Adventure calls. And it has a brilliantly stupid voice.
Hello hello 👋,
Aaaaand, we’re back. I had a couple of weeks’ holiday. 🏝 Doubt you noticed tbh. I went to Cornwall, ate scones, and avoided going in the sea because it was cold. The reason I’m telling you this is because we’re gonna be looking at travel people The Adventurists this week. They organise the Mongol Rally and various other equally dangerous escapades and I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, their target market. But damn, I love their voice. So jump in, leave your seatbelt undone, and let’s go.
Here’s your Travel Information:
The Adventurists are sort of a travel company. They’ve been around since 2004 when ‘some plonker called Tom’ invited strangers to join him and his grandiloquently named ‘Morgan Institute of Adventure Research’ on a race across Mongolia in clapped-out cars. (Six people did.) They’ve since gone on to organise all manner of other absurd, recklesss, genuinely dangerous adventure races for thousands of people every year. From the Rickshaw Run – driving tuk-tuks across India (‘face the world in a glorified lawnmower’), to the world’s first long-distance paramotoring race. Paramotors are parachutes with a big fan on the back. An ideal sport for an adventure race, apparently, because it’s ‘cheap… and in most places very unregulated’.
Do you really need me to hold your hand through this? Just go read their whole website for yourself. What? You want a guide? OK fine. First stop, About Us:
Now, inauspiciously, this opens with what I think is the only duff line The Adventurists have ever written: ‘We’re fighting to make the world less boring’ is the sort of blah everybody says these days. But it doesn’t really matter because no other brand has ever followed that with ‘slapped about the face-cheeks with iron fists of adventure’ or ‘tagged with twattery about which restaurant serves the best Mocha-latte-frappeshite’. That’s a vibe all their own.
I love how they consistently over-rev certain words and phrases. It gives the whole thing a mad energy that makes it feel completely genuine. ‘Maps had edges to walk off’ and ‘…as you leap into an abyss of uncertainty and disaster’ feel like they’re not spoken lightly. It’s jokes, but they’re not joking.
Everywhere you turn, it’s the same. Here’s how they describe their foundational event, (‘motoring stupidity on a global scale’) the Mongol Rally:
It veers between the exquisitely crafted ‘there’s no backup. There’s no set route. There’s no guarantee you’ll make it to the end.’ Omne trium perfectum!1 to the weirdly offhand ‘have a goosey gander at this little videogram…’
Here’s from the Mongol Rally rules:
The Adventurists are really good at those full-on maximum energy first paragraphs. Then you realise they keep that up all the time and everywhere. Here’s the details about the ‘unroute’ the Mongol Rally takes:
Notice how the writing is as un-route as the race. You think you know where this sentence is going, then it suddenly veers off into unexpected territory: ‘what you do in between is entirely your steaming bag of adventuring magic’.
For the longest while, I’ve had the nagging sense that their voice reminded me of something. Then it hit me. It’s this advertisement supposedly2 placed by Ernest Shackleton in The Times, when he was looking for companions for his 1914 Endurance expedition:
The Adventurists are one part Victorian adventurer, one part Jackass, one part Top Gear without wankers. How many parts is that? Three? Let’s have a fourth: it’s also one part Viz – they take great pleasure in a certain type of Very British Swearyness: ‘legal Shitwittery’; ‘stern-faced Arse hats’; ‘rolling turd’; ‘Un-shit your summer’. ‘loose band of dickheads flapping about the globe’. They could easily be entries from Roger’s Profanisaurus.
They fully let rip with the linguistic absurdity with their merch. Here are some mugs. No, I’ve not the foggiest what ‘unilateral spaffulance’ is either.
What else? Oh yes, their ‘privacy yawn’ is a terrific rant:
And while I’ve still got your attention, go watch the videogram for the Monkey Run. (Yes, the song in the background is intoing ‘come ride our monkey bikes / struggle over hills gettin’ covered in shite’).
It’s the best possible version of a brand attracting customers while also putting off the people they don’t want. If you find this kind of stupid shit annoying, stay the fuck away for everybody’s sake. (Personally, I regularly re-read their site like I re-watch classic comedy sketches. Their dedication to perfecting stupidity is, like their swearing, practically an art form.)
NB: if like me you can’t ignore a squirmy pang of ‘great but isn’t this all a bit first-world privilege when there are people facing genuine life-threatening journeys fleeing war-torn countries?’, remember that every competitor raises sponsorship for Cool Earth and also contributes to DEC’s Ukraine appeal. So every act of dumbness helps to un-shit something else just a little bit, too.
Three things to love and learn from:
Try less ‘crafting’, more calamity?
I love how The Adventurist’s words reflect the chaotic out-of-control vibe of their rallies. Sentences veer off unexpectedly. Similes and metaphors come out of leftfield and sometimes don’t quite work. Like ‘unilateral spaffulence’, some things just don’t make any sense at all. What might this look like? In a workshop recently, a group were inventing a brand called ‘Discomobulated Slumber’ (posh bedsheets). They decided to deliberately ‘discombobulate’ themselves by selecting a random word every so often and forcing themselves to incorporate it into their writing. We often talk about crafting the perfect copy – what happens if you deliberately drive your words off a cliff instead?
Keep it up past the point of ‘good taste’
This is connected to the ‘craft’ point above. I’ve written for a fair few ‘high energy’ brands, and I’m always mindful of the point where you need to throttle back otherwise things can get a bit much. But what if a bit much is exactly what you need? What are the rules of ‘good writing’ that you’re sticking to, even unconsciously? What happens if you break them?
If you’re gonna swear, do it specfuckingtacularly3
More brands these days are sprinkling profanity into their copy. For some, it works. For others, it’s fake edginess. Notice that the Adventurists don’t just swear – it’s the very essence of their voice. So, up your arseing swear-game, you swollen parcel of dropsies.4
Omne trium perfectum: ‘Everything that comes in threes is perfect’. No, I don’t speak Latin, yes, I did get it from Wikipedia. And yes I will be dropping it into conversation like I’m Jacob-Rees-Arse-Hatter-Mogg.