bus and only interacting with pre-arranged handicraft sellers, then hunting down a mechanic might be a new experience. But we think that you have the most fun on adventures when things go wrong and you have to find a way to fix them.”
The latest Mongol Rally, from England to Mongolia, a journey of 15,000 kilometers through the deserts and plains of Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan, was launched on Saturday 14th July 2012. A video from such a rally shows cars breaking down, crossings on ancient wooden bridges over rivers and flat tires. Problems that the participants have to manage on their own. In another video from the hellish Ice Run, where temperatures can hit –50 Celsius (–58 Fahrenheit), one of the MC drivers explains matter-of-factly, “People help people, otherwise you die out here.”
Yet other adventures hold beautiful, hot locations in Indonesia, India and elsewhere with scenic views to behold and experiences to have that are very rare these days.
And over the whole arrangement rests the uncertain feeling – the very definition of an adventure – that anything can happen, anytime and anywhere. And by no means can you prepare yourself for it, for then it wouldn’t be an adventure at all.
“If you like things to be predictable and for other people to ‘wipe your arse’ as we say here in the UK, and make things simple for you, then you definitely shouldn’t come,” says The Adventurists press chief. “But you don’t have to be an adrenaline junkie to do these adventures. You just need the right attitude.”