If I was going to set up my own travel company, I'd likely break down trips into categories such as "beginner," "part-time globetrotter," "enthusiastic adventurer" and so on. But one area I'd struggle with would be "serious explorer" – that top tier of adventure travel that only a few daring and windswept individuals ever come close to. What are they looking for? How to command huskies? A secret map of Indian burial chambers? Or is it all about how to bag corporate sponsorship and a book deal?
Frankly, I wouldn't know where to start.
While the number of people in the market for a six-month bike ride around Turkmenistan is admittedly low, these fledgling Lewises and Clarks do exist. And now they have someone to turn to for help in getting started.
In another life, Matt Prior was a pilot for Britain's Royal Air Force. If that conjures up images of a tea-sipping, moustachioed fellow in his 60s, guess again – Prior is 30, lives in Hong Kong with his American girlfriend and he once drove a London taxi cab to Mount Everest.
Add to his résumé things such as "rode a WW2 motorbike around Russia's Lake Baikal" and "has ascended famous peaks as high as 6,000 m across five continents" and it's clear Prior knows a thing or two about expeditions. Now, he hopes that his newly created Matt Prior Adventure Academy will enable him to pass that knowledge on.
"I had the idea for starting an academy before Christmas in Indonesia," Prior says. "I was looking out on these three volcanic islands, it was beautiful, remote and empty, and I thought, 'If there was anywhere in the world that was the perfect place for adventure training, this is it.'"
Fast-forward eight months and Prior is getting ready to take his first paying customers to that very spot.
"The Academy is for all those people who have an epic journey in mind, but keep finding excuses to put it off," he says. He'll keep groups small – just three participants – and after a weeklong intensive course they'll gain the knowledge and confidence to set off on a headline-grabbing expedition of their own.
But it's not all sitting around campfires with a flip-chart and lectures about building a fanbase on Facebook – there's action by the bucket-load, too. "It's definitely not, 'Follow me while I wave a flag,'" says Prior, who adds that he will stand well back and let his students discover things for themselves. "I'm only there in case they're about to do something deadly."
Among the people to have endorsed Prior's new venture is seasoned British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who said it is "a must for anyone with an adventurous spark but not really sure where to start." Though an adventurous spark and a motorcycle licence would perhaps be more accurate, as Prior and his apprentices will be zipping around on two wheels.
The only other requirements are a decent level of fitness and an open mind. "There's a very rough itinerary," Prior says, "and we'll certainly get together in the evenings to talk about the nitty-gritty of planning an expedition." During the day, however, he doesn't see need for much instruction beyond, "I need you to be here by a certain time – let's see what happens."
It's certainly a refreshing alternative to overdone group tours and pseudo-adventures where everything is planned in advance. Prior is looking forward to his students "cocking up" (making mistakes) because they'll learn more. "If you want to push the boundaries, this is a great way to see what you're made of," he says.
Seven-day courses run in August, September and October for $3,995 (U.S.). Price does not include international flights. mpadventureacademy.com