Lonely Planet Writer

Meet a traveller: Dave Cornthwaite, record-breaking adventurer and overland traveller

Ever thought of taking a trip by recumbent tricycle? How about a stand-up paddleboard or skateboard? Meet a traveller who has: Dave Cornthwaite has travelled more than 16,000 miles by yacht, kayak, tandem bike and more for his Expedition1000 project, smashed records by skating from Perth to Brisbane, in between saying 'yes' a lot and doing almost anything for £50.

Intrigued? We caught up with Dave to find out about his travel passions and pitfalls, and how many Haribo rings it takes to power a desert adventure.

Bike, trike or skateboard? Non-motorised forms of transport make for the best road trips. Image courtesy of Dave Cornthwaite Bike, trike or skateboard? Non-motorised forms of transport make for the best road trips. Image courtesy of Dave Cornthwaite

Where was your last trip?

My last trip was completely spontaneous. I was asked to give a keynote talk at the world’s foremost show for recumbent bicycles and all kinds of non-motorised transport in Germany - which is heaven for me. I thought to myself, it’d be crazy to fly home after that - my Expedition1000 project is all about travelling 1000 miles without a motor. Rather than have to make a decision myself I opened it up to everyone on my Facebook page and they decided which mode of transport I’d travel 1000 miles home on. So I opened an envelope and a couple of hours later I go on to a tricycle and rode for three weeks home.

Where is your next trip?

I have a two-month window which starts in ten days’ time and I don’t know where I’m going, I don’t know how I’m going to travel but I’m going to do something. I’m thinking about just going to an airport, looking at the destinations board, selecting a place, and then finding a way to travel once I’m there.

What is your first travel-related memory?

We used to go on a lot of family caravanning holidays when I was young, like to the south of France. My dad would try to put me in a kayak in a cold lake and I’d hate it! When I was six or seven we all paddled out on rubber rings to the island in Lake Lacanau in France and camped underneath a bivvy, which was brilliant. And there were huge rats everywhere, about a foot long. It didn’t put me off camping. It’s always good to do something new and that’s what I got from those holidays.

Aisle or window seat?

Window all the way. Even for long-haul - because if you’re in the aisle, there’s always someone who’s going to climb over wanting to go to the toilet!

Do you have any travel habits or rituals?

I think about how it will feel to finish. I imagine crossing the line on my skateboard, or reaching the Gulf of Mexico on my paddleboard, and get pumped for it. I’m often travelling pretty slow under my own steam so I reward myself for different exercises. Earlier this year I was in Chile riding a tricycle with a sail over 1000 miles through the Atacama Desert; I had Haribo rings, one on each finger, and every 5km I ate one. This little trial and reward kept me going.

Downhill_POV Dave has travelled deserts, oceans and Outback roads under his own steam. Image courtesy of Dave Cornthwaite

Favourite city or country or region?

I think my favourite city is Memphis, Tennessee, it’s an amazing place. It’s a pretty quiet town when you walk the streets but there’s just so much energy: huge billboards of Elvis, the Sun Studio is there, all the biggest bands have recorded there, and there’s a beautiful community of river paddlers.

What is your best or worst travel souvenir?

I had a couple of backpacking trips in my late teens where I bought all kinds of souvenirs, all the way through to a huge three-foot mask that I bought on my second day in Morocco...on a month-long trip. It weighs around 20 kilos. I couldn’t strap it to my backpack, I had to carry it with both arms. But in the last nine years I’ve been pretty much on the move. I don’t have a base anymore so I carry everything I need and I don’t really pick up souvenirs any more. My souvenirs are my photos and films that I make.

What is the best or worst piece of travel advice you’ve received?

I’m always getting bad travel advice. Usually, ‘it’s not far to this place’ or ‘go in this direction’. Quite often the people you meet only travel by car. The destination isn't far for them, but if you’re travelling by skateboard or by kayak or some weird form of transport, 50 miles later and you’re still not there… The best travel advice I ever got was, 'don’t listen to anybody’s travel advice, just find out for yourself'. When you travel with a smile and a good attitude, on the whole good things happen to you rather than bad.

What’s your biggest travel fail?

When you hold up your finger and thumb in a circle in South America, it definitely doesn’t mean ‘it’s ok’. So don’t take scuba diving sign language to South America!

Quick, an asteroid is going to hit the earth in one week! Which is the one travel dream you’d rush to fulfil?

I love travelling on water, and I really like the idea of getting a long prone surfboard and paddling into a wave. So if there was an asteroid about to hit the earth I’d probably spend a week learning how to surf and then I’d get out my paddleboard and just prepare for the best wave of my life.

What advice would you give a first time traveller?

Begin. No excuses, just go and find out for yourself.

Catch up with Dave's latest adventures on davecornthwaite.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube.