65: Jamie Ramsay: Human powered adventuring

Sue Stockdale talks to fellow Scot Jamie Ramsay, an endurance adventure athlete. Jamie has completed over 43,000km of human powered adventuring in 31 countries and 25 different adventures by running, cycling, hiking, skiing, paddle-boarding and mountaineering. He reflects on what motivates him to adventure, as well as his observations about the world through his travel experiences, and how he hopes to make a bigger impact by inspiring others.

After 12 years working for an international communications agency, Jamie Ramsay wasn’t happy with the direction of his life and realised if he didn’t make some drastic changes then things would continue to spiral downwards. His solution was to quit his job – after being promoted to Partner, fly to Vancouver and run 17,000km to Buenos Aires solo and unsupported. Following the success of this adventure, Jamie has dedicated his life to pushing his perceived boundaries. Each adventure he undertakes is designed to challenge him in new ways. Over the years, Jamie has worked with a number of notable global and UK brands including Microsoft, Land Rover Mobile, Gore Wear, Cotswold Outdoor and Whole Earth.  Jamie is also an Access to Inspiration Ambassador. 


Find out more about Jamie Ramsay on his Website: Instagram: LinkedIn: YouTube 

Key Quotes

‘When I stop I find it difficult. My mind starts wandering and motivation gets more difficult if I don’t have a target.’ 

‘I don’t want to be mediocre. I want to be good at everything I do.’ 

‘I realised that to keep pushing boundaries, I had to stop proving myself to other people that I could already do something. I had to challenge myself in new ways.’ 

‘The whole reason I left the constraints of London and that life was to be free.’ 

‘I think the main thing you see is the impact of consumerism and how that’s just bleeding out across the world.’ 

‘The people who are succeeding, they’re not sitting around thinking, oh, I can’t do this because of this. They’re thinking, what can I do to get around that obstacle, to get to where I need to be.’ 

“Adventuring is pushing myself to my limits.’ 

This series is kindly supported by Squadcast –the remote recording platform which empowers podcasters by capturing high-quality audio and video conversations.

Read the transcription for this episode below and connect with us on Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: LinkedIn

Sign up for our newsletter and Read our Impact Report

Jamie Ramsay Transcription

Sue: Now with me today, listeners, I’m really excited because I’m speaking to a fellow adventurer and a Scot as well originally. So Jamie Ramsey, welcome to the podcast.

Jamie: Thank you very much for having me. And it’s awesome to be speaking to you, especially now I’ve find out about all your expeditions and stuff.

Sue: I was reading on your website, Jamie, that you have completed over 43,000 kilometers of human powered adventuring. And I looked on the internet and worked out that if you had traveled from Edinburgh to New Zealand, that would only be 37,000 kilometers. So you’ve actually traveled further than getting from Edinburgh and New Zealand and all the adventures you’ve done.

Jamie: I have actually I think 43,000 kilometers. is the circumference of the earth. It was never something I was aiming for. I was just adding them up one day and I went, wow, that’s a big number. And I thought, whats the equivalent of that and then looked, and then I’ve done the earth. And then I went to the next planet and it was like 160,000. And I was like, we’re not even going to aim for that one. Yeah. So I’m really, I’m so lucky to have done So many adventures. So very grateful.

Sue: So the first question I want to ask you is what’s it like when you stop moving?

Jamie: That’s why when I stopped moving. Yeah. That’s an interesting one because a lot of people speak to me about like, how did you have the mental capacity to keep going in these adventures? How would you keep pushing yourself day in, day out? And the real question is what you’ve just asked is how did you deal with it when you stop because you can put me in the middle of nowhere and told me to work 24 hours a day every day. And I will just keep going and going and going. When I stop I find it difficult. My mind starts wandering motivation gets more difficult if I don’t have a target, so I always need to have a target. And I do, I do struggle and it is not just with being motivated. It’s like diet goes, sleep goes all these kinds of things, you know, your mind starts wondering.

And the thing I try to avoid is when I’m in-between adventures is probably not to fall into, mediocrity because I don’t want to be mediocre. I want to be good at everything I do. Even though I got told by psychologists that perfectionism is not a thing you can aspire to cause it doesn’t exist, but I do like to keep going. And I think that’s sort of why, when you look at my adventures, I’ve done. They’re just back to back. They have as little gap between them as possible because I’m conscious that I need to keep going. To keep the motor turning said, Yeah. I do struggle.

Sue: I also might look at the sense of you constantly moving and think what are you running away from?

Jamie: Yeah. What are you running away from? Is it. You’re not happy with and it’s, I don’t see that. I flip it around the other way. It’s what are you running towards? What are you trying to achieve? Because I think before I started adventuring, I was very guilty of mediocrity and just sitting there kind of just happy with my life, just going through the motions, doing what everyone expected of me, but never really being happy or satisfied or fulfilled.

And then when you do something huge, you suddenly realize. That actually is really achievable. And then your mind starts thinking, what can I do next? And it’s like a circle you in the middle, or what do you think you’re capable of? And when you start pushing that barrier, the circle grows. And I remember thinking, I think I was running across the Andes. I’ve done about 14,000 kilometers of running. I was running 60 kilometers a day at 4,300 meters. And I was thinking, wow, if I can do this and find it easy, let’s, let’s push this. Let’s keep pushing. Yeah. So that’s kind of how I deal with it.

Sue: It’s great to know that you’re moving towards something and pushing those boundaries.

Jamie: So when I started, I was a road runner. I was the guy who did the 10 K road running to work, three times a week or something. And then I did a 5k, then a 10 K then a half marathon, and then a marathon than a marathon in a safari park. And I kept pushing the barrier and I pushed running as far as I thought I could push it. And then during my big adventure of running from Vancouver to Buenos Aires. And it came back and I was doing the same thing again and again, and then I realized that to keep pushing boundaries, I had to stop proving myself and other people. I could already do something. I had to challenge myself in new ways, but as well, I, my adventure started going to cycle touring and then hiking and then climbing mountains. And, you know, I’m scared of heights. So climbing mountains for me is a big. And you just keep pushing every aspect of adventure and just trying to push it further. And then, then this year, which I can’t talk about exactly what my last adventure is going to be, but it combines lots of these together. You kind of say, look, I can do the running. I can do the mountaineering. I can do the hiking. Let’s put it all together and create something different.

Sue: So it isn’t just more of the same. There is always something new.

Jamie: There always has to be something new. I can’t do the same thing again and again. I kind of liken it to an addiction. I think adventure is an addiction and you can see that very clearly with 5k 10 K half marathon marathon, always looking for the next thing. It’s one of the things I love that I jumped in my first ever proper adventure was to run 17,000 kilometers.

The only problem is it’s very hard to beat that going forward. So, I’m always trying to find other ways to scare myself or test myself in places where I’m not comfortable because. I’m never going to be able to do 17,000 kilometers again, I can’t afford it. My body probably wouldn’t be able to do it now its getting old. So yeah, it’s just always looking for something to challenge. And I think what I use, you know, I give myself a kind of a title of endurance adventure athlete. And I use that as the inspiration to kind of keep pushing myself. I wouldn’t say I am an endurance adventure athlete. I would say that’s the aspiration of what I want to be. So I keep, every time I wake up in the morning or I watch a video or I think of what I want to be, I’m thinking, okay, these are the things I need to work on to be the person I’m giving myself the title of.. So I need to keep pushing each of those aspects of, so I need to do more endurance. I need to get out into more harsher environments and to be an athlete, I have to apply myself. I have to be better with diets and training and all that kind of stuff.

Sue: Now, Jamie, it was another guest, Chris Tolley the composer in a previous episode that recommended you as a guest. And one of the things Chris talked about when he is in East Lothian in Scotland, he can go outside and be inspired by the natural environment that enables him to come up with such wonderful music. I’m wondering what inspires you.

Jamie: Well, I love that Chris can bring nature and turn it into music. What inspires me? It’s probably a bit darker. I think I’ve got a thing inside of me that tells me I’m not good enough. So I’m basically go out there trying to prove, and it’s not a negative thing because that thing is what makes me go out there and push myself hard and do things I never thought I was capable of. So rather than feeling, oh God, I’m just not good enough. I think. Right. Let’s prove that you are good enough. Which I think also helps. When I go on adventures, I didn’t do it for anyone else. I don’t care if anyone else follows me. I just want to come back thinking. Yup. I gave that the best shot I could. And I’m ready to go on to the next challenge. So it’s about taking that kind of negative feeling and turning it into a positive, by the way, I like to put it in my head is it’s like coal factory. I take the negative, which is the coal and then turn it into positive energy. Not too much emissions.

Sue: That’s a lovely analogy for us to picture in our minds Jamie. It also strikes me that to be able to do many of these adventures is certainly the experience I’ve had in adventuring is we need sponsors to help support us because it’s, it can, it costs financially. I’m wondering how much of your adventures are really within your own capacity to drive them as you want to do, versus potentially the pressure from sponsors to deliver what they want.

