Q&A with Dave Cornthwaite
Twitter and Instagram: @DaveCorn
Going Solo Adventures [GSA] have the pleasure of interviewing one of the most active and influential people in the adventure community, Dave Cornthwaite. GSA have collaborated with Robb Saunders [RS] to ask Dave questions related to his recent expedition in Japan. Robb is very familiar with Japan and it’s culture after hiking the length of its islands in 2014.
GSA, Dave you’re no stranger to a Going Solo Adventures Q&A Session and for those who wish to read his previous interview click here. I guess we should start with finding out in brief what the last 12 months have been like for you, and where in the world did 2016 take you?
Dave - This could be a long first answer! I helped set up a co-living community in Bali, paddled a river in Texas, enjoyed a couple of short speaking tours in Europe and Asia, bought a double decker bus to convert into a cool creative hub for the community I run - The YesTribe - bought a houseboat with my girlfriend Emma, led another Exploring Mindset expedition down the Mississippi River, organised my second Yestival and then kick scooted over 1000 miles in Japan. Here's my full 2016 review if you're not bored yet!
RS, What were your most memorable moments while cruising through the serene surrounds of Japan?
Dave - As with most wheeled forms of transport there is something effortlessly beautiful about finding a long, shallow downhill and literally cruising for miles with barely any effort. Standing straight upright and sailing downhill is an amazing feeling, and the Japanese countryside is often so picturesque and serene. I loved finding new islands to circumnavigate (the ferry network is amazing) and knowing that I was barely scratching the surface of Japan's many layers.
GSA, I guess I will follow Robb’s question by asking what was the most challenging situation you found yourself in during your scoot around Japan?
Dave - Mostly, the trip went without a hitch. I never plan my journeys and on this occasion that was taken to the extreme. When I landed in Tokyo I didn't have a route laid out, just the aim to scoot at least 1000 miles. I then opted on the next destination a day or two in advance depending on recommendation or instinct or opportunity. Scooting over a mountain range (which I did in the first week) wasn't the easiest beginning, and the custom rack we built last minute on the scooter to hold my bags had a few moments of failure. But I kind of enjoy the downtimes in a sadistic way, they're always going to come along and then they're replaced by a good surprise. This is why I travel, you never take anything for granted.
RS, Most of my nutrition while in Japan consisted mainly of sandwiches, sushi, water and beer I purchased from convenient stores. Did you have a nutrition plan in place to help maintain your fitness and endurance or just refueled when you could?
Dave - Ha, no way. I've never thought about that stuff. I eat what I can find and yes, you're so right, the Japanese convenience stories are the most convenient things in the world! It makes riding or walking around the country so simple and I got a lot of my provisions through the convenience stores. Plus, they have heated toilet seats and as winter was setting in it was nice to get out of the cold and enjoy a coffee!
RS, Many westerners' find their first time in an Onsen (traditional Japanese bath house) quite daunting, only to discover that floating naked around other people can be a liberating and relaxing experience. What daunting first experience did you encounter during your 1,000 mile quest?
Dave - Oh I loved it. These hot spring onsens are everywhere and if I was wild camping I'd go and have a bath before finding a place for the night. When everyone else is naked you don't really stand out and any self awareness disappears pretty fast. British people are so prudish and embarrassed but we adapt to situations pretty fast. I enjoy the sitting down bathing before getting into the hot spring, it's kinda cool showering when seated.
RS, I remember listening to a podcast interview about your epic skateboard journey across Australia. In it was mentioned that by using one leg to push your board it changed your stride by having one leg muscular than the other. Did you rotate legs this time around while riding Swifty?
Dave - I learned my lesson on the skateboard and used both legs during the Japanese scoot. We always have one limb stronger than the other so my right leg felt the most natural, but by the end of the trip I felt ambidextrous, it just took a bit of perseverance at the beginning. Plus, if you have any aches or pains it helps to be able to scoot both ways so you can rest one side.
RS, It seems your scooter Swifty became quite a character during your adventure. How well did Swifty perform, and did you always agree with each other?
Dave - Oh we were best of friends. When things went wrong, like a puncture or the rack breaking, I felt bad, like I'd hurt her. Scooting is such a fun way to get around and although it isn't as efficient as a bike it meant that this was going to be a much harder journey than just an average bike tour, and the harder it is the more you get out of it. Every time I travel my transportation is my companion and we care for each other. I couldn't do that trip without Swifty, and when I found my fitness after a week or so on the road we were covering some good ground, too.
