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An Interview With Cotswold Outdoor Ambassador Jamie Ramsay

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Question

Can you remember your first adventure?

How do you define your first adventure? Is it the time you, your brother and your best friend sneak off into the woods aged about 12 and climb cliffs with no ropes and get that first feeling of freedom and exhilaration? Or is it when you plan a real adventure that takes you out of your comfort zone and awakens something in you? Assuming it’s the second, for me that would be my first true multi-day solo and self-supported run through Vietnam in 2013.

 

I had been entered into a race called the Vietnam Jungle marathon, a 240km, 6-day run. This was the biggest and most demanding race that I had entered, and I felt that I was pushing my boundaries. Weeks before the event, it was cancelled, and I was faced with the prospect of doing nothing. I decided to take control of the situation and venture to Vietnam alone. I had the ticket, the running kit and the passion; I wasn’t going to let the fact there was no race get in the way, plus I had told everyone I was doing a 240km run!

 

I flew to Danang with everything crammed into one backpack and the determination to run 240km alone through Vietnam. This trip opened my eyes to adventure. The very nature of the route I had chosen took me away from the usual tourist routes and I was seeing a Vietnam that seemed exclusive to me. The physical demands were not detracting from the adventure but making the achievements even more poignant. During that week, I suffered from heat exhaustion, chafing and a real emotional rollercoaster. When I got to the end, I was the happiest and most content I had ever been. It took nearly a year to make the decision: to make my life about chasing that feeling of fulfilment and seeing how much further I could push myself - both physically and mentally - while seeing some of the world’s most beautiful places. 

Question

What makes an adventure? Eg. destination, kit, people, newness/the unexpected

For me, adventure is experiencing something new and the realisation that you are capable of so much more than you previously imagined. To get this, there are so many ingredients that make that achievable. Doing it somewhere spectacular is important. It is very easy to revisit places we love but it is the feeling of exploration that adds magic and wonderment to our adventures. For me, the only reason to return to somewhere you have previously been, is to share it with someone else. Kit is a huge part of how effective you are on an adventure. If you have the right equipment, then there is more of a chance that you will get the most out of that adventure. There is nothing worse than being caught short while in the middle of an adventure. Time is limited and being prepared to overcome all obstacles and challenges means you get the most out of what you are setting out to achieve. The main ingredient for me is the unknown. In all my solo adventures, I’ve tried not to plan too much. I like to know as little as possible and tackle what is presented, knowing I have the kit, training and character to overcome whatever is thrown at me. 

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Question

Why did you decide to start taking on Endurance Adventures?

The simple answer is I didn’t like the life I was leading. As I mentioned, I believe time is limited and precious, but I was spending the majority of that time working at something that gave nothing but a salary back. After I did my 6-day Vietnam run, I knew there was more to life and more I could achieve. It was a big decision that took a long time to make, but I knew there was more I could achieve if I was following a passion.

 

The endurance aspect comes from an inexplicable relish from pushing my body through the pain barrier. I am not sure if my body is well suited to it or if it is just mental stubbornness but the feeling of fulfilment at achieving something that others deem impossible is addictive. When I set upon a challenge, I become focussed to make it a reality. Right now, I am working on 7 adventures for the next 18 months and each one will challenge me mentally and physically, which just renews my passion. 

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Question

What inspires you to keep exploring?

Not going back. I started adventuring because I knew that it would make me happy. I set myself a challenge that I perceived to be almost impossible and fully expected that in succeeding, I would satiate my thirst, but I was wrong. In achieving success, I realised that all the self-imposed limitations I had put on myself had been far too low. In the final weeks of Running the Americas, I wasn’t focusing on getting to the finish line; I was actually dreaming up new adventures that would challenge me in new ways and would propel this new lifestyle forward. When you realise you are capable of something, it’s your duty to yourself to see just how far you can go. I will adventure for the rest of my life and will do anything to make that the biggest part of my life; the sacrifice will be worth it.  

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Question

What has been your favourite adventure to date and why?

How can I answer that question? That is like asking a parent which child they prefer! Due to my adventures being quite long, I find that individual aspects of each adventure become favourites. When Running the Americas, I absolutely loved running across the Andes. I was running about 60km a day at 4800m altitude and experiencing the most beautiful landscapes. When I cycled across South America, I had the fortune to cross the Salar de Uyuni during the wet season. I can’t begin to describe what it is like cycling across a 11,000sq-km mirror but it is an experience that will stay with me forever. Camel trekking in Mongolia was a very difficult adventure for me for lots of reasons but when I think of working with ten camels in -20 degrees centigrade, it brings a smile to my face because I was so out of my comfort-zone. 

 

Favourite adventures don’t always have to be in the past. I am in the planning stage of adventures right now and all 7 of them fill me with an excitement that I relish; I really believe that the adventure starts when the idea first forms. I have to plan the travel, seek advice from people who know more than me, and then buy the kit that is going to help me achieve success. It’s hard work but it’s all part of the adventure.

Question

What does the outdoors mean to you?

Living. Houses were built to provide shelter. For me, being in shelter means I am not pushing myself forward, I am not developing as a human and above all, I am not happy. It’s being outdoors where we experience what the world has to offer. It’s outdoors that we realise who we are and what we are capable of. We are animals and therefore we are meant to be outside. We are the only animals that voluntarily live indoors, and I think I might be correct in saying we are the only ones that face mental illness and obesity! Our very happiness depends on being outside! 

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Question

Where will your next adventure take you?

Hopefully to a place that I question whether I have the physical and mental character to overcome the challenge in front of me - that might be in a desert, on a mountain or in the water – the destination doesn’t matter. When I plan an adventure, I think about what I need to develop and how I can diversify my skills. For a time, I became too niche with my multiday running, so I added a cycling adventure. Next year, I will add some skiing, mountaineering and fast hiking. Each of these adventures will take me somewhere new and unexpected; that the unknown will keep me striving forward. 

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Question

Who is your adventure inspiration/hero?

There are so many people who inspire me. They range from the epic explorer of the past including Shackleton and Scott, to those who are doing extraordinary things today. Ross Edgely, who is currently swimming around the UK, is blowing my mind (while at the same time making me insanely jealous). Then there are the people you discover on social media who are just out there having epic adventures. Just seeing what other people are capable of fills me with a desire to do more and push harder. The motivation for starting as an adventurer full time was “if they can do it, then so can I!”. The essence of this is that by simply seeing that something is possible, then means you can do it – you just need to find the desire, passion, motivation, determination and grit to overcome every obstacle in your way without letting fear or doubt creep in. 

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Question

Tell us your greatest adventure story. Eg. making it to the top of an impossible climb, meeting someone on your journey, learning something new, staying with a unique community, being involved in an unusual event

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