Jamie: Yeah. sponsorship is the golden thing we’re all looking for. And I haven’t got the answer to it. I wish I did. But the way I have dealt with it is one, accept the fact I’m gonna end up bankrupt at some point but secondly, I’ve been very lucky to work with amazing sponsors, like Cotswold Outdoor. I choose my own adventures and do them and pay for them with the money I earn for the work I do outside my adventures. So none or only. one adventure I’ve done is actually been you go and do this adventure. Every other adventure is I’ve come up with it. It’s been all completely on my terms. And I think that’s the only way to keep it honest, fresh, and keep me motivated if I’m not motivated to go out and do something, I find it difficult. I did the recent one which was to cycle 10,000 kilometers around the UK, which is an amazing thing. And I really enjoyed it. I loved working with the sponsor. However, it doesn’t work with my brain because it was like only do 10,000 kilometers in 80 days. And I either need it to be how many kilometers can you do in 80 days? Or how quickly can you cycle thousand kilometers? So that one was difficult. Cause I had to take it easy, which I didn’t like doing.

Sue: You need, that freedom to do the thing that’s going to work for you and motivate you.

Jamie: Yeah, well, the whole reason I left the constraints of London and the life was to be free and I want it to be free. I want it to be able to wake up in the morning and go, this is what I’m going to do. And if I have to go off and do something like an adventure for three months to sustain my lifestyle, then I’m trying to create that amazing life where I get to do whatever I want. I haven’t quite worked it out yet, but I will.

Sue: You’ve got a really unique perspective on the world, Jamie from your travels around it, and the way I’m sure that you’ve engaged with the people you’ve come into contact with along the way. Given that our whole theme for this series is impact. So I’m curious to know how you perceive the impact that humans are making on the world?

Jamie: It’s a very interesting one. The first thing I would say about my travels is I’ve never had a problem with a human being that I think everywhere I’ve been in 30 different countries, I’ve never come up against any sort of pushback. I can remember, like when you’re in America, everyone in America saying, don’t go to Mexico cause they’ll kill you and the police are awful. Police were the first people that helped me and I’ve had police escorts from people I’ve been taken into family homes and that’s all amazing, but I think the main thing to me is you see this, the impact of consumerism and how that’s just bleeding out across the world and all into even the most beautiful places where, especially in central America, you’ll see all these billboards everywhere of basically white American families and big houses with flash cars. And that’s, that’s saying, this is what you should aspire to. When the lifestyle there is all much more kind of environmentally friendly local and you can see that changing. I remember in Panama. Most people just travel down to Panama city.

If you go a bit further, you get into the rain forest and there’s tribes that are cutting down the rain forest purely because they have to pay the tax. Just because that’s where they have to do citizens even though they’ve lived there, hundreds of years and they’re chopping down the trees to pay the tax. And then once they chopped down the trees they’re putting cows on there to supply beef, but they’re still living in their traditional homes. And that sad when we see that.

Sue: I can imagine that you’ve got that interesting perspective of contrast because you’re seeing so many different countries and being so close to the land and the people within it.

Jamie: Yeah, I said I wasn’t running away, but maybe I’m running away from modernism and cities and the constraints that we all tie ourselves to. And then when you go to places, I strive to be in these places that don’t have them. And then you see the world I’m running away from creeping in. Then you just like you guys, what’s it going to be like in 10 years time? Yeah, it makes me sad.

Sue: I have a similar perspective myself, based on the adventures that I’ve done,

Jamie: Yeah. Where have you seen the worst?

Sue: just exactly the point that you’re making around economies that are developing or hankering after something that is a dream from another country. And those countries are very often hankering after back to simplicity and sustainability. So the grass is always greener and effectively in another place. And when we’ve changed, we can’t sometimes change back.

Jamie: Yeah. I normally do work at the less things you have, the less stress you have. So we’re all trying to get rid of stuff while all the companies are trying to push stuff on us. And now I find it weird its all like buy more, but by environmentally stuff now. I like working with brands, especially some of the brands I, work with at the moment who are basically saying, buy this it will last longer, or get it fixed this way or look after it this way. And I really like that. And I think that’s something we need to be doing more of.

Sue: Another part of your experience is not just you doing the experience is about how you’re communicating that experience to a wider audience. I’ve seen your wonderful YouTube channel with all these great videos and so on. I guess, what is it that you are trying to convey in the ways that you communicate to your audience?