GSA, Besides Swifty, what were 3 of your must have bits of kit for a scooter adventure?
1 - I navigated, and shot all film and photos with my iPhone, so that's no. 1
2 - Quadlock. Genius bit of gear that meant I could click my phone into place straight onto the handlebar in front of me. This is a must for any bike trip.
3 - A scooter has much lower frame than a bike which means lights are less visible to vehicles, so I wore a Lumos helmet, which has inbuilt lights (and even indicators) which ensure I was visible in low light or misty conditions.
RS, I think what I miss most about Japan are the kind, warm hearted locals that would go the extra mile for total strangers. Out of all the wonderful places you have traveled around the globe, who were the most welcoming to you?
Dave - The Japanese are an incredible people, but I've experience warmth and kindness everywhere I've travelled. I think this comes out more when you're travelling in an extraordinary way, it's an ice breaker. East Africans stand out, and Americans in the midwest - after travelling both the Mississippi and Missouri I return to the midwest time and time again to see my friends there, all strangers who I met because of the river.
GSA, Being well connected with the adventure community who would you recommend we check out in 2017 who’s taking on an a pretty awesome journey?
Dave - There are so many people heading out these days it's hard to keep up, but I really enjoy following Anna McNuff and Elise Downing, they're the most entertaining folks to follow in this adventuring world, in my opinion.
RS, Much like your pet cat Kiwa who helped spark the beginning of a new chapter in your life, what spark of wisdom would you share to those hoping to create an adventurous life for themselves? Ps: how is Kiwa doing?
Dave - Kiwa is doing fine, living somewhere in a Lancashire farm. These days I spend half my time helping other people get to a stage where they are ready to set off on their own journey and it's definitely not a one step process. Saying yes is the obvious one, when you do new things happen. But ultimately this is your life and if you're not doing the right things for you then you're no good for anyone. A lot of people live weighed down by the pressure of trying to please their family and friends, when ultimately if someone loves you they should respect and support the things that you feel you need to do. If you want to travel just go, there are no excuses, just brilliant adventures waiting for you. We're alive once and if we don't choose to have fun with that time we're bloody stupid!
GSA, Early 2016 sore you collaborating with Leon McCarron, can we expect to see something similar in 2017 with some other familiar faces?
Dave - Maybe! I honestly have no idea, I'm working on a new book and don't tend to plan my adventures until a few weeks out. I'm pretty sure I'll take on a 1000 miler with my partner Emma this year, but how will we travel? Not a clue!
GSA, You’re well known for saying “Say Yes More”, but have you ever been in a situation where you just had to say “No, No, No”? Maybe you’ve had a plate of food placed before you that’s made your tummy turn, or maybe you’ve had to face a particular fear?
Dave - Of course! It's important to say yes to saying no in order to free up time for the important stuff. I'm not one for adrenaline or dare devil-type stuff, but I'm still kind of kicking myself for turning down a skydiving birthday present when I was 16. I really don't go for speed that often. If the same offer came in now, I'd jump at it ;)
GSA, Returning home after a big journey has it’s highs and lows. Some of the highs are getting to share your experience in person with those looking for inspiration, but the lows of post expedition blues can also set in. Do you still find yourself going through post expedition blues after so many journeys under your belt, and if so how do you try and navigate through the blues?
Dave - My next book is focused on the flip side of living such a different, exciting life. I used to suffer from post expedition blue all the way to deep depression, it was grim. It didn't seem to be fair though, considering in the heat of an adventure I was at my most alive, so I set about trying to fix the blues. These days I don't really hit a mental slump. Spirits tend to be high, although theres a natural period after a trip where physically and hormonally your body needs to get used to not scooting 50 miles every day. There's a hit in motivation for sure, but I embrace that now. Rest is so important and after some refuel it's time to go again. What has made a huge difference to me is having more than just adventure as my focus. I have a huge interest in the mental health impacts of living at this time, and believe that adventure, the outdoors and a positive community are key solutions to the battles we all face, especially when living in the city.
GSA, What can we see you taking on in 2017? Will there be more big adventures or can we see you focusing on something else?
Dave - Oh, there will be at least one - if not two - new 1000 milers, but I have a new book coming out and am continuing to build SayYesMore and the YesTribe community. Another Yestival (full of adventure stories and tales of making cool things in life happen) and we'll be launching the YesBus in the spring, as well. So it's not going to be a quiet 2017!