The World According to Dave Cornthwaite

Adventurer Dave Cornthwaite gives us the inside scoop on his life in travel and exploration

8 mins

Mountain/desert/jungle/ocean which are you?

Ocean. Put me on water and I start purring.

First travel experience?

As a kid, a camping holiday to the south of France. As an adult, a six-month gap year placement teaching in Uganda with Africa & Asia Venture, changed my life.

Favourite journey?

To date, it has to be descending the Mississippi from source to sea by Stand Up Paddleboard in Summer 2011. 82 days of pure simplicity, sleeping in a hammock, everything I needed strapped to the deck of the board, perfect.

Top five places worldwide?

Bujugali Falls, Uganda; Nullarbor Plain, S. Australia; Memphis, Tennessee; My friend’s back garden in Winchester, England; London, England.

Special place to stay?

In a tent on one of the hundreds of sandbars on the Murray River, Australia.

Three items you always pack?

Contact Lenses; Macbook Pro 13”; GoPro HD Hero II.

Passport stamp you're proudest of?

USA. They make it blimmin’ hard to get it if you have even the remotest hint of a scruffy beard!

Passport stamp most like to have?

I have a feeling a Brazilian one is coming soon...

Guilty travel pleasure?

Having a bath in a river.

Window or aisle?

Window, all the way.

Who is your ideal travelling companion?

Sebastian Terry, Australian mad man and bucket-list chaser.

Best meal on the road? Worst?

Best: BBQ chicken and sweetcorn on the Ugandan highways.

Worst: Cuy, horrible charred South American guinea pig with teeth and claws still in place. It’s like the devil’s hamster.

Most surprising place? Most disappointing?

Surprising: I’m not sure I’ve ever been surprised by a place. I never go anywhere with expectation.

Disappointing: I can’t remember ever feeling pleasure when visiting Walthamstow in North London

Where do you NOT want to go?

Back in time!

Who/what inspired you to travel? Any travel heroes?

I wasn’t prompted to travel by anyone in particular. I just reached a point where every day had become the same and travel seemed to be the ideal solution if I wanted to discover new things.

What do you listen to on the road? Any song take you back to a particular time or place?

So many! Music has its way of taking you back to all different places and experiences. Mr Jones by Counting Crows delivers me straight back to the Andes in 1999, where a heartbroken young me was strolling around with a way-too-heavy backpack searching for solace in Ecuador and Colombia. Cheery!

What do you read?

Pretty much everything, but I should make time to read more.

Is there a person you met while travelling who reaffirmed your faith in humanity? Anyone who made you lose it?

This is a constant factor in any journey I’ve taken. When you’re sweaty, knackered and probably bleeding you see the true side of humanity. The amount of meals / spare beds I’ve been given on a seconds’ notice by complete strangers is astounding.

Travelling on the London Underground in winter is dangerous if you’re searching for faith in humans! People cry on there! But elsewhere there was an over-zealous soldier in the Amazon who didn’t seem to find any problem with prodding me with his rifle and throwing my passport in a river. Quite annoying.

What's the most impressive / useful phrase you know in a foreign language?

You’re asking the wrong person. If I can’t communicate verbally, I just hug people!

What is your worst habit as a traveller?

I find it very difficult not to try and persuade everyone to quit their jobs!

Snowbound in a tent in Antarctica, how would you entertain your companions?

Tales of a horrendous dating experience in 2007, now the material behind a brand new book of mine, called DATE (do you like the plug?!).

When and where in your travels have you been happiest?

Anytime I’ve been paddling on a river, it’s so natural to have flowing water beneath you.

What smell most says 'travel' to you?

The stink of a wet tent.

Given a choice, which era would you travel in?

This one, without question.

If you could combine three cities to make your perfect metropolis, what would they be?

London, Memphis and Jinja, Uganda…

Dave Cornthwaite’s reputation as a modern-day adventurer is growing fast. His Expedition1000 project – 25 journeys of 1,000 miles or more, each using a different form of non-motorised transport – has been heralded as one of the most ambitious adventure projects of our time.

Dave will be speaking at The Telegraph Adventure Travel Show at Olympia London, 28-29 January 2012. Wanderlust will also be there, offering half-day photography workshops. For more details visit the official website at

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