Jamie: Well, I’m not going to skirt round like obviously social media is a way of raising profile to be able to be more appealing to brands and all that kind of stuff. But actually when it comes to making the videos, I’m not a creative person. That that is one place where I, I think I can allow myself to be creative. It’s a very selfish thing. It lets me relive the moments I’ve been in. So when I go back and look at the videos and create videos, I’ve just been making some of the trip I did in 2017, I get to relive that moment and I get the rush again. So I hope that people looking at when this guy was just a city boy, and now this is what he’s doing. And you know, that place is really dangerous, but then they see me there and it’s like the most undangerous place in the world. So it kind of makes people think that maybe they can do more than they think they can do. Obviously you have to learn that lesson yourself, but if you see someone else learning it, then that’s good. And the other thing is just to have, something to look back on when I’m old. I’m trying to write a book at the moment that is way harder than doing an adventure. And I am going to get through, but that’s just kind of just so I can have something I can hand down to my nieces and nephews and say what your uncle did.

Sue: So if you were thinking about what you might want your legacy to be, you talked about there being an uncle and having stories that your, nieces and nephews can have about you, Jamie I guess, what do you want your legacy to be from all this experience you’ve had?

Jamie: It’s something I’ve actually been thinking a bit about recently because I’m getting to the age where adventures they’re not going harder yet, but they will Im conscious they will. And I think , I did what was expected of me for 12 years. I’ve now been adventuring my terms for seven years and it does get to the point. You’ve got to give back at some point. And, I keep seeing all these inspirational people doing stuff like sports with people in coming out of prisons and all these kinds of mental health charities and all that kind of stuff. And I think that’s where I need to go. Cause it allows me to carry on doing what I’m doing and use my experiences. I just havent formulated how to do it. And it’s also, it’s very much like an adventure is it’s unknown. I don’t know how to do it. I’ve never been there. So I’m scared of it. So, right now, bizarrely, my comfort zone is what I was scared of when I was working in the city. And now I’ve got to work out how to get out of the comfort zone. of running across countries and climbing up mountains and work out how to give back, because I think that’s the only way. If I’m going to be genuine myself and not sell my soul again.

Sue: I must say the access to inspiration podcast was a result of my own experience doing exactly that was, I’ve seen and heard all these inspirational stories from many people around the world that I’ve come across in my work. I want to be able to then give back by helping a wider audience hear those stories. I didn’t know how to podcast and myself and my co-founder. We worked out a plan about how to make it happen and be one step at a time. And today, as I’m speaking to you, we’ve just published our first ever impact report to actually evidence the impact that we’ve had on the world through our very small endeavor.

Jamie: That must be a huge sense of achievement to be able to do that.

Sue: Well, I have empathy with you when you’re saying about how do you find a way to give back, and I’m going to be excited to hear what materializes from all of the wonderful experience and knowledge that you have, that you can bring to the world in a different.

Jamie: I’ll just warn you. I might procrastinate for a few more years while I can.

Sue: I want to turn our attention to your mind set Jamie, because I think that certainly I know that with covid and the lockdown situation, that many people around the world have found themselves and their mental challenges that they have faced have been quite debilitating at times. I am imagining how you approach your adventures day after day will be quite profound in terms of how you keep going when times are tough. What have you learned about your own processes about how you keep going when times are difficult?

Jamie: Yeah. COVID times have been hard for me as well in a different way, because I live alone in a little village in the middle of nowhere. So, I’m not just not going out and doing what I love doing. I’m also sitting at home and you do stagnate. I’ve noticed that both in terms of productivity, in terms of training. I’m probably the least fit I’ve been for a long time. During the hard times, I was able to get up and I was able to go out and do my training and I found lock down one. Amazing. I just hunkered down worked out for like four hours a day wrote my book. And then second times I really, and then third, it was like, oh my God, Okay.

Now I’ve realized that the only way is to wake up in the morning and the way I deal with it is who do you want to be? You want to be this, then you have to work to get that. You know, the people who are succeeding, they’re not sitting around thinking, oh, I can’t do this because of this. They’re thinking, what can I do to get around that obstacle, to get to where you need to be. And there’s another one that everyone talks about is you, you plan where you want to be and then create the list of things you have to achieve before you get there. And then take them off one by one.

And I realized that I fell into a bit of a hole, probably ate and drank too much and all that kind of stuff. I pulled myself out by setting myself a massive target, which blows my mind. If I can actually do it, I have to get sponsors. I have to relocate and all this kind of stuff. So by putting something ambitious, when you’re feeling your lowest, I think it pulls me out because I need that excitement. And tell people what you’re going to do. Say I’m going to do this and then you’re held accountable to it.

Sue: As you’re talking, Jamie I get a real sense of your own self motivation. So it leaves me to think, do you actually need to people around you?

Jamie: I think sadly, I have come to the conclusion that maybe yes. I, I do think that if I had someone to motivate me and push me on, I could be even better. It would take me to the next level. It would allow me someone to bounce ideas off. It would have someone that when you’re feeling down to build, pull you back up. It would be someone when you go I’m going to do this. And they’re like, why do you do this? When you could make it bigger, push it harder. So, also, I don’t want to live alone for the rest of my life. So I do need people around me in that respect on adventure. Find it really hard because my whole adventuring is pushing myself to my limits. And if I go with someone else, I’m pushing myself to their limit, not my limit because I’m not being arrogant, but mine is normally a bit further. So I feel like I’m held back. So I really am trying to address that this year, I am doing an adventure with someone and the whole idea of that is I’ve worked out in my mind that my adventures, I go solo and I push myself. If I’m doing it with someone else, it’s their adventure and I’m there to help them do their adventure and achieve the goal. So if I just take away any form of this being self gratifying for me, and then just aim it at them, then I can, I can deal with it.

Sue: Are we like to find out what your next adventure is?

Jamie: And my next one I had to have talked about. So actually when we were talking about lows of COVID when I was in one of my lows, woke up in the morning. So I went onto the air France website, booked a flight to New York city and booked a flight back from San Francisco.

And said, right. I’m just going to cycle from one to the other and come back. And then it kinda thought about it. People were going fastest known time. And I was like, I don’t do first, but don’t do records for me, it doesnt motivate me. Ive got 55 days how much of the USA can I see in that time? So the idea is to wiggle and go and see amazing stuff. I’ll still push myself physically to the max every day, just so I can go and see more. So that’s the first one, and now I’m gonna run across a country, run along a mountain range. And then they got the big one, which a modern talk about and to like see it, how it’s going to actually form, but it puts them all together.

Sue: Wow. Well, I can hear the excitement in your voice as you’re describing them to us, Jamie I wish you well with all of those plans for this year. If people want to find out more about what you’ve done and what you’re planning to do and see all those great videos that you have, how homemade you do that on the internet.

Jamie: Yeah. I tried to funnel myself to Instagram and YouTube and Jamie is adventuring. I do lots of kit videos and I do lots of videos about my travels I really do genuinely trying to help people be able to get out and do adventuring, better, spend less money on kit and all that kind of stuff, make it more accessible. So, yeah, that’s where you can find me. And hopefully one day there might be a book as well.

Sue: Well, they have to have a lookout for that. So my final question to you, Jamie if you could just paint us a picture of a place in the world where you’ve been, that’s been absolutely amazing or mind blowing or memorable, just give us a sense of what sticks in your mind. It’s one of those amazing places you’ve been.

Jamie: I think it was April, 2017 Bolivia cycling across south America. I arrived at the salt flats of uni thinking it was going to be a massive flat salt flat, completely did not take into consideration. there might be a wet season. And there was about 6 to eight inches of water on top of it. And I cycled out into it by myself, no maps, nothing. Just knowing that there was an island somewhere and the whole of the sky was reflected in the water and it was just the most mind blowingly. Beautiful place and you would just, I think the word discombobulated works. You just didn’t know where anything was and I was just in this beautiful, every direction couldn’t see land. And if you go onto my YouTube channel, you can see a video of it.

Sue: Isn’t that interesting from a serendipitous perspective, Jamie because that’s one of the videos I have watched from your website. So listener, I would highly recommend having a look at that because it is amazing, especially when you see the amount of salt, this stuck to Jamie’s legs, as he’s trying to cross the water.

Jamie: Yeah. The fact that I couldn’t have a shower as well. Like I think I, I cycled, I got all that salt managed to wash it off cycle. Next place got all the salt. Cycle. The next place got all the soul and then slept in sand storm. So that was pretty chaotic few days.

Sue: The one thing I recollect from that video was everyone was telling you there wasn’t an island and it was impossible to get to this place that you were describing and that you just kept on going. And in the video, I was amazed that there was actually land in the middle of that water.

Jamie: I was even more wasted by the little old lady. She’s just like, she’s amazing. She created this whole place. She was amazing and she had beer which was even better.

Sue: Well, there’s plenty of adventures like that for the listener to go and find out. more about Jamie. It’s been a fantastic to speak to you. You’re just reminding me of my love of adventure as well. I want to get back out there and do something interesting. It’s been a wonderful conversation with you. I wish you all the best for you to adventures coming up in this year.

Jamie: Thank you very much.

Sound Editor: Matias de Ezcurra (he/him)

Producer: Sue Stockdale (she/her)