Mark is a full-time professional adventurer. He recently completed a human-powered source-to-sea descent of the Amazon. At the time of writing he is walking across Iran. Mark is also a motivational speaker.
I am currently walking solo from the northern Caspian Sea border of the Islamic Republic of Iran to its Persian Gulf border in the south in order to discover the real Iran - its people and not its government. I have been walking for about 5 weeks and expect to finish in another 3-4 weeks.
Back home in London when not away on expedition I speak to schools about my journeys, write articles and maintain my website and relationships with sponsors.
Update: Finished on Jan 18th 2010! 60 days and almost 1700km on foot! Travelling throughout the UK usually by rail to speak to for the most part eager young people. Of course not everyone is super keen to be there initially but by the end I seem to win them over and in any case I figure it's better than double maths!
Otherwise I am in front of my Mac keeping my website, www.markkalch.com, up to date. I am fortunate enough to work from an office in my apartment so besides the usual distractions it is pretty sweet.
I also write articles and, occasionally after much hard work, am able to get them published. Then when away on expedition, the good part is that day to day I never know what to expect.
Just today for instance during a pro-government demonstration in Esfahan, for some bloody reason I was scoped by the security forces from my hotel window and was kakking myself! 3 blokes trying to be discrete, one speaking into his lapel mike. I raced back to my room and was just waiting for them to burst in. Fortunately they did not but it was an exciting time. My adrenalin is still going an hour later as I type this!
Before becoming a full-time or professional adventurer, I was mostly guiding. This might have meant leading groups to Everest Base Camp or Kilimanjaro but mostly it was on white water rivers in Southern Africa. An absolute dream job!
Spending 4 weeks out in the desert leading multiple trips and then returning home to Cape Town to surf and party! I do miss it, but I am a bit older and more boring now.
More than 10 years I would say. I was a sea kayak guide in Queensland, Australia which was amazing. Taking groups out for a week of kayak touring on the Great Barrier Reef was pretty awesome and I think it was from there that the seed was planted.
It was only fairly recently, after successfully completing a human-powered source-to-sea descent of the Amazon River in February 2008, and slowly, over the following months with all the interest, I thought that with some very hard work I could make a go of it.
It was by seeing the example set forth by 2 guys that really helped, Ben Saunders and Alastair Humphreys. I saw what they had been able to do and their advice and experience was a massive help to me. Both of them still inspire me.
Mmmm... probably not the best advice I can reveal but I did not really have a plan in the beginning.
I knew I wanted to become a professional adventurer but unlike a traditional occupation there is no set route or course you can take.
I think for many of us and even those that are far more established and experienced than myself, it is very much a case of knocking down doors wherever they may even be slightly ajar. It is very much like being a small business owner; your rewards are directly proportional to the amount of work you put in.
Working from home and for myself means that I can slack off whenever I want (and occasionally I do!) but that just means 1 less speaking engagement that I book, which means less money, which means less fun and so on. I suppose doing as much research beforehand was vital.
I scoured the internet for others who had been successful in making the leap (like Ben and Alastair), making sure that before I just shot off an email asking, 'How did you do it?', I had done my homework.
To give advice is something I love to do, but blanket questioning just shows laziness. With my background and most recent successful expedition I knew I had a 'product' that would sell. I think the key ingredient which is a point so often laboured, but so true, is hard work and persistence pay off.
You must just keep going, no matter what. Of course there may come a point when this becomes futile, but too often most people quit long before this point is reached. Money is still the biggest sticking point for me. Being a professional adventurer, for me at least, does not mean that Gillette and Nike are using me as their poster boy and throwing huge wads of cash at me.
I am lucky in that I have a very supportive partner who believes in my ability (this is a tricky way of saying that she has helped me through times when money was tight!).
I reached a tipping point when the 9-5 job I had briefly upon my return to London from the Amazon was beginning to cost me speaking jobs. I used up so many days of leave just to jump on a train to speak that I ran out.
When I had to resort to sickies I knew I had to make the jump. This period was the tightest. Not quite enough money coming in to go full-time but enough work that the 'normal' job was holding me back. It takes some guts to make the leap but if you take it and work your backside off you can do it.
Hardest part? I really again must say money. Every other fibre of my being knew this was what I wanted to do. Escaping the normal - it is by no means a free ride or a holiday but as I mention, my returns (whatever they may be, not necessarily money) are directly linked to the amount of work I put in to doing something I really love. You can't beat that!
There has been a lot of good advice I have received over the years, but it is not until you act upon this advice that you benefit from it. That being the case, I would say the so simple, somewhat boring and easy to ignore, 'Never give up', is mine.
Do your homework - this can be fun. Basically it means trawling the net for hours on end. Something most of us do without much direction and purpose anyway. Just have a goal in mind. You need something that will sell. This sounds like a bit of a dampener on the whole Escape adage, but you can't pay the rent or shopping bill with good karma unfortunately.
If you are into expeditions choose something that interests you and that you think may interest others. Get advice - I got my best advice from Ben and Alastair. They have been there, done that. Just don't ask a question that Google can answer in 0.13 seconds and return 1 234 534 results.
Never give up - boring I know, but it gets thrown around so much that I think people start to ignore it. It sounds, in a way, too easy. So I just keep trying, working my backside off and never give up and my dream will come true? Pretty much, yeah!
If it pertains to your chosen goal or dream, read